Two days ago, Katarina Johnson-Thompson was miserable, sitting in a hotel here in Poland watching the pentathlon unfold.
In a year in which Jessica Ennis-Hill was missing, the pentathlon was Johnson-Thompson’s first chance to shine, only for the 21-year-old to be denied an invitational place. But yesterday depression turned to delight when she achieved something her more accomplished multi-eventer never has: an individual world medal.
The Liverpudlian took silver in the long jump, all the more impressive as she was effectively a part-timer against seven specialists in the final.
There was no gold to add to Richard Kilty’s the previous day but the men’s 4x400m relay team won silver behind a world record by the American quartet. There were also bronzes for Andrew Osagie on appeal in the 800m, and for the women’s 4x400m relay. But there was disappointment as Holly Bleasdale struggled in the pole vault.
It took the medal count to six in Poland, creditable for a mainly young and inexperienced team, but some way shy of the nine at the last Worlds in Istanbul two years ago, though that was an Olympic year and medal bankers such as Ennis-Hill were in the team.
For a time yesterday, Johnson-Thompson had a chance to ponder gold, initially taking the lead with a second-round 6.81m, the exact distance she jumped to win the World Junior Championships two years ago. Then, the wind speed was too high for it to be ratified. This time, it was a legitimate personal best.
Despite losing to France’s Eloyse Lesueur by five centimetres, she said: “I can’t really believe it. I came out here with no expectations but thought, if everyone had a bad day, I might sneak a medal. It was hard to watch the pentathlon on Friday. I got very down because that’s my event and I want to be involved in it and it’s so open this year and really close. I think I could have got a medal and maybe won it.”
The 4x400m line-up of Conrad Williams, Jamie Bowie, Luke Lennon-Ford and Nigel Levine matched their silver from two years ago. They could not get close to the Americans but Levine held off Jamaica in the straight. “We came to win but we’ll settle for silver,” he said.
Bleasdale had promised to upset home hopes but Osagie did pull off that feat, lodging an appeal against Poland’s Marcin Lewandowski for running off the track on the final bend. Osagie was promoted to bronze, matching his feat of two years ago.
“It was very bittersweet as I get on very well with Marcin,” he said. “It’s not how you expect to win a medal and it wasn’t the medal I was after. I should have run a lot better but I’m happy to add to Britain’s tally.”
Bleasdale had hoped to beat home favourite Anna Rogow-ska but endured a torrid competition, failing to clear 4.65m, a height she has vaulted over three times in competition this season, to finish ninth.
“I’m really frustrated and upset,” said a tearful Bleasdale, whose 2013 season was wiped out by injury. “I felt like I had been on a long road back from injury and it’s not going well so I’m obviously really, really gutted. We all have setbacks and this is a big one for me.”
Remarkably the medal tally could have been higher as Asha Philip and Andrew Pozzi finished fourth in the 60m and 60m hurdles respectively.