The Conversation: Katarina Johnson-Thompson on drug tests, fame and Candy Crush


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The Independent Online

Are you still living in Liverpool?

I live with my mum and my nan. I think I will leave eventually, but not at the moment when they look after me so well. If you came to my house they'd make you eat something.

Do you have Scouse?

No, I don't like Scouse. It's just meat, potatoes and a bit of veg, isn't it? My nan does make a good Scouse though. All nans make Scouse.

You went to St Julie's school – some of my friends went there and said it was a bit rough and ready. How'd you find it?

It's a Catholic school – it's not meant to be rough and ready! I was a huge tomboy – I was in full football kit with the socks – and when I went to that school I learnt how to do my own hair and put make-up on – so it made me grow up into a feminine girl.

You did really well at the World Championships in Moscow this year.

I was actually disappointed when I crossed the line in the 800m because I knew I hadn't won a medal. Which is crazy to think even getting to the Olympics last year was a triumph – there's been a huge difference in a year.

What was the hotel there like?

We were sharing with the USA and the Czech Republic.

You get all the celebs with the USA.

Loud. Very loud.

I'm obsessed with their 200m runner Allyson Felix.

Have you seen her in real life? She's tiny.

I expected you to be bigger. How do you compete against these big girls?

In the heptathlon you can be any shape. Some of the girls are more built than others, and their strong events are the shot put and javelin.

As a viewer, the Moscow championships seemed a little odd.

It was strange because it was empty, but it wasn't that empty on my night because the pole vaulter was in.

Ah, Yelena Isinbayeva…

My agent goes to me, "If you get any Yelena Isinbayeva comments, just try and skip them" – and here's me bringing her up!

What did you think of her comments about gay people?

Everyone's got their own opinion. I think hers is wrong, and that's all I can say really. That's their culture. Thankfully we're in a more informed place.

It's been a bad time for athletics. Some of the top stars have failed drug tests. Were you shocked?

It's sad for the sport but I'm happy they're getting caught because they are people's role models. There is a way to do it clean.

Like our Jess Ennis?

Jess, and that same weekend James Dasaolu ran under 10 seconds in the 100m. You just need to take notice of them and forget about the druggies.

Do you feel you have to be a role model? Do you lead a normal life for someone your age?

Probably not. It's getting harder as I get more known. Even though it's my break, I couldn't really go out and get drunk – because people expect you to be training and getting up early. But I'm not bothered about missing out on normal teenage things.

What do you do in your spare time?

In the lead-up to competitions, I just watch box sets and DVDs, and play Candy Crush.

Any reading?

No [laughs]. All Candy Crush. And I fix the time on my iPad to get more lives.


Katarina Johnson-Thompson, 20, is a heptathlete from Liverpool, finishing 15th at London 2012, and fifth at this year's World Championships. She is an ambassador for Nissan, official car supplier to Team GB and ParalympicsGB