Michelle's Verdict: Johnson-Thompson can follow in Ennis-Hill's footsteps with Olympic gold


On day two of Michelle Griffith-Robinson's analysis for the 2019 World Athletics Championships, there was no better topic to discuss than Katarina Johnson-Thompson.

British sport, still riding a Dina Asher-Smith-sized wave from Thursday night, was whipped up into a frenzy when Johnson-Thompson finally captured the heptathlon title that has long evaded her.

Hoarding a slew of personal bests and season's bests along the way, the Liverpudlian defeated Olympic champion Nafissatou Thiam and shattered Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill's national record.

Forget a silver bullet, Johnson-Thompson had killed her demons with a gold medal and all the memories from Beijing 2015 and London 2015 were put to flames in an instant.

Bearing that in mind, we caught up with Griffith-Robinson to get her thoughts on yet another historic night for Britain and she believes the best of Johnson-Thompson is yet to come.

How incredible was Johnson-Thompson's crowning moment?

Michelle: The stadium was electric leading up to that final event. We all knew that Johnson-Thompson had it in her, but to actually see her running that 800m - a gutsy, gutsy 800m - I think it shows she was going for a time to try and break 7,000 points. All the Brits were there cheering her on and all the other nationalities were there cheering her on. We actually knew and felt it was her's going into that race, she was finally going to overcome Thiam.


Can Johnson-Thompson now target Olympic glory?

Michelle: Yesterday was a building block for Kat. I think we're going to see her confidence rise. Everyone has known back from days when she had her first coach Mike Holmes, that she's always had that in her. I think next year we're going to see Kat come through on that Olympic throne, even though there's a lot of pressure on her. I think she will become one of the golden girls that has surpassed 7,000 points.

I think Jackie Joyner-Kersee's world record is way out there, but to think that she'll come home next year - fingers crossed again - with an Olympic gold medal, which is what Jess Ennis-Hill and Denise Lewis have done, I think the future is looking really bright for UK athletics.


How healthy is Johnson-Thompson and Thiam's rivalry for the sport?

Michelle: I think it's very healthy for the sport. In all the years that I've been around sport, I've seen Denise Lewis have a really strong rivalry with Ghada Shouaa and that worked really well, seeing Jess and Thiam worked really well and now Thiam and KJT works really well. It brings so much more excitement to the sport when everybody is watching these head-to-heads. It's great, it's fun, it's exciting and it keeps the interest of the public as well.


As a multi-eventer, is Johnson-Thompson the perfect role model for young girls?

Michelle: Absolutely. I think KJT stands for not just the seven events, but the resilience you need to perform over two days at that level, just like Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill. We saw Ennis-Hill last night and just how normal she is when actually, she was one of the best the world has ever seen. I think that's what these guys bring to it: they're normal, but they've got that resilience and underpin the statement of excellence.


How great of an advert is Johnson-Thompson for the shot put?

Michelle: I always put on my Instagram posts: 'strong is the new skinny.' I think it shows strength in itself that she comes out and launches the shot put. Sometimes when we talk about sport, we really have to think about the masses and young girls really have a problem with: 'oh, I don't want to be too muscly.' I say to a lot of girls: 'why do you drop out of sport?' and they say: 'I don't want to be too muscly.'

But actually, you guys, there's nothing wrong with having a bit of size on you because being strong is very attractive. I think Kat demonstrates that perfectly. She's very strong, she doesn't have this bulky image that people perceive and I think that bodes well for not only sport, but outside of sport as well.

17th IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 - Day Six

And there was a great performance from Sophie McKinna in the shot put...

Michelle: Sophie was absolutely brilliant. It's another thing, as a minority sport, that we should really look to get behind. We're covering all different sides of sport here, all different sizes and diversity is key. From shot put, 100 metres and heptathletes, we're demonstrating that, as women, we can have a go at it all.


Just how impressive is Johnson-Thompson's mental resilience?

Michelle: She's always been coming back at these major championships and has underachieved in her own eyes, which she'll openly admit, and she's come here stronger than ever and has changed coaches. It's not just one formula, you have to look at different ways to bring the best out of an athlete. Bringing it back to young people, you have to find that spark for a young person to be excellent.


What was your reaction to Naser's incredible 48.14?

Michelle: I couldn't believe it. I was with my friend at the time and my face it said it all. I have never seen a woman, since I've been competing and I was in athletics for many years, run that fast. Only Koch and Kratochvilova have run faster. To put 48.14 into perspective, sixth place was 49.60. It was an amazing time and an area record for Shaunae in 48.37 as well. It was brilliant.

17th IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 - Day Seven News Now - Sport News