23 October 2020

Sportsister meets Katarina Johnson-Thompson

July 11, 2014
Sainsbury's British Athletics Indoor Championships - Day One

Young heptathlon star Katarina Johnson-Thompson has an enormous summer ahead of her. With the Commonwealth Games mere weeks away, the 21-year old will face her biggest challenge since London 2012.

Sainsbury's British Championships Birmingham: Day Three

Barely out of her teens, Johnson-Thompson is incredibly young to be competing at international level, and she admits that it has taken dedication and a lot of sacrifice. “I remember that Olympic year and all my friends they were at the festival, Majorca Rocks, they made the bar they were in put my shot-put on and they were watching up on the big screen— so in a way I do miss out on things, girly holidays like that, but at the end of the summer I had competed at the home Olympics games. I don’t really see it as a sacrifice; it’s worth it.”

The flip side of starting her career at such a young age is that Johnson-Thompson has years of competition ahead of her. “I think in a way 21 is young to be doing a Heptathlon, because you do create a form when you’re like 26-27 that’s when Heptathletes hit their peak. So I felt so lucky to make it to the Olympics two years ago.”

Having been dubbed ‘the new Jessica Ennis’, Johnson-Thompson has a nation’s expectations on her shoulders and is saddled with the pressure of being the new golden girl of athletics. But if she’s nervous, it isn’t showing: ”I’m quite chilled at the Heptathlon and I think people pick up on that, I’m not completely nervous and I don’t feel that I have to have complete focus, but I am concentrating on what I have to do in each event.” says a composed Johnson-Thompson as she leaves another morning of training.

“I think if you go too much each way; too relaxed or too much adrenaline, then it will go wrong, so I’m going to treat Glasgow like any Heptathlon I do. Hopefully that will work.” She’s right to be hopeful, after claiming an impressive fifth place at Moscow’s World Championships last year Johnson-Thompson can afford to aim high.

“Obviously I’m hoping to come home with a gold, but in the same breath if I come away with seven PBs and a silver medal then I’m going to be happy. I just want to do myself justice in my performances. The world number 2 is just behind me, and she’s in the same competition, so it’s going to be pretty much like an Olympic final.”

With Jessica Ennis-Hill taking the whole of 2014 out of competition, the responsibility has fallen to KJT to bring home some glory for England this summer. But how does she feel being in he shadow of the Sheffield-born queen of athletics? “There’s a lot of pressure because she is an incredible athlete, so sometimes I feel like I have to match her in terms of performance, but you just can’t take it like that.”

“I’m an athlete, and like any athlete I want to win Commonwealth gold, Olympic gold, world gold, so in my career that’s what I want to do. Comparisons between Jess and me are going to be inevitable, but I’ve just got to take it as it comes and do your my thing.”

This weekend Johnson-Thompson will be in Glasgow competing at the Sainsbury’s Glasgow Grand Prix, which will be the perfect warm up to the international challenge later this month. “I’m just doing a single event, which is Long Jump — I think it’s my strongest event out of all the Heptathlon events. And I’m going to be competing against the British long jump record holder. So it’s going to be a really tough competition for me but I am very excited to be able to compete in a field that’s strong.”

“I think it’s the best preparation I can do to be honest, especially because it’s in the same city, it’s the same crowd, I’ll be able to get a feel of the surroundings, the call-up room and the warm up tracks. It’s perfect.”

“At the minute I cant even think about the Commonwealth Games. In a way, it’s felt so far away for so long and now it’s close but I still have one more competition left. Luckily it is in Glasgow, in the same stadium, so I think after that I’ll have tunnel vision. I’ll be able to focus all of my attention on the next competition and just drink in the atmosphere. I’m really excited!”

After competing in a home Olympics you have to wonder if anything can ever top that experience, but Johnson-Thompson is convinced that Glasgow this summer is going to come pretty close. “The Glasgow Commonwealth games will be like a mini-Olympics and I’ll think we’ll find that in the competition this weekend, the Sainsbury’s Grand Prix the crowds will be incredible and really rooting for the athletes who come from their part of the country.”

“The Olympics has given me the best preparation in life for events like this, it was the biggest thing I’m ever going to do, so I feel ready for Glasgow. I’ve got that confidence from competing in London 2012 and I’ve banked that for life.”

Sainsbury’s sponsorship of the British Athletics Summer Series reflects its wider commitment to inspiring healthy lifestyles for all, and complements grassroots campaigns such as Active Kids and Sainsbury’s School Games. For more information about Sainsbury’s Summer Series visit www.britishathletics.org.uk/media/news/2014-news-page/april-2014/10-04-14-tickets-on-sale

Natalie Morris, Sportsister
The Women’s Sport Magazine


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