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Hodgkinson and Muir lead the British charge in the middle and long distances in Munich 2022

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For Keely Hodgkinson, another silver lining would come as nothing close to consolation at the Munich 2022 European Athletics Championships from 15-21 August, part of the wider multi-sport European Championships from 11-21 August.

Having finished in the runner-up position in the 800m finals at the World Athletics Championships and Commonwealth Games in the past three weeks - and in the Olympic final in Tokyo a year ago, for that matter – the 20-year-old Briton will be on a redemption run for gold in the Bavarian capital.

After missing out by a tantalising 0.08 in a titanic home straight tussle with Athing Mu at the World Championships in Oregon on 22 July, Hodgkinson had Commonwealth gold within her grasp on home ground in Birmingham last Saturday (6) until Kenya’s Mary Moraa came charging past halfway down the home straight.

World Athletics Championships Oregon22 - Day Ten

It is a measure of the meteoric progress Hodgkinson has made under the guidance of Trevor Painter and Jenny Meadows that major championship silver medals have come as a disappointment. It was only last year that she made her senior breakthrough, winning the European Indoor title in Torun at the age of 19.

First place in an outdoor European 800m final would be one better than her co-coach managed. Meadows finished second to Yvonne Hak of the Netherlands in Barcelona 2010 albeit after initial winner Mariya Savinova was disqualified for an anti-doping violation.

There have been two British winners of the two-lap event: Lynsey Sharp in Helsinki in 2012 - again retroactively - and the great Lillian Board in Athens in 1969. A third British success in Munich would be a poignant one, given the prodigiously talented Board’s tragic fate.

A 400m silver medallist at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, she was cruelly cut down by cancer before she had a shot at 800m gold at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. After travelling to Munich in search of a cure, she died in a clinic in the city in December 1970, 13 days past her 22nd birthday.

Second fastest on the 800m entry-list - both in personal and season’s bests - is Hodgkinson’s British teammate Jemma Reekie. The 24-year-old Scot finished fourth in the Olympic final last year but has been struggling for form this summer in the wake of glandular fever, placing fifth in the Commonwealth 1500m final last Sunday (7).

Three other women in the field have run inside 1:59 this year: Slovenia’s former 400m specialist Anita Horvat, who finished a surprise seventh in the World Championships; France’s Renelle Lamote, silver medallist at the last two European Championships; and Elena Bello of Italy.

Switzerland also boasts two potential medal contenders: in 18-year-old world U20 silver medallist Audrey Werro, who clocked 1:59.53 in that race in Cali, and Lore Hoffmann, who narrowly missed out on a place in the final in Oregon.

Ukrainians Nataliya Krol (formerly Pryshchepa) and Olha Lyakhova, who won gold and bronze in Berlin 2018, are also on the entry-list but neither athlete has broken the sub-2:00 barrier so far in 2022.

A fourth major 1500m medal in 12 months beckons for Muir

Hodgkinson’s compatriot Laura Muir defends the 1500m crown she gained in Berlin four years ago in buoyant mood, having collected world bronze and Commonwealth gold at the distance in successive weeks, together with Commonwealth 800m bronze.

The Scot’s closest challengers are likely to be Poland’s fast-finishing Sofia Ennaoui, who took silver behind Muir in 2018 and who showed a timely return to form with fifth place in the Oregon final, and Ireland’s Ciara Mageean, who was an impressive runner-up to Muir in the colours of Northern Ireland in last Sunday’s Commonwealth final.

Athletics - Commonwealth Games: Day 10

Another Scot who struck gold on the Commonwealth stage in Birmingham, Eilish McColgan, is entered for both the 5000m and 10,000m in Munich.

A stunning winner of the 10,000m in Birmingham, and silver medallist in the 5000m, the 31-year-old is due to tackle her third championship double in less than a month, having placed tenth in the 10,000m and eleventh in the 5000m at the World Championships.

McColgan, who is preparing to make her marathon debut in London in October, is as indefatigable as her celebrated mother and coach Liz, the 1991 world 10,000m champion, but cumulative championship fatigue could well undermine her – particularly in the 5000m.

Norway’s Karoline Grovdal finished eighth in the World Athletics Championships final and the 2018 steeplechase bronze medallist, who also finished third in the 10,000m in 2016, could start the marginal favourite.

Weakened after a bout of coronavirus, Germany’s Konstanze Klosterhalfen failed to make it beyond the 5000m heats in Eugene but should be in more robust form for her second home European Athletics Championships where she is planning to contest both the 5000m and 10,000m along with Turkey’s Yasemin Can.

Can completed a 5000/10,000m double in Amsterdam 2016 and will be contesting both events again in Munich. Other challengers to McColgan at the longer distance will be fellow Briton Jess Judd - who finished one place behind her, in eleventh, in the World Athletics Championships final - and reigning 10,000m champion Lonah Chemtai Salpeter of Israel who won gold on a brutally hot and humid evening in Berlin four years ago.

Salpeter has set herself a challenging schedule as she will be attempting to defend her European title only one month after winning bronze in the marathon at the World Athletics Championships in Oregon. 

Could the British success extend to the 3000m steeplechase in Munich?

There looks likely to be a big British influence right across the board in the women’s distance programme.

A first gold medal for Albania appeared to be beckoning in the 3000m steeplechase following Luiza Gega’s brilliant run for fifth place at the World Championships.

At 33, Gega – whose silver in Amsterdam in 2016 remains her country’s sole European Championships medal – has stepped up to world class this summer, improving her national record from 9:19.93 to 9:10.04.

Athletics - Olympics: Day 9

After the Diamond League meeting in Monaco on Wednesday night (10), though, she has a potentially formidable challenger for gold in Munich in the shape of Great Britain’s Lizzie Bird.

Just five days after running a lifetime best 9:17.79 to take Commonwealth silver in Birmingham, the Colorado-based Bird catapulted herself from 19th to fourth on the European all-time list as she outsprinted former world champion Emma Coburn for third place in Monaco in 9:07.87.

France’s Alice Finot, has also been knocking lumps off her times in 2022. The European indoor 3000m silver medallist started the season with a PB of 9:45.37 but clocked a French record 9:19.59 at the Diamond League meeting in Stockholm on 30 June, improving it to 9:14.34 in the heats at the World Championships.

Having finished tenth in the final in Oregon despite falling at one of the water jumps in 9:21.40 – as third European, behind Gega and Aimee Pratt, seventh in a then-British record of 9:15.64 – the 31-year-old will not be short of motivation in Munich.

The flying Bird and the in-form Pratt will form a twin British medal challenge, while Slovenia’s Marusa Mismas-Zrimsek – sixth in last year’s Olympic final – also has podium potential.

The Munich 2022 European Athletics Championships will be streamed live in its entirety through the European Athletics website.

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