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News14 Jul 2012

It's a mad, mad world for Britain's multi-talented Johnson-Thompson


Katarina Johnson-Thompson of Great Britain competes for winning the gold medal of the Women's Long Jump Final on the day four of the 14th IAAF World Junior Championships in Barcelona on 13 July 2012 (© Getty Images)

Great Britain's Katarina JohnsonThompson caused a substantial upset when she won the women's Long Jump at the IAAF World Junior Championships.

One reason was that she was only ranked 10th among the world juniors before arriving in Barcelona, although she showed that she was on top form when she improved her personal best by six centimetres to 6.51m in the qualifying rounds.

The other reason is because the 2009 IAAF World Youth Championships Heptathlon gold medallist remains primarily a multi-events exponent and will be contesting that event at the forthcoming Olympic Games.

However, with only one event to focus upon on Friday evening, the 19-year-old from Liverpool flew out to a wind-assisted (+2.5mps) distance of 6.81m with her third attempt to triumph in blustery conditions.

She eventually just triumphed over Germany’s 2011 European Athletics Junior Championships gold medallist Lena Malkus by just one centimetre.

"I am really pleased with that because I didn't expect it. I'm so happy right now. I thought I would be in with a shot at the top five or the top three maybe, if I hit the board right.

"When the German athlete (Malkus) did her big jump on her last attempt I couldn't really see what distance it was, I had to ask an official. What a relief to find out it was 6.80m, and not 6.82m. I don't think I could have responded as my big jump had taken all my adrenaline out of me."

"I always knew in my head there was a big jump coming. This time it all came together when it really mattered. When it comes to peaking at the right time, I have to thank my coach Mike Holmes, he is a genius,” added Johnson-Thompson.

Coach Holmes hits the heights again

It is not the first time that Holmes has guided one of his pupils to the pinnacle of achievements, and the top of the podium, at the World Junior Championships.

Arguably, his most notable success was when high jumper Steve Smith cleared 2.37m at the 1992 World Junior Championships in Seoul, setting a World Junior record and Championships record (both marks he co-owns with Serbia's Dragutin Topic, who won with the same height in Plovdiv two years earlier) which still stand to this day, 20 years later.

Johnson-Thompson, like Smith and Holmes, is a member of the Liverpool Harriers club.

Despite her success in the Long Jump - “Thought I'd sleep on it before I try to properly put how happy I am into words, but still can't really explain! I'm so happy right now. Mad,” she tweeted on Saturday morning - her heart remains with the Heptathlon.

At this summer's Olympic Games, she will be looking to add to her recent national junior record of 6248 points at the IAAF World Combined Events Challenge meeting in Kladno, Czech Republic, last month.

The performance got plenty of attention as it beat the previous record which had been set by former World champion and Olympic poster girl Jessica Ennis.

Pressure points

“No one put pressure on me to go to the Olympics, once I’d got the qualifying mark I just couldn’t say no. It'll be hard doing that and the World Juniors but just to qualify for London was a dream come true, and to be mentioned in Jess Ennis’ company is a great confidence boost,” said Johnson-Thompson recently.

“She’s a really good role model, an inspiration, and everyone roots for Jess; that might take some of the pressure off me, that Jess will be so in the spotlight,” added the psychology student at Liverpool John Moores University.

“I like to balance competing with studying. It’s hard work at the moment but it could be worse. I’m training once a day, four days a week and just loving life.”

The 2012 World Junior Championships are also far from over for Johnson-Thompson.

She is now looking to make an impression in the 100m Hurdles later on Saturday after qualifying for the semi-finals with a personal best of 13.45 in her heat on Friday.

Whatever the result, Johnson-Thompson's Barcelona trip has put her in the perfect frame of mind for the next couple of weeks as the clock ticks down to the start of the Olympic Games on home soil.

Phil Minshull for the IAAF
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