Multi-eventer says last year’s injury changed her as a person and she’s got her sights set on a strong pentathlon performance in Prague rather than records
Despite all of her impressive achievements so far, Katarina Johnson-Thompson contests her first major championships pentathlon this weekend as she makes her European Indoors debut in Prague.
Given the 22-year-old’s current record-breaking form, which has seen her revise the national high jump and indoor long jump marks to 1.97m and 6.93m respectively this winter, an obvious target would seem to be Jessica Ennis-Hill’s British pentathlon record of 4965 points set in 2012. Though Johnson-Thompson insists her aim for the five-discipline event on Friday is to be competitive and do herself justice, rather than break records.
“I’m not really thinking about records. I just want to be competitive,” she says. “I’ve never been in the European Indoor Championships before and I haven’t done a pentathlon at a major championships before so I just want to go there and do myself justice. I want to go there on the day and take it event-by-event.
“I don’t really get it when people go after records,” she adds. “I think being competitive should be the main target, to think ‘I want to be competitive and I want to do well here’ instead of thinking ‘okay, I’m going to go after this record’. I don’t think that’s the way to compete because you get too wrapped up in the records.”
While Johnson-Thompson might not be focussing on bettering Ennis-Hill’s 4965 points or even Nataliya Dobrynska’s world record of 5013, all eyes are sure to be on the Liverpool Harrier as fans follow to see if she can come close. Does she feel the pressure?
“I put pressure on myself but I don’t think I feel pressure,” she says.
“Last year getting that injury changed me as a person and I’m not afraid to compete any more. I know that’s what I love and that’s what I want to do. I just can’t wait to compete.”
This pentathlon will be Johnson-Thompson’s first since 2012 after illness prevented her from contesting multiple events at the World Indoors in 2014. Then there were last summer’s injury struggles, with a stress fracture to her foot causing the Mike Holmes-coached athlete to miss both the Commonwealth Games and European Championships.
“Last year was very difficult for me,” she remembers. “It was a frustrating year for me altogether because I couldn’t do what I wanted to do in the indoors and the outdoors.
“I remember being really sick (ahead of the World Indoors) and not being able to qualify. I went anyway (to contest the long jump) but it was very difficult for me to watch the pentathlon.
“The year before I didn’t do an indoor season so I haven’t done a pentathlon since 2012. So I am raring to go and I want to know what I can score in it because it’s been a while.”
The world indoor long jump silver medallist is set to face a strong field in Prague, with Netherlands’ world indoor champion Nadine Broersen, Belgium’s European heptathlon bronze medallist Nafissatou Thiam and France’s two-time European pentathlon champion Antoinette Nana Djimou, who has also won two European heptathlon golds, among those due to compete. This week’s AW cover star Morgan Lake, who won double world junior gold last summer, is also in action and Johnson-Thompson believes Prague will be a great experience for her younger team-mate.
“She’s such a great talent,” she says. “For her to get to the Euro Indoors is a great achievement. It’s definitely going to be a great experience for her. That’s what young athletes need to do – get the experience in.
“That’s what I got in the London Olympics and that’s done me the world of good, so it’s definitely going to be a good competition for her.”
On her own progression, last year’s Götzis Hypo Meeting winner says: “At the World Indoor Championships last year I couldn’t do my event, I got the silver in the long jump. That’s my first major (senior) medal, so I think this time hopefully getting a medal in the event that I actually do will be a huge landmark for me.
“I’ve never done that before. I’ll tick one box off at a time.”