Defending champion Keely Hodgkinson He reached the semi-finals in the 800 meters on the opening day of the European Indoor Championships held in Istanbul.

Hodgkinson, who turned 21 on Friday, won the race at Ataköy Athletics Arena, 2 minutes 1.67 seconds ahead of German Majtie Kolberg.

“It wasn’t a problem. I felt like I was running ahead, you don’t want to make a mistake,” said Hodgkinson, who set a new strategy. English record when he won the World Indoor Tour in Birmingham last week.

“You’re happy that you’re in qualifying and it’s not a messy race, so you’re clean.

“Sometimes running at this pace is harder than you’re used to, actually I’m pretty tired, but I’m sure I’ll be fine on Saturday and I’ll be back on Sunday to finish the job.”

Hodgkinson finished second at the World Championships. Eugene won the 2022 European outdoor championship as well as Olympic silver last year and also in Tokyo.

“I’m going to spend my birthday (Friday) recovering,” he told BBC Sport. “If I can (then) defend my title, it will be a nice gift to myself.

“I can’t wait to be able to share this moment with the people who worked so hard to get me here, and I hope I make everyone proud.”

Isabelle Boffey also advanced in 2min 3.24sec by gaining her heat.

The Enfield & Haringey athlete said: “It’s always a little awkward to progress on a new circuit, so I’m absolutely happy now that I’ve won and secured automatic qualification for the semi-finals.

“I’m learning how to do big races and I’ve gotten a lot better at it this year, so I’m repeating what I did this season.”

Neil Gourley and George Mills qualified for the men’s 1500m final, while Melissa Courtney-Bryant and Hannah Nuttall reached the 3,000m final. Gourley, who had the fastest time of 3:41.08, said: as much as possible.

“I contributed a little bit to keep moving forward and stay a little ahead, so I’m happy with the way I handled the situation.

“This is the focus of the indoor season, so we will put everything we have to win tomorrow.”

Elsewhere, Guy Learmonth qualified for the 800m semi-finals and Morgan Lake She beat the high jump final on Sunday to place eighth.