Alex Mills has been writing for RunBlogRun for nearly a year. We met at the Glasgow GP, I believe. He has an enthusiasm for the sport, and gives us a particularly GBR view. In this column, Alex writes about Katerina Johnson-Thompson, Lucy Hatton and Serita Soloman and how they won their medals in Prague!
There is no greater example of the different meanings of gaining a European championship medal than the contrasting emotions shown by Katarina Johnson-Thompson and her British team mates Lucy Hatton and Serita Soloman, this afternoon.
While it was Johnson-Thompson who claimed an incredible European Pentathlon title in style by producing an almost-perfect performance throughout the one day event, her emotions after the gruelling 800m gave the impression that she had in fact lost out, and to some extend she had. Not on the title but on an amazing opportunity to break Nataliya Dobrynska’s world record tally of 5013 points.
Rather than jump in the air and celebrate her first major multi-event victory in style, the Britain showed just how driven she has become. As she crossed the line well in front, first there was the hands on the head and then over her mouth before sinking to the floor in disbelief. Not at the fact the she had won, but that she hadn’t run faster.
“I thought I could easily run that time, I probably took it for granted a little bit too much.” She said afterwards
By running 2.12.78 she had been just .92 of a second and 13 points away from toppling the tally set three years ago by the Ukrainian.
While it is understandable that she was gutted, there were billions of plusses to take away from the day other than a shiny gold medal; by scoring 5,000 points exactly she became only the second woman to do so and perhaps more importantly ahead of the imminent battle with Jessica Ennis on the outdoor scene, she broke the Olympic champions’s British record.
That was just her overall tally, in all but the shot-put Johnson-Thompson seemed to produce something extra ordinary, starting with a personal best in the hurdles and then through some brilliant jumping. First there was the imperious championship best pentathlon height of 1.95 cleared with consummate ease in the high jump and then an incredible 6.89 leap in the long jump, the best ever to be seen in a pentathlon long jump competition.
As for that 800 metres, considering she had literally no-one to push her on and she was forced to take on the event at the end of such a long day, that was pretty great too, especially given she had only run 2.17 indoors beforehand.
So even though the smile was still not on her face as she waited to stand on top of the rostrum for the first time, when she looks back at it all in a few days I’m sure she will give out at least a little grin to her coach Mike Holmes. A sentiment that seems all the more likely given her mixed post race comments: “This is a great breakthrough for me, I put together a great series of events…I just feel it should have been a different story. When you go from event to event and you start to accumulate points it seems doable.”
In stark contrast were the scenes that we saw following the women’s 60 metre hurdles. Stunned by their surprise silver and bronze medals, Hatton and Soloman hugged, kissed and jumped around in unison as they celebrated an awesome end to a perfect indoor season. Neither had ever competed for Great Britain as senior before now, nor had they been under the magic 8 second barrier.
And yet on the stage where it really mattered both smashed that obstacle, almost as if they had been doing it for years Hatton cruising to 7.90 and Soloman .93. For a moment it even looked like the former, would take the title after getting out of the blocks and attacking so brilliantly, nevertheless with her place on the podium confirmed she had more than ratified British Athletics’ decision to select her despite not have made their qualifying mark of 8.03 beforehand.
Afterwards Hatton said: “Thank you to British Athletics for picking me, I’m just so happy.”
The way both performed today scoring a new personal best in every single round, may also have helped others in the future and persuaded British selectors to think more carefully about their tight qualifying criteria, especially after Emelia Gorecka also vindicated their decision to select her, by winning her 3000 metre heat.
While the reactions of Team GB’s medallists may have differed so starkly today, one thing that remains on a similar note is how much each individual achievement could mean to the athlete come the outdoor season, even if it is used as an incentive to drive on for even greater success.