Katarina Johnson-Thompson may be the heptathlete of the moment. But rather than revel in her place as the de facto world champion following victory at last month’s Hypo-Meeting in Götzis, she argues that, in her mind for now at least, she is a mere stand-in for Jessica Ennis-Hill.
Johnson-Thompson has enjoyed the season of her life. Aside from winning Götzis, she won individual silver at the World Indoors in the long jump – for which she is not even a specialist – and at the recent British Championships set a personal best of 6.81 metres.
Her sights are again set on victory in the long-jump pit on Friday at the Glasgow Grand Prix at Hampden Park, which acts as the warm-up for her return to the same arena and her quest for a first major championship heptathlon title at the Commonwealth Games.
However, she believes that Ennis-Hill will still be the person to beat when she returns from maternity leave. “Everyone should remember the way Jess bounced back from Beijing [when a foot injury ruled her out of the 2008 Olympics],” said her successor as British and world No 1. “She had the injury which she didn’t think she was going to come back from, then suddenly she was on top of the world. So Jess has the ability to come back and be the same or better than she was before.”
A head-to-head between Britain’s leading two heptathletes will have to wait. But of a future showdown, Johnson-Thompson said: “That would be great for heptathlon. She wants to get back for the World Championships and for Rio [the 2016 Olympics], so hopefully I can keep progressing.”
When Ennis-Hill enjoyed her career high, Johnson-Thompson was just stepping on to the big stage for the first time, the then teenager, beaming from ear to ear from the moment 80,000 people roared her name on the start line for the 100m hurdles. She finished 15th in that Olympic final on “Super Saturday”.
Her rise since has been meteoric. Not even she thought she deserved a place among the world’s elite until the second day of the World Championships in Moscow last year, where she finished fifth. “I went into Moscow having finished 15th in the Olympics the year before still as a junior athlete,” she recalled. “Had my high jump been better and had I hit the board on the long jump, I could have medalled. That’s what I took to Götzis, that’s what changed everything for me.”
Meanwhile, Britain’s heptathlon prospect Morgan Lake, 17, has withdrawn from the Commonwealth Games to concentrate on the World Junior Championships.
Also, Dai Greene made a winning start to his season as he pipped the world 400 hurdles champion Jehue Gordon in Hungary.
However, the 2011 world champion, who underwent three hernia operations during the winter, only clocked 49.89sec, below the European Championships ‘A qualifying mark, which means he might have to find another race before the closing date of 14 July to convince the British selectors to take him to Zurich.