Over the past two years, Katarina Johnson-Thompson has defied two career-defying injuries. Now, she believes she can defy the doubters by winning another world heptathlon medal.
Many have written off the 29-year-old’s chances of defending her title in Eugene this weekend after a poor performance in Götzis in May, where she scored only 6,174 points, the third lowest of her career and more than 800 below her personal best.
But Johnson-Thompson believes her extraordinary speed is finally back and that, along with her new-found ability to handle pressure, will put her in the mix again.
“I don’t want to just go out to compete, I want to be in the medal hunt,” she says. “I’ve been working so hard, this is the longest run I’ve had with no injury leading into a champs for as long as I can remember. I feel like my speed is back and I hope with age comes good power in the shot put and the javelin as well.
“All of these are good signs and I’m starting to get excited to compete and with the thought of Eugene instead of: ‘Oh, I’m running out of time!’ I feel like all these are good signs that I’m in a good place. As always, it’s sport, so you never know. That’s where my head’s at right now.”
In the past, Johnson-Thompson has often felt weighed down by the pressure and expectations of being one of the world’s best athletes. But that, she insists, has changed too.
“I don’t care about pressure these days,” she says. “Knowing that I’ve done this before and won, I feel like going in, it’s just a nice reassurance. If it’s been done before it can be done again.”
Johnson-Thompson is also taking comfort in the fact that her event looks more wide open than it has for years. The Olympic champion, Belgium’s Nafi Thiam, goes into Eugene as the huge favourite, but has not competed in a heptathlon all season. And below Thiam few have hit their best form with only Anouk Vetter scoring over 6,500 this season – usually the minimum needed to win a world medal.
However Johnson-Thompson concedes that those former career-threatening injuries – she has a three-inch scar on her left achilles tendon, and another mark on a torn right calf muscle she suffered at the Tokyo Olympics – still give her a slight cause for concern.
“It’s difficult because the achilles rupture was on my left ankle which is my take-off leg for high jump and long jump,” she said. “High jump I don’t feel like it’s been too affected, I’ve still got spring there because you just stick your leg out. But the long jump is the main point in which I’m finding it difficult to get back to those jumps which ultimately put together a big score for me. That said, the heptathlon can be put together in so many different ways.”
Johnson-Thompson confirmed that she plans to work long term with her new coach Aston Moore. And she insisted her split with her previous coach, the US-based Petros Kyprianou, after just six months together was amicable.
“I don’t really want to get too into it with the ins and outs but I feel like it just wasn’t working for me out there,” she said. “So I’ve made the decision to come home and move forward without Petros, which is a shame. But ultimately I have to do what’s right for me.”
July 14, 2022 at 02:36AM Sean Ingle