The blow of having to miss this season is eased by the opportunity which awaits in 2020, insists injured heptathlete

Niamh Emerson says the disappointment of having to miss a big summer through injury is being eased by the thought of 2020 offering an even greater opportunity.

The world under-20 heptathlon champion underwent surgery on her knee at the beginning of this month after partially tearing her patella tendon while competing at the Hypomeeting in Götzis.

Emerson’s aim in Austria had been to achieve the heptathlon qualification mark for the IAAF World Championships in Doha but the 20-year-old was forced to withdraw during the high jump and has now refocused on the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

“Having to miss this year is really upsetting, but because there’s an even bigger year next year, that makes it a bit better,” says Emerson, who secured European indoor pentathlon silver behind her fellow Briton Katarina Johnson-Thompson in Glasgow in March.

“Because you can look forward to that and I can put everything into the Olympics, that is my ultimate goal. It’s kind of like I’ve sacrificed this (summer) for that.

“It’s very achievable to be fully back and get a full winter hopefully uninterrupted. That’s what’s keeping me going, really.”

Emerson, who also claimed Commonwealth bronze in Australia last year before winning her under-20 title in Finland in the summer, has suffered with knee problems in the past and says her surgery should also help to fix that.

“The operation I actually had was for my tendonitis over the past three years and the partial tear in my tendon, so I kind of got two operations done in one which makes me a little bit optimistic,” she explains.

“We kind of see it as… it’s not a blessing, it’s rubbish, but I did have this longstanding tendonitis which did need to get sorted and I’ve also had quite a few injuries so I think it’s my body saying slow down a bit. I’m still just 20, I had quite a few little niggles and I think I just need time for them to settle down. I can use this opportunity to do so.”

Emerson, who is studying psychology at Loughborough University, has also already been putting her time on the sidelines to good use.

“It has worked out quite well timing wise because as soon as I had my operation, my exams started,” says the second-year student. “I was bed-bound so it was no excuse, you have to revise!

“It actually worked out because it forced me to sit on my laptop and revise.”

Speaking with AW after the Hypomeeting, London 2012 Olympic champion and British record-holder Jessica Ennis-Hill said she was “devastated” for Emerson but the David Feeney-coached athlete says she has been inspired by seeing how Ennis-Hill achieved success after her own injury struggles.

“In 2012 I was only 13 so I didn’t really understand,” she says. “Now when you go through something where you have to miss quite a lot of time and it’s quite a big deal, it shows you how amazing her performance was and it puts it in perspective, what her performance actually meant.

“I think it’s really nice to see somebody you look up to has already done it. It’s quite inspiring.”

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