Katarina Johnson-Thompson eyes podium return on world stage after injury battle

Katarina Johnson-Thompson eyes podium return on world stage after injury battle

Katarina Johnson-Thompson has targeted a stunning podium return at the World Championships.

The 2019 world heptathlon champion ran a season’s best of 13.34 seconds to come fourth in the 100m hurdles at the British Championships on Saturday.

It was her best time in the hurdles in four years, having struggled to recapture her form since a ruptured Achilles in late 2020.

Katarina Johnson-Thompson (right) in action in the 100m hurdles
Katarina Johnson-Thompson (right) in action in the 100m hurdles (Martin Rickett/PA).

She fought back to reach the Olympics less than nine months later, but a calf injury in the 200m ruined her heptathlon chances in Tokyo.

Johnson-Thompson, who defended her Commonwealth title last year, came second at the Hypo-Meeting in Gotzis in May and believes she can challenge for medals at the World Championships in Hungary next month.

“That’s my goal for sure. My heptathlon’s been off a little bit this year and it’s going to be tough to get a medal. All I can do is build and build,” she said.

“Paris (next year’s Olympics) is my ultimate goal, but it’s good to have this, there’s more time to get back to, hopefully, the 2019 buzz and get that consistency.

“I’m glad we’ve got a dress rehearsal before next year. I do want to do well. It’s not just a year I’m going to write off as a journey to there. Doing well this year is all part of my preparations for Paris.

“That’s a time I haven’t run in four years. I’m very very happy with that. It’s the best I’ve run outside of a heptathlon. My top 10 times apart from the ninth (13.39) have all been heptathlons.

“I know I’ve had good work and it’s now about getting it out on to the track. I’m very pragmatic. I actually want to see it before I can say I’m in a good place. I feel I’m finally getting the good times now that I’ve been doing in training.”

The 30-year-old is planning to compete in the shot put and 200m at the Manchester Regional Arena on Sunday, having finished behind winner Cindy Sember in the 100m hurdles.

Before the Olympics were postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic, Johnson-Thompson was expected to challenge Belgium’s Olympic and world champion Nafi Thiam for gold.

Katarina Johnson-Thompson
Injury ended Katarina Johnson-Thompson’s hopes at the Tokyo Olympics (Joe Giddens/PA).

Her fight to return to the top has been long, but she is finally happy again after losing motivation.

“It wasn’t so much slipping away, just like I didn’t want it. In 2020 and 2021 it was injuries, it’s not in my control,” she said.

“What’s the point if you can just have an Achilles rupture like that with no warning? It definitely took me a lot of time to get over the injury in particular, and Tokyo. I feel I’m finally starting to get that consistency back now and that joy.

“I just want to be in the race, that’s the enjoyment. Getting on the track and thinking ‘I could’. But last year I got on the track and I was like, ‘I’m not’.”