World champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson hailed as ‘fantastic role model’

Katarina Johnson-Thompson has been hailed as the perfect role model by teachers and pupils at her former school.

Johnson-Thompson’s stunning performance to win World Championships gold in the heptathlon in Doha on Wednesday and Thursday were followed with pride by everyone at St Julie’s Catholic High School in Woolton, Liverpool

Johnson-Thompson was a pupil at the school between the ages of 11 and 16 and her picture adorns many of the walls.

Deputy headteacher Corin Willis told the PA News Agency: “She’s a fantastic role model in every respect.

“It’s not just come completely easily to her, there’s been various ups and downs along the way and it’s brilliant for the girls to see that is how life will unfold, it won’t always just be a straight line towards success.

“We talk a lot to them about resilience and facing up to those difficult times, so for Katarina to have done what she’s done and how she’s done it, it’s just a perfect example for them to follow.”

Willis was Johnson-Thompson’s form tutor for three years – Killing Eve actress Jodie Comer was among her close group of friends – and revealed the athlete also shone away from the track.

“She was an absolute pleasure to have in my form, she genuinely was,” he said. “What you see now when she’s interviewed on TV, her modesty, her humility, her good grace and manners, this is how she was in school.

“Everyone was aware that she had this fantastic talent but Katarina would almost be quite shy, quite embarrassed, if she was put in the spotlight. I’m very fortunate to have worked with her for those three years.”

Jo Walls, the head of performing arts and PE, is another teacher who knows Johnson-Thompson well, and she is not surprised to see her former pupil on top of the world.

“I definitely had no doubts because she was very much a child that said she wanted that gold medal and she went and she did it,” said Walls.

“It’s not her first gold medal but this is a really big achievement. We’re very proud.”

Fifteen-year-old Neave McGhee is hoping to follow in Johnson-Thompson’s footsteps. The St Julie’s pupil is a talented sprinter who has already marked herself out as one of the leading names of her age in the country.

She said of Johnson-Thompson’s title: “It’s just really good. The school have promoted her so much with all the pictures and screens around the school of her. It makes you want to train harder, inspires everyone else just to be like her.”

Johnson-Thompson dominated the heptathlon, including winning the final event, the 800 metres
Johnson-Thompson dominated the heptathlon, including winning the final event, the 800 metres (Mike Egerton/PA)

Johnson-Thompson left McGhee’s club, Liverpool Harriers, two years ago to train in France, but not before giving the youngster some advice.

“I stopped to ask her a few questions about her training and how she was finding running and all her talents,” said McGhee.

“She told me she’d had a few setbacks and how they didn’t change her and how they made her strive to be better and improved her even more. When I have my setbacks I refer back to her and compare myself and try to try harder like she did and hopefully it’ll pay off like her time and dedication did.”

McGhee has her sights sets on usurping Johnson-Thompson in one area, with Walls adding: “She’s on that same journey as Kat and, when you speak to Neave, she says that Kat has the best time for the 200 metres and she really wants to beat that time, so that’s what she’s working towards and I think we will know as soon as she does.”

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