Britain has a proud tradition in the heptathlon. Jess Ennis-Hill dominated the event 2009-2016, winning three world titles and taking Olympic gold and silver – the silver after a maternity break. Long before that, Denise Lewis won Olympic gold in 2000. Kelly Sotherton had her day winning two Olympic and one world championship bronze medsals (2004-8). Before she decided to concentrate on the high jump, Morgan Lake won the World Juniors in 2014. And if you are old enough to remember it, Mary Peters in 1972. Now a new name must be added to the list: Katerina Johnson-Thompson.
KJT, as she is always known, is no mean multi-eventer. In 2018 she was World Indoor and Commonwealth Champion as well as European silver medallist. She has had the potential to medal at a global event for some times, but it just never quite worked out. In the 2015 World Championships, she was in second place when she had three fouls in the long jump – her strongest event. For the recor, she disputed one of the fouls which was certainly marginal at best. She was sixth in the Rio Olympics and fifth in the 2017 World Championships, let down by a poor high jump, another of her really strong events.
In 2016, she made a brave decision to leave Mike Holmes, who had coached her since 2008, to join Bertrand Valcin’s group in Southern France, which includes Kevin Mayer.
I spoke to her in Brussels last month when she was in the long jump in the Diamond League final. She told me she was in a good position, happy with how training and preparation had gone. She had every reason to be satisfied.
KJT hit the ground running with a PR in the 100m hurdles and followed that with a big PR in the shot. This time she exploited her strengths, winning the long-jump and coming first equal in the High Jump.
Her performances were:
Day 1 score 4138 – 1st position
100m hurdles – 13.09 PR
High Jump – 1.95m
Shot Put – 13.86m PR
200m – 23.08
Day 2 score – 6981 NR – GOLD
Long Jump – 6.77m
Javelin – 43.93m PB
800m – 2:07.26 PB
Four personal bests and her best-ever leap in a heptathlon long jump contributed to a phenomenal total of 6891 points – a British record – which exceeded the score set by Jessica Ennis-Hill in the Olympic Games in 2012. It was an exceptional display by the European and Commonwealth gold-medallist who beat defending champion, Nafissatou Thiam (BEL) by over 300 points.
She confirmed the golden moment after recording another lifetime best of 2:07.26 over 800m, which earned her 1005 points, which culminated in an overall score which moved her to sixth on the global all-time list, as well as top of the British all-time rankings.
Johnson-Thompson spoke after her lap of honour: “These whole two days have been so fast and because it has been at night, it’s actually felt like a dream. Doing it under the lights and everything was unbelievable. I can’t believe this is the result. I have had so many attempts at this result so to perform on this stage makes me so happy. I couldn’t have done without them [previous championship experiences]; not going to lie, I’m sure it would have been sweet in 2015 but here we are. The low moments have helped me come back and make the move [to Montpellier] and try and look inward on myself.
“This has been my dream. 7000 points is one of my main career goals. On the score calculator, I’ve been working out all sorts of combinations throughout my entire life but the last couple of years I have chilled with the predictions and I have just tried to compete, perform and beat myself. I’ve found a formula that works but I just want more!”
She added, reflecting on past failures: “I couldn’t have done without them [previous championship experiences]; not going to lie, I’m sure it would have been sweet in 2015 but here we are. The low moments have helped me come back and make the move to France and try and look inward on myself.