European indoor pentathlon champion looks forward to rematch with Nafi Thiam this summer
After dominating the pentathlon at the European Indoors in Glasgow, Katarina Johnson-Thompson began a well-deserved two-week holiday on Saturday by supporting her boyfriend, Andrew Pozzi, as his sprint hurdles campaign at the championships got under way. She also spent part of the morning chatting to the media about her latest gold medal, world record near miss, plans for the rest of 2019 and thoughts ahead of a clash with Olympic, world and European heptathlon champion Nafi Thiam of Belgium.
“If I did my best performances on a day and she did hers, it would be very close,” says Johnson-Thompson on the Thiam rivalry. “But I have plenty of confidence now.”
The 26-year-old won Commonwealth and world indoor titles last year before finishing only 57 points behind Thiam at the European Championships in Berlin during the summer. After a couple of years training under her new coach, Bertrand Valcin, in France, the new regimen seems to be paying off and in Glasgow she produced an assured performance to destroy her rivals with a score that even Thiam has not matched indoors.
Johnson-Thompson’s next heptathlon is likely to be in Gotzis on May 25-26 and she will probably face Thiam there if the Belgian athlete makes a swift comeback from an injury sustained this winter. Then, the duo will clash again at the IAAF World Championships at the end of the summer in Doha.
On the rivalry, Johnson-Thompson said: “When you are Olympic champion and unbeaten, you have that confidence going into it. You can rely on it and know you can turn it on when it matters. She has that. When it matters she can throw a javelin and win gold. But I think I am getting there now and hopefully I can believe in myself that I can actually challenge her. She is injured now but in the past when I have been injured I think she will come back stronger and hungry. I am fully prepared for that.”
In Glasgow, Johnson-Thompson scored 4983. It was just short of her British record mark of 5000 and also narrowly missed Nataliya Dobrynska’s world record of 5013.
“The world record is definitely within my grasp,” she says. “It’s always so close. I think it was one second outside in Prague and two seconds last night. Wish I’d done the 800m in Prague like I did last night. But putting together five really good performances in one day is not easy.”
Johnson-Thompson’s nearest rival in Glasgow was GB team-mate Niamh Emerson. The two Britons finished one-two and Johnson-Thompson said: “I really love being around Niamh in competition. It was like that in the Commonwealth Games (where Emerson took bronze). She is such a great energy. I’m so happy she got the silver. I thought she could do it and I’m really glad she went out and performed out of her socks.”
For Emerson, the feelings are mutual. On competing with Johnson-Thompson, she said: “It was really special. She’s a role model. Being in the same environment with her is so good because I’ve watched her on TV for years.”
» See the March 7 issue of AW for more coverage from Glasgow