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.

News
Jennifer Lawrence was among the stars allegedly hacked
peopleActress and 100 others on 'master list' after massive hack
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Primary Teacher

£100 - £130 per day + Excellent rates of pay, Free CPD: Randstad Education Sou...

Supply Teachers Required

£100 - £130 per day + Excellent rates of Pay, Excellent CPD : Randstad Educati...

NQT and Experienced Primary Teachers Urgently required

£90 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: NQT and Experienced Primary Teac...

Year 1 Teacher

£100 - £130 per day + Excellent rates of pay, Free CPD: Randstad Education Sou...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor