Fearless Johnson-Thompson ready to rule in Russia
Katarina Johnson-Thompson says she won't be fazed by lining up at the World Championships as Britain's only heptahlete
Katarina Johnson-Thompson says she has no fear going into the World Championships in Moscow as Great Britain's leading light in the Heptathlon following the withdrawal of Jess Ennis-Hill.
The Olympic champion has been forced to pull out of the event because of an Achilles injury, meaning it is up to Johnson-Thompson to carry the flag for a nation used to toasting success in the heptathlon.
Before Ennis-Hill's success at the London Olympics last year Denise Lewis claimed gold in Sydney in 2000 and Kelly Sotherton won bronze in 2004 - and this year Johnson-Thomspon has shown she is capable of following in the footsteps of her predecessors.
The 20-year-old from Liverpool came 15th at the Olympics last summer to showcase her potential before she claimed the European Under-23 title to add to her world junior and world youth gold medals.
Now with Ennis-Hill no longer competing and having claimed victory in the long jump at the Anniversary Games in Stratford in front of 80,000 fans last month, Johnson-Thompson says that despite her tender years she has the experience to produce a performance on the big stage in Russia.
"I can cope with everything now after the Olympics,” she said.
“Every international meeting or championship I do I can say I did the 100m hurdles, opened up the athletics at an Olympic Games in front of a home crowd of 80,000 people. If I’m nervous in Moscow I’ll think of that.
“I just want to get out there again and compete to the best of my ability.”
The talented youngster, who gets her campaign in Russia underway next Monday, is equally unmoved when quizzed about the prospect of flying the flag on her own without Ennis-Hill competing, and insists that even without reigning world champion Tatyana Chernova - who is also injured - in action a medal isn't on her mind.
“I know Jessica is out, but I don’t think there is any pressure on me,” said Johnson-Thompson.
“I’m still going to stick to my original goals. I’m only 20 and there is plenty more time to get medals. My aim is to improve on last year. I was 15th at the Olympics and will be happy with a top-eight in Moscow.”
She added: It’s always great to have a team-mate competing alongside you and Jessica is an inspiration of mine,” she said. “Last year we had a full team of heptathletes. In the past there’s been Denise Lewis and Kelly Sotherton, then Kelly and Jess. Now just me.
“I’ve heard people say that because a few have pulled out in Moscow I’ve got a better chance, but I’m still ranked 12th, so it will be a huge ask for me to suddenly go for a medal.
“I’d love to do it, though. I’ve been trying to fix the throws all winter. I could add 300 points which takes me up to 6,400-6,500 points, which is definitely a big chunk of an improvement.”
Both shot-put and javelin have been a weakness for Johnson-Thomspon in the past - at the Olympics last year her efforts in each discipline were only enough to help her finish 38th and 30th respectively, which fatally damaged her hopes of a top 10 overall finish.
Ennis-Hill overcame her own throwing troubles early in her career to make the javelin a solid part of her repertoire, something Johnson-Thompson hopes to replicate.
“It will come with age," she says. "I don’t know what Jess was doing at my age, but she’s shown there can be light at the end of the tunnel.
“I watched Jess compete as a spectator myself at London 2012. I sat and watched her during the field events when I could and thought maybe one day I could do the same as her.”