Johnson-Thompson exorcises past demons with heptathlon gold in Doha
Great Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson admits her stunning heptathlon gold medal at the World Championships is extra special after past heartbreak.
The 26-year-old took the crown with 6,981 points – beating Jessica Ennis-Hill’s previous national record – on Thursday.
Nafi Thiam, who holds the Olympic title, was odds-on favourite to defend her 2017 victory before the start of competition but finished second on 6,677 points, with Austria’s Verena Preiner third.
Victory comes after long jump heartbreak in Beijing in 2015 – where she failed to register an attempt – and high jump failure in London two years ago, leaving Johnson-Thompson finally victorious.
She said: “These are my fourth world championships and I’ve not medalled at any of them, this is crazy, it’s crazy for me.
“The last two worlds have been heartbreaking. The last two World Championships, mid-heptathlon, I’ve gone back to my hotel and cried and cried for hours when things have gone badly.
“It was after the high jump in London in 2017 and after the long jump in 2015 in Beijing.
“Those were the low points of my career. Rio Olympics, as well. I’ve had a lot of bad years. I’m just so happy I came out in front for a change.
“Everyone’s got their journey. It’s not been very straightforward for me.
“I had to move coach. I had to move country (to France), I had to learn a new language and settle in. I tore everything up and started again and it’s worked.”
Belgium’s Thiam has been untouchable for the last three years, winning world, European and Olympic titles. She had not lost since Gotzis in 2016.
But Johnson-Thompson sent out a major warning to Thiam ahead of next year’s Olympics in Tokyo and won Great Britain’s second gold in Qatar after Dina Asher-Smith’s 200m victory on Wednesday.
The Liverpudlian joins an exclusive club of eight British women to have won individual world gold – including Asher-Smith and Ennis-Hill, who has three heptathlon titles.
A poor long jump and javelin from Thiam put Johnson-Thompson in control on the second day at the Khalifa International Stadium.
Johnson-Thompson won the long jump with a leap of 6.77m – well ahead of Thiam’s 6.35m – which gave her a lead of 216 points with two events left.
Thiam tried to recover in the javelin but, hampered by a long-standing elbow injury, walked off the track before her final throw having posted just 48.04m.
Johnson-Thompson’s new personal best of 43.93m gave her a virtually unassailable 137-point lead heading into the 800m.
She then completed the upset with a time of two minutes 07.26 seconds in the 800m.
Two personal bests in the 100m hurdles and shot put helped Johnson-Thompson to an overnight 96-point lead over Thiam.
Earlier, Laura Muir qualified for Saturday’s 1500m final with a run of four minutes 01.05 seconds to come third in her semi-final.
The 26-year-old has recovered from a torn calf which wrecked her preparations for Doha.
She said: “Everyone talks about the final but you have to actually get there first. These girls are fast, a 4:01 there for a semi-final, I’m really happy to run that time.”