Commonwealth Games: Katarina Johnson-Thompson retains heptathlon title in Birmingham

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Commonwealth Games: Katarina Johnson-Thompson retains heptathlon title in Birmingham
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Katarina Johnson-Thompson credited her 2018 Commonwealth Games gold with helping to achieve world title glory a year later.

The Liverpudlian can only hope her successful defence can act as a similar springboard after what she called the worst two years of her life.

A ruptured left Achilles in the build-up to the Tokyo Olympics put her participation in doubt and she was forced to pull out midway through the competition when she tore her right calf.

Since then she has twice changed coaches, relocating back to the UK from the USA in a bid to rebuild her body and her career.

Her winning score of 6,377 points at Birmingham 2022 is not about to strike fear into the current Olympic champion Nafi Thiam, whom she beat to the world title in 2019, nor the rest of the world’s heptathletes for that matter.

But this was never about points, merely the gold and a global title to get the 29-year-old’s career back on track.

For much of the competition, her smile has returned, laughing and joking at points with coach Aston Moore. And she even pulled off a personal best in the penultimate event, the javelin, habitually one of her weaker disciplines.

The gold aside, she has successfully completed two heptathlons now in the space of two or three weeks and, crucially, her body has held together amid it all.

She still lacks the bounce off her take-off leg in the long jump and high jump, the two disciplines in which she typically scores big, but there is confidence her Achilles will soon enable her to get back to her best in both.

The English athlete had started the final day of competition 109 points clear of Kate O’Connor after the Northern Irishwoman had an excellent Tuesday.

But O’Connor dropped back to fifth place after a lacklustre long-jump competition. In contrast, Johnson-Thompson first recorded a jump of 6.28m, the exact distance she had managed during the recent World Athletics Championships in Eugene. And with her final jump, she extended it by a further five centimetres to stretch her lead.

England team-mate Jane O’Dowda managed just one legal jump in her three attempts but it proved the longest of the competition at 6.52m and the only one to better Johnson-Thompson.

She was well off her best initially in the javelin with an opening round of 36.19, which she improved to 41.37 and 44.33, the very best of her entire career.

It gave the home athlete 5,469 points and a 136-point lead over O’Connor, who threw 51.14 in the javelin, and O’Dowda a further 28 back.

As one of the best runners in the field, it effectively meant only injury could stop Johnson-Thompson, of which there have been plenty in the past year or two, from winning the gold she also achieved on the Gold Coast four years ago. But her body held together to saunter relatively simply to another triumph with a season’s best 2:13.93.

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