Friends, world record holders and the future of British Athletics, Tokyo 2020 caught up with Amy Hunt and Keely Hodgkinson to talk about their rapid rise to the top of the world of running.
Born two months apart in 2002, British athletics sensations Keely Hodgkinson and Amy Hunt share much more than the same birth year. The two runners, who made their international debuts together at the same European Youth Athletics Championships in 2017, now each own one of the rarest things in sport:
A world record.
Hunt's came first, a June 2019 200m that saw her hotfooting it into the history books as her spikes melted en route to an Under 18 world record of 22.42. But not to be outdone, her good friend and GB roommate Hodgkinson set her own world best in January of this year when she ran 1:59.03 in an indoor 800m race in Vienna to make her the fastest woman under 20 at the distance.
Hunt says, "It still really hasn't fully sunk in." Hodgkinson says, "I was more just relieved that I got to the starting line." They may have opposite personalities, but this rapid pairing could just be the most exciting duo in the athletics world today.
How it started
For two people who obviously enjoy each other's company so much, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Hunt and Hodgkinson had grown up racing together. But in fact, the two met "relatively recently" in 2017 when they ran on the same Great Britain team at the European youths.
"I think we go on pretty well alright!" said Hodgkinson, who lives in Manchester and studies in Leeds, a little over 200km from where Hunt is studying in Cambridge. "There's a group of us that are girls and we all pretty much just stick together. Everyone was quite tight, so it was nice."
Since that time, Hunt and Hodgkinson have become very close friends, even rooming together when away on international duty. But while they describe themselves as polar opposites, they spur each other on and support each other – even if that's just making sure one of them gets to the starting line on time.
"It would be nice sometimes if your bus wasn't leaving for your semi-final and I didn't have to shout through the shower door, 'Keely your bus is here!'" said Hunt – both of them laughing. "And then you just walk out unfazed with a towel around your head."
Like the perfect double act, Hunt and Hodgkinson thrive off each other. "Your attitude to life is to not get stressed by things that are easily solved," said Hunt. "I think I could definitely take something from that, because I'm fairly easily stressed."
For her part, Hodgkinson sees the qualities in Hunt that make her so successful: "Amy's probably a bit more organised and she's always ready. She's always in top condition as well. I think it works well – we can take things for each other."
Whatever their personalities away from the track, when it comes to competition, they're all business.
And the hard work has paid dividends. Big time.
How it's going
You can tell that alongside all the fun the pair have when spending time together to travel and compete, both of them have worked their fingers to the bone to reach the position they are in right now:
Two world record holders.
"Keep pushing" is Hodgkinson's advice to up-and-comers hoping to follow in her footsteps. "If you just keep persevering with what you want to do, results will show eventually. I think some people forget that there are going to be rewards, because training's hard, training's horrible! But just trust the process and keep pushing and you will eventually get rewards for it."
And there's a steeliness to both Hunt and Hodgkinson when it comes to their goals. You don't get to be a world record holder without having a clear idea of what you want to do.
"My own outlook on life would suggest that I'd like to reach the top of the top, which is an Olympic medal or Olympic gold," explained Hunt. "And I think that's potentially delusional, potentially not – anything can happen in life."
There isn't a hint of arrogance from Amy Hunt as she explains her goals for the future. It's a fact that the door is wide open for both of these thrilling young athletes – anything can happen, and don't be surprised when it does.
The burning question
You can't have the Under 18 200m world record holder and the Under 20 800m world record holder in the same interview without asking the most obvious question of them all...
Who would win at 400m?
"Amy would be humble about this, but she'd absolutely smash me," Hodgkinson answered self-deprecatingly. "She'd pull me around to a PB!"
Hunt, for her part, sees things differently. "I think you sell your sprint credentials quite short. If it moved up ever so slightly to 500 say, you'd absolutely have me."
Sadly, although it's a race we'll probably never see, it's one we may be imagining for years. Particularly if the two reach the heights journalists and coaches have been predicting in recent times.
Big shoes to fill
Usain Bolt. Dame Kelly Holmes. Two names that transcend the sport of athletics to such an extent that your average person on the street who watches little more than the Olympic Games will likely have heard of them.
Within the athletics world, they are legends. All-time greats.
And recently, both Hunt and Hodgkinson have been compared to them.
The comparison with Hunt comes, not only because of her blistering speed, but also because she shares the same Under 18 200m world record with Bolt. For Hodgkinson, there has been some serious speculation from her own coach, Jenny Meadows, that she could end up breaking Kelly Holmes British 800m record of 1:56.21.
While flattered by the comparisons, neither Hunt nor Hodgkinson are getting carried away by the plaudits.
"It's a bit too much to comprehend," said Hunt of comparisons with sprint-great Bolt. "You don't think of yourself as in that sphere. You associate that world with so many different things and you don't feel part of it. But it's definitely encouraging and I feel flattered – really flattered that people would even make that association because I'm just at the beginning of my journey."
Hodgkinson was almost taken aback by the comparison with Holmes. "I was a bit like, 'That's a bit of a bold statement!'" she remembered. "The stuff that she's done, the double, the 1500 and 800 at the Olympics (Holmes won two Olympic golds at Athens 2004) and she's an incredible athlete.
"So to be talked about in the same category as her, it's an honour and a nice feeling that people have that belief."
Meet one of the fastest and youngest athletes hoping to make it to #Tokyo2020— #Tokyo2020 (@Tokyo2020) May 30, 2020
Amy Hunt holds the world record for the fastest 200 metres by an athlete under-18, what will we see at #Tokyo2020?
Read our exclusive interview with @AmyHunt02
👉 https://t.co/X78PjVg2Hc pic.twitter.com/Q3ATpjkRt4
The next natural step on the road for both Hunt and Hodgkinson would be Tokyo 2020. And it's something they're both hugely excited about experiencing.
"We're both in the position where we've got our qualifying times and so we've kind of done that and now we need to come top two at trials," Hunt explained. "I think it would be such a great thing for both of us, such a huge thing. From what you hear people say, and older athletes, it's like it can't even be described – that atmosphere and that unique place the Games have."
Hodgkinson agreed: "I also think it's a massive opportunity, but the first hurdle is getting there. There are so many people, actually in the 200 and the 800 – Great Britain is stacked at the minute in all fields.
"By the summer we'll be 19, but it's quite rare and also a privilege to be in that position so young."
Very happy &&& excited to be apart of this team for the European indoors!!! First senior international 🙌💫 https://t.co/6sBMyMp2mG— KnH (@keelyhodgkinson) February 22, 2021
Tokyo and beyond
As Tokyo 2020 draws near, the world will get ready to see the broadest mix of athletes ever assembled at an Olympic Games.
For some – such as surfers, female canoeists and sport climbers – it will be their first opportunity to compete at an Olympic Games. For others, they will be participating in Olympic competitions that have been held across three centuries. There will be veterans for whom this is their last chance at glory and teenagers – like Hunt and Hodgkinson – who represent the very future of sport.
But beyond all of that, beyond the personal goals and accomplishments of the athletes, these Games will represent so much more to the world.
"It's a moment in history," said Hodgkinson, looking forward to Tokyo. "It's been so tough, so I think it will mean a lot more to the people who get there."
"I think it's going to be one of the most emotional things ever," said Hunt. "The Opening Ceremony will happen and people will be in tears because we can't believe we've come this far and we've progressed and we've come together. So I think it will take on just an incredible significance."
Two friends. Two world record holders. Two women who share a dream of Olympic glory.
With Amy Hunt and Keely Hodgkinson flying the flag in Tokyo and beyond, the future of British Athletics may never have been brighter.