World Championships: Katarina Johnson-Thompson inspired by Jessica Ennis' golden day

She tells Matt Majendie she can be Britain’s future in the heptathlon – starting in Moscow

The image is an endearing one – Katarina Johnson-Thompson is in the midst of the biggest event of her  nascent heptathlon career at the Olympic Stadium last year and seemingly has enough on her mind mastering her own seven disciplines, let alone thinking about anyone or anything else.

But whenever the opportunity arises between throws and jumps she takes a moment out to watch and reflect on the dominant force in the competition, her countrywoman Jessica Ennis-Hill.

Looking back on Ennis-Hill’s gold medal-winning performance in the capital, the other double-barrelled star of British athletics recalls: “I sat and watched her during the field events when I could. I thought maybe one day I could do the same as her. That’s why she is an inspiration.”

The 20-year-old has already eclipsed her inspiration in one regard by breaking Ennis-Hill’s British national youth record for the event and, some way short of peaking as a heptathlete, there is every chance that Britain can go on to dominate the event over the next two Olympiads.

The Ennis-Hill factor is a big one for Johnson-Thompson, immaterial of the fact that the Olympic champion will be absent from the World Championships in Moscow, which begin this weekend, as she tries to recover from an Achilles problem which looks set to leave her on the sidelines for 15 weeks. The comparison will be ongoing, with both athletes the present of British heptathlon but Johnson-Thompson very much the long-term future.

Of Ennis-Hill’s  absence, she says: “It’s always great to have a  team-mate  competing alongside you and Jess is an  inspiration. Now there is  just me in Moscow as the only representative. But Jess will be back, I’m sure.

“It must be devastating. I’ve been injured before. I spent 2010 out with injury and then this year when I got injured at the start of the season and went into a heptathlon unprepared. I hope she gets better soon and comes back as good.”

The irony is that Ennis-Hill’s  absence in Russia increases Johnson-Thompson’s own chances, as does the recent withdrawal of the defending world champion Tatyana Chernova, who is also injured.

Johnson-Thompson is ranked outside the top 10, with a best points haul of 6,215 from her European Under-23 Championship success in Tampere, Finland, last month, and is still vastly inexperienced at international level. But this is the same athlete who told her grandmother she would come dead last at the 2012 Olympics only to impress with her 15th place, so her predictions can be taken with a pinch of salt.

“I just want to improve on last year,” she says. “I was 15th at the Olympics and will be happy with a top eight in Moscow. I’ve heard people say that because a few have pulled out but I’m still ranked 12th going into Moscow so it will be a huge ask to suddenly go for a medal. Obviously, I’d love to do it but we will have to wait and see what happens.”

A medal is probably, for now, too big an ask, her talent still raw and unnurtured to some extent. But she insists she is competing without expectation, despite being the only British heptathlete in Moscow.

“I don’t think there is any pressure on me,” she adds. “I’m still going to stick to my original goals. I’m still only 20 and there is plenty more time to get medals.”

That Johnson-Thompson is competing in Russia at all is impressive. In May, she tore ligaments on both sides of her ankle – the left one on which she takes off – during a high-jump competition in Loughborough. When it happened, she immediately  assumed her season was over. However, she recovered quickly,  returned to training within five weeks and, with just 10 days of training under her belt, won her Under-23 crown in Finland.

As a result of that injury, she insists the nerves on the starting blocks for the 100m hurdles were greater than they were in London and will be in Moscow. The bubbly Scouser’s competition at the Olympics was perhaps best remembered by her constant smile as much as her impressive placing.

She has yet to watch a rerun of the competition. “I’ve seen pictures,” says Johnson-Thompson, who for a time had the photo of her laughing at the Games as her screensaver, “but not any footage of my performances. We haven’t got Sky+ at home and the DVD focuses on Jess!”

It was exactly a year ago last Saturday that Johnson-Thompson first stepped inside the Olympic Stadium, an event she says “helped prepare me for  anything in life now”.

“Every international meeting or championship I do I can cope a lot  better because I can say I did the 100m hurdles, opened up the athletics at an Olympic Games in front of a home crowd, 80,000 people. If I’m nervous in Moscow I can think of that.

“It was the biggest thing I will  probably ever do but I didn’t realise it at the time. I  walked into the stadium, I sort of realised how big it was, just a blanket of people. I just had to try to focus on my race and I think that has helped me ever since.”

Her ease with the big stage is  perhaps fitting for the daughter of a showgirl, Tracey, who met her Bahamian father, Ricardo, while performing around the world.

Johnson-Thompson herself had been tipped for a future as a dancer and earned herself a Royal Ballet School audition. She refused to go and instead wanted to play football. Mother and daughter reached a compromise over athletics, a decision that looks increasingly likely to pay off.

She has celebrated victory inside the Olympic Stadium, winning the long jump competition at the recent Anniversary Games, her final springboard to Moscow and the moment when Ennis-Hill’s Russian rendezvous effectively ended.

Victory celebrations inside Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium are unlikely, although the prospect of a British one-two in the future is a mouth-watering one. For now, Johnson-Thompson is just happy to be competing.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Technician

£20000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This long established dealer gr...

Recruitment Genius: Contact Centre Team Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company is the UK's leading...

Recruitment Genius: Shunter / HGV Driver

£23172 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading and fastest growing h...

Recruitment Genius: Property Manager / Estate Manager

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an experienced Resident...

Day In a Page

Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate