One month after the coronation of Charles III, the United Kingdom will be sending its finest ambassadors to Paris, on 11 June, in a bid to fly the Union Jack over the French capital. Used to doing brilliantly in Birmingham and London on the Diamond League circuit, several British stars are due to cross the English Channel to rub shoulders with the European and global elite. The first of these will be this winter’s European Indoor Champion over 800 m, Keely Hodgkinson. Eagerly awaited at the Charléty Stadium, she’ll notably be up against Rénelle Lamote, who has not lost an 800 m on French soil since August 2019.
A revelation of the summer season 2021, Hodgkinson already boasts a seriously promising track record at 21 years of age: Olympic silver in Tokyo, world number two in Eugene, both times behind Athing Mu. Whilst the American has not performed over the winter and is retaining an air of mystery with regards the possibility of a season running 400 m, Hodgkinson intends to step up her game and assert herself as the new boss of the double lap of the track. Her current record, 1’55’’88, has earned her a place as a credible candidate for the stadium record, set back in 2018 by Caster Semenya in 1’54’’25. After triumphing in Liévin this winter, this will be her debut performance in Paris and she plans to really make her mark.
A duel between Burgin and Wightman
In the men’s 800 m, two of His Majesty’s subjects will be lining up for the start. Max Burgin posted the third best performance of the year in 2022 and is hailed as the sport’s new tough guy and heir to the likes of Coe, Cram and Elliot. Hopes have been running high for him after a time of 1’43’’52 last year, but the young athlete had to bow out of the world championships in Eugene due to a calf injury. He hasn’t run since and is keen to get things rolling again with great pomp in Paris.
His elder, Jake Wightman, took the competition by surprise at the Worlds in Oregon, snatching the world 1,500 m champion title right from under the nose of Jakob Ingebrigtsen. The native of Nottingham is certainly not a one-hit wonder though. Second at the European championships over 800 m in Munich the following month, he also has five Diamond League wins to his credit. Having set a new record in 1’43’’65, he’s clearly able to perform well in a variety of situations.
Asher Smith and Bradshaw, quality guaranteed
The British delegation is not solely made up of middle-distance runners though. Dina Asher Smith, one of the darlings of British athletics, will be in Paris to showcase her burst of speed in the 200 m. World champion over the distance in 2019, she’s a safe bet on the global circuit having amassed a large haul of world championship, European championship and Commonwealth medals in 100 m, 200 m and 4x100 m since 2016. With a record time of 21’’88, Asher Smith has already run under 22’’50 some 35 times, and under 22’’20 a dozen times. Her presence is the guarantee of a quick race for her rivals and a veritable feast for the spectators’ eyes.
On the circuit for over a decade, Holly Bradshaw is very familiar with France and its series of pole vault competitions, bagging two of her three best jumps here. In 2012, she signalled her arrival centre stage by winning the UK record in Villeurbanne with 4.87 m. Two years ago, she won the Perche Elite Tour in Rouen with a jump of 4.85 m. The bronze medallist at the Tokyo Olympics will be entirely at ease then on the Parisian jumping pit, where the women’s pole vault competition is making a comeback after a four-year absence.
Finally, unable to run Sunday’s London marathon, Scottish athlete Eilish McColgan will be eager to take the start of the 5,000 m, a distance over which she secured a podium finish at the last two European championships (2nd in 2018, 3rd in 2022).