World Athletics Championships 2023: Why Great Britain will feel optimistic about Olympic success


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Jul 21, 2023

World Athletics Championships 2023: Why Great Britain will feel optimistic about Olympic success

Last updated on 28 August 202328 August 2023.From the section Athletics Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Josh Kerr will be among the British athletes targeting Olympic glory in Paris after delivering

Last updated on 28 August 202328 August 2023.From the section Athletics

Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Josh Kerr will be among the British athletes targeting Olympic glory in Paris after delivering spectacular golden moments at a thrilling World Championships.

Johnson-Thompson's stunning second heptathlon title and Kerr's shock 1500m victory were among the standout GB performances over nine dramatic days.

Rising star Keely Hodgkinson's 800m silver was her third global medal at the age of 21, while Matthew Hudson-Smith went close to capturing 400m gold in Budapest.

Those medals helped the British team finish seventh overall and equal their best-ever Worlds haul - matching the 10 won in 1993.

After failing to win an athletics gold at the 2020 Olympics, British hopes of success will likely be much greater in Paris next year.

GB won seven medals in Eugene, Oregon at last year's delayed championships - with Jake Wightman, absent in 2023 because of injury, winning his nation's only gold in the 1500m.

Zharnel Hughes took 100m bronze and Ben Pattison was a surprise 800m medallist in Budapest, where well-attended sessions produced a fitting atmosphere around the biggest moments.

There were also four relay medals won, with Britain securing mixed 4x400m silver and bronze medals for the women's 4x100m and both 4x400m teams.

GB won five athletics medals at the Tokyo Olympics two years ago - and attention will soon turn to Paris 2024, now less than 12 months away.

Back in love with the sport - and on top of the world - Johnson-Thompson's unexpected triumph against favourite Anna Hall means she will look towards next summer's Olympics with ambition and belief.

The 30-year-old defended a narrow lead over Hall in a captivating final 800m event to reclaim the heptathlon title she won in 2019, completing a remarkable turnaround in her career.

Four injury-stricken years followed that first global triumph and she feared her career may be over after rupturing her Achilles, before a torn calf brought a cruel end to her medal bid in Tokyo.

But Johnson-Thompson proved she is ready to contend for her first Olympic medal, although Belgium's two-time champion Nafi Thiam - ruled out through injury - will return in Paris.

Kerr was unequivocal in his belief that his time had arrived as he stunned favourite Jakob Ingebrigtsen to clinch his first global title.

The 25-year-old said that success, achieved in the same spectacular fashion as good friend Wightman one year earlier as he broke the Norwegian in the closing stages, had been "a long time coming".

The Olympic bronze medallist, not short on confidence, will now seek to improve on the third place he achieved in Tokyo.

Edinburgh Athletics Club team-mate Wightman will target a return to his best after being unable to defend his title, with both Britons having now delivered psychological blows to the reigning Olympic champion.

Hodgkinson says her aim is to become one of Britain's greatest athletes - and at 21, she appears well on her way to achieving that.

With three global silver medals in her first three years as a professional athlete, Hodgkinson will once again expect to duel with rivals Mary Moraa and Athing Mu when she resumes her bid for a first global title in 2024.

This time, it was Moraa who denied her the gold she desired following another year of significant progress. But Britain's Olympic runner-up only seems to return more determined after each near-miss.

There is no doubt in the mind of Hudson-Smith about which medal he intends to collect in Paris following his 400m silver.

Upgrading his 2022 bronze in Budapest, the 28-year-old fell an agonising 0.09 seconds short of a first global title as he was denied gold by Jamaica's Antonio Watson.

Hudson-Smith made no secret that gold had been his objective - despite enduring a season in which Achilles tendonitis had at times left him unable to walk - and the two-time European champion says he has "big plans" for next year.

Following the best year of his career, Hughes ensured he would not let his latest opportunity to prove his ability on a global stage pass him by.

The European 200m champion put previous disappointment behind him, including a false start in the Olympic final two years ago, to take world 100m bronze and his first global medal.

Following a season in which he has also broken two long-standing British sprint records, the Jamaica-based 28-year-old will continue his development under the guidance of Usain Bolt's former coach Glen Mills as he builds towards a first Olympic podium.

Pattison's shock 800m bronze following a sensational run on his World Championships debut made him the first British man to win a medal in the event since Peter Elliott 36 years ago.

While he lined up as one of just two athletes in the eight-man final not to have run under one minute 44 seconds over the two-lap race, his rivals will now be well aware of the threat he poses.

The 21-year-old's medal comes after he won Commonwealth bronze on his major championship debut last year and he has shown his potential to stun the world's best.

Laura Muir will be aiming for a settled Olympic build-up after placing sixth in the 1500m final following the most turbulent year of her career.

The Scot, 30, said she had prioritised her happiness after unexpectedly splitting with long-term coach Andy Young in March and, despite not being able to match her 2022 bronze, feels "excited for the future".

Muir will feel she is capable of repeating her silver in Tokyo with more consistent preparations before Paris, where two-time reigning champion and world record holder Faith Kipyegon will again be heavy favourite after winning a third world title.

It was not the championships Asher-Smith expected. The former 200m champion finished seventh in that event after placing eighth in the 100m final.

Concerningly, she said she could not feel anything below her waist as she faded in the 100m semi-finals and was unable to recover following that race - despite feeling in "amazing shape" after a season of steady improvement.

The 27-year-old has made a habit of producing her best on the sport's biggest stages and will work to rediscover her form over the next 12 months before aiming to secure a first individual Olympic medal.

Daryll Neita could not have asked for much more from her 200m campaign in Budapest, twice producing personal bests on her way to finishing fifth in the world.

The 26-year-old was disappointed to miss out on the 100m final but finished 0.24 seconds off the last 200m podium place, taken by 100m champion Sha'Carri Richardson. She did not leave empty handed, helping the 4x100m team to bronze.

Jemma Reekie achieved a fifth-place finish in her first world 800m final but faces difficult competition, including Hodgkinson, in that event.

In the field events, Morgan Lake fell two centimetres short of the high jump medals, securing a fourth-place finish with a clearance at 1.97m.

Molly Caudery produced a personal best in the women's pole vault final to finish fifth, the 23-year-old backing up last year's Commonwealth Games silver with another promising showing at an international competition.

Injury hindered Jazmin Sawyers' bid to win a first global title following her breakthrough European indoor gold earlier this year, while pole vaulter Holly Bradshaw won Olympic bronze two years ago but said the sport was damaging her mental health after suffering an early exit.

Commonwealth 10,000m champion Eilish McColgan will also hope to be injury free by next summer.

The women's 4x100m and men's 4x400m teams both achieved their medals despite the absence of key individuals - with Asher-Smith and Hudson-Smith both sitting out their respective finals - further boosting 2024 prospects.

Keely Hodgkinson'sMatthew Hudson-SmithZharnel HughesBen PattisonDaryll NeitaJemma Reekie Morgan LakeMolly Caudery Jazmin Sawyers'Holly Bradshaw Eilish McColgan