2023 World Championships: Katarina Johnson-Thompson wins stunning heptathlon gold

Katarina Johnson-Thompson won a stunning gold medal in the heptathlon at the World Championships in Budapest to complete a remarkable turnaround in her career.

The Briton, now a two-time world champion, feared injury could end her career just months after winning in 2019.

But Johnson-Thompson, whose Achilles breakup four years ago marked the start of a tough time, has found her spark again and that gold medal is her reward.

She defended a narrow lead over Anna Hall in a thrilling 800m final.

Johnson-Thompson held off Hall by running a personal best two minutes 05.63 seconds to finish 1.54 seconds behind the American favorite and claim the overall victory by 20 points.

The Briton had reached the decisive two-lap race with a 26-point advantage over Olympic and world silver medalist Anouk Vetter.

However, it was Hall, 22 – 43 points behind in third – who provided the significantly bigger threat with a personal best more than four seconds faster than Johnson-Thompson.

The 30-year-old’s lead over Hall after six rounds was an advantage of around two and a half seconds, setting up a dramatic conclusion to a thrilling competition.

And it turned out. Hall led from the front but couldn’t break away from Johnson-Thompson, who measured his effort to perfection before collapsing to the ground in a mixture of exhaustion and celebration.

Johnson-Thompson’s triumph was followed by another British medal when Zharnel Hughes won bronze in the men’s 100m to bring the team total to three after two days.

How Johnson-Thompson fought back to triumph

Since winning her first world title in Doha, Johnson-Thompson has endured her fair share of heartache.

Recovering from that career-threatening Achilles break – on the take-off leg which is crucial to her jumping abilities – in just eight months to make it to the Tokyo Olympics, she was dealt another blow.

A calf tear sustained during the 200m left her writhing in pain on the track, the cruellest end to her bid for a first Olympic medal and led to a year of indifference and underperformance in 2022 .

But, just as she did the day she refused medical assistance to cross the finish line, she got up and carried on.

It was her experience at the World Championships last year, where she felt like a spectator as she finished a disappointing eighth, that proved the catalyst for change.

Commonwealth Games gold at home in Birmingham 12 months ago reignited her desire to fight for titles and she hinted at a return to her former self as she finished second to Hall at Gotzis in May.

Now this unexpected triumph marks an important personal moment for Johnson-Thompson who, when his achievement has had time to sink in, will look to the Paris Olympics next summer with ambition and conviction.

Personal bests needed to retain Hall

In the absence of world champion Nafissatou Thiam, it was Hall who started the two-day competition as the heavy favorite.

But, despite amassing the fifth-best points total in history when she beat Johnson-Thompson in Gotzis, the American had predicted an ‘air battle’ for the medal in Budapest – and that’s exactly what happened.

Hall led overnight, but Johnson-Thompson ensured she started day two firmly in contention with a competition-leading time of 23.48 seconds in the 200m, putting her second after four events.

The Briton was relentless as she maintained her podium push on Sunday, passing Hall with an unmatched long jump of 6.54m before producing a stunning personal best javelin throw of 46.14m to extend her overall lead .

With a marginal advantage to build on, this meant the 800m would decide the world champion.

That Johnson-Thompson responded to the pressure with another personal best spoke volumes about her physically and mentally.

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Source link: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/athletics/66560986

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