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Athletics: Keely Hodgkinson and Zharnel Hughes backed to compete for World Championship glory

Keely Hodgkinson and Zharnel Hughes will be looking to make an impact at the upcoming World Championships.

World Athletics president Lord Coe believes "real deal" Keely Hodgkinson and sprint star Zharnel Hughes are Great Britain's best bets for World Championship glory. 

Hodgkinson missed out on the world 800 metres title by just 0.08 seconds to American Athing Mu last year and also finished second behind the same athlete at the Toyko Olympics in 2021.
The 21-year-old has been in excellent form this season, setting a world best indoors over 600m in January and defending her European indoor title before beginning her outdoor season by lowering her British record in Paris.
Hughes has enjoyed arguably even better preparation for Budapest, the Anguilla-born star breaking the 30-year-old British records of Linford Christie and John Regis over 100 and 200m respectively in the space of a month.
His 100m time of 9.83 seconds, recorded in New York in June, remains the fastest in the world this year.
Asked if Hughes's performances had earned the respect of the top sprinting nations and could lead to gold in Budapest, Coe said: "Yes and yes.
"I can give you the feedback from the cradle of sprinting and the NACAC congress in Costa Rica last month.
"People whose judgement I really value, both in Jamaican sprinting and US sprinting, think he can win in Budapest simply because it may not be that fast a race anyway. Their judgement is that he is absolutely a contender.
"The more people coming on the scene and fighting their way into the upper echelons of the sport is terrific and for British sprinting it's not just a good thing, it's an important thing.
"And those were good records; John Regis's 200m record was one for the ages when he set it."
Hodgkinson has tasted just one defeat over 800m so far in 2023, finishing second behind Kenya's Mary Moraa, the Commonwealth champion, in Lausanne.
"I think she's the real deal, I've thought that for some time," added Coe, who also feels Dina Asher-Smith and Katarina Johnson-Thompson will challenge for medals in Budapest.
"At the age of 19 winning a silver in a world championships, similar type of performance at an Olympic Games, she's outstanding. She's coached well, she's grounded and she's talented.
"She is at this moment in great shape and this is where we're beginning to see some strength in depth with Jemma Reekie running 1:57 in London. We've got depth now and genuine quality and this is encouraging."
Coe reiterated that no Russian or Belarusian athletes would be competing in Budapest following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, a stance that World Athletics is set to maintain for next year's Olympic Games.
"We've taken the view they won't be in Paris," Coe said. "We made the decision that we felt was in the best interests of the sport.
"Decisions we've made in the past have been tough ones, whether it's around preserving the female category, transfers of allegiance, the initial suspension of Russia back in 2015 - we've done it because it's been the right thing to do.
"If it has given other sports permission or comfort to feel that they can do the same then that's a good thing but it's entirely up to them - we didn't do it for that reason.
"The nature of these decisions is that the world does change. We are also creating working groups to monitor the situation so we aren't closing the door forever.
"We're not the 'computer says no' federation and we've always, if we could, found the navigable route through."

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