From a walk of shame to a leap of faith, Katarina Johnson-Thompson returned here to the Bird’s Nest stadium yesterday to erase her heptathlon heartache.
There was a strange sense of déjà vu as the British multi-eventer lined up on the runway for the long jump qualifying rounds but, whereas on Sunday she recorded three fouls, this time she nervously made her way through.
Her hopes for heptathlon gold were erased with those three no-jumps but she still had to complete the final two events – javelin and 800 metres – in order to compete in the long jump later in the week under IAAF guidelines.
The torture of those events was clear to see and, after qualifying with a second-round jump of 6.79 metres, she said: “It was like a walk of shame. But there was nothing I could do about it. I had to do it because I needed to do the long jump. I didn’t want to kill my legs off and not do well here.”
The intervening days had, she admitted, been unbearable – to the extent that she checked out of the team hotel in Beijing and moved into her mother Tracey’s hotel room for fear of being asked by her team-mates if she was OK, a catalyst for the tears to flow.
Anxiety was etched over the 22-year-old’s face as she prepared her mark on the runway yesterday, taking it nearly one and a half metres back from the heptathlon mark on the advice of the men’s long jump champion Greg Rutherford because of the speed of the runway.
She admitted that as she lined up, “I was just thinking it was going to happen again”, and it showed in her jump as she took off enormously far from the board. The second attempt went much more smoothly and her passage into today’s final was ensured.
Rutherford has been a source of comfort and guidance, and Johnson-Thompson was helped further by watching many of her rivals repeatedly foul. “It did make me – cruel as it sounds – feel a little bit better that it wasn’t just me and I didn’t flop,” she said.
Through all the heartache, however, there was never a moment when she came close to packing her bags and going home, the thinking being, “Then it’s the end, isn’t it?”
The final today is her chance to make amends and potentially come away with a medal. “I wanted to come out and put everything that was wrong right again,” she said. “You just have to get out there and do it. My body feels quite good, it doesn’t feel like I’ve done a full heptathlon. I’m in a good place at the minute”.
Britain will have three representatives in the final after the British record holder, Shara Proctor, who has jumped 7m this season, sneaked in with a best effort of 6.68m and the least heralded of the trio, Lorraine Ugen, qualified second with 6.87m.Reuse content