European Athletics Championships 2024: Molly Caudery fired up for Olympics challenge after missing out on gold

Celebration: Molly Caudery earned a bronze medal at the European Athletics Championship (Getty Images)
Celebration: Molly Caudery earned a bronze medal at the European Athletics Championship (Getty Images)

Molly Caudery said she had “fire in her belly” for this summer’s Olympics after missing out on gold at the European Athletics Championships in Rome.

The Briton, champion at the World Indoors this year, had been favourite to win the pole vault, while her team-mate Charlie Dobson had clocked the quickest qualifying time ahead of Monday night’s 400metres.

Caudery had to make do with the bronze medal, while Dobson’s personal best for one lap of the track was only enough for silver.

Such has been the speed of 24-year-old Caudery’s progression that a podium finish at a major competition should be seen as a negative, and she is expected to be among the medal contenders come the Olympics.

“I just got a bronze medal at the European Championships,” said Caudery, whose best clearance of 4.73m was 13cm shy of her personal best set this year.

“If I had told myself that [I’d won a medal] a year ago, I would have been absolutely over the moon. But I think I have a new expectation myself. It was so close, but I’m still so happy.

“It was a really great competition. I think the fact I’m a little disappointed isn’t a bad thing. It just shows that not everything goes to plan all the time. It’s not really the one that matters this year. It’s all good preparation for Paris. There is more fire in the belly.”

Like Caudery, Dobson, initially a 200m runner who took up the longer distance during Covid, also immediately shifted his attention to Paris 2024.

“Everyone wants to be an Olympian at some point in their lives,” he said. “There’s one hurdle to get over, but fingers crossed.”

It was former 400m runner Iwan Thomas who tipped Dobson as a future world beater when he labelled him “the ginger ninja, the 200m boy” early in his transition to the longer distance.

And the 24-year-old, who boasts a first-class degree in aeronautical engineering, is clearly still an athlete on the rise over his relatively newly found event.

“This is already far more than I expected this season, to be honest,” added Dobson. “I’d have been happy with one sub-45 to get the Olympic standard, but this, on top of everything so far this season, is incredible.”

Hopes of a third British medal on the night were denied when Laviai Nielsen finished sixth in the 400m and afterwards revealed that her coach, Tony Lester, had suffered a cardiac arrest in the lead-up to the championships.

“This has been one of the toughest weeks of my life,” she said. “My coach Tony suffered a cardiac arrest a week ago. He’s recovering well, but it was the scariest moment of our lives.”

In Tuesday’s action, Keely Hodgkinson once again showed she is the athlete to beat in the 800m after she dominated the first semi-final.

Hodgkinson set the tempo throughout and pulled clear of the chasing pack in the home straight with relative ease to win in a time of 1min 58.07sec. She goes for gold on Wednesday night.

Eilish McColgan will return to action in the 10,000m on Tuesday evening after a difficult year in which her stepfather John Nuttall died suddenly from a heart attack and her grandmother Betty also passed away.

“I’ve had such a s*** year,” she said. “Yes, there’ll be people sitting at home watching on the TV and on their sofas saying, ‘Oh God, she’s nowhere near where she used to be’ or ‘Look at that’. But they’ve not had to live the last year that I’ve lived.

“Tough times force you into a different mindset when you stand on the start line. What have I got to lose?”