After a frustrating 2010, heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson returned to form in 2011 and has her sights set on further progress in the coming year. The Liverpool Harrier, who turned nineteen on January 9th, has undoubted talent and is hoping for the opportunity to fulfill her potential in 2012 and beyond.
Her 2010 season was written off by patella tendinopathy, commonly known as ‘jumper’s knee’ which left a bitter taste for one of Great Britain’s leading heptathlon prospects. She explains: “I decided not to compete for the rest of the season and concentrate on getting it better and not making it any worse as it can be a difficult injury to get rid of.”
Rather than competing, Johnson-Thompson was forced to watch on helplessly as her rivals battled it out for top honours that could have been hers. She admits to feeling frustrated as a season that started encouragingly slipped away: “It was hard seeing the results of the world juniors online and feeling as though I should have been there in the mix. It definitely gave me added motivation to train and compete well.”
It was an injury that lingered throughout the following year and continued to hinder her training and racing, requiring pain killers to get through the majority of competitions. However, she is hopeful that injections at the end of her season have provided a permanent cure for the problem: “I had two injections in September to make it better, opting out of surgery. I haven’t felt any pain since so hopefully it’s sorted for good.”
Regardless of her injury problems, Johnson-Thompson had an excellent 2011 and improved her personal bests in most of her events whilst also posting a heptathlon score of 5787 and competing internationally at the European Junior Championships. It was a year that left her pleased but not contented as she felt that she had more to offer in the heptathlon.
She said of 2011: “Looking back I am pleased with how it went, but I feel as though it could have gone a lot better. I got PB's in most of the events but would have liked it to all come together under one heptathlon. I did have a good combined event competition in Italy during May but unfortunately no-heighted in the high jump, from that I know I could have possibly finished the year on a better score.”
Johnson-Thompson cites winning the National Junior Championships outdoors as the highlight of her year but this was perhaps matched by a sixth place finish at the European Junior Championships in Tallin, Estonia, which provided further valuable international experience as she enters an Olympic year. Qualification for Team GB was an achievement in itself but she was closer to a medal than could have been expected, and therefore whilst feeling a sense of disappointment she also appreciates the worth of the experience.
“I was delighted to be back to international competition again, I missed out on the World Juniors the year before so all the girls in the competition knew of each other and already had that experience.”
She continued: “I was just happy to be there in a way but would have liked a better outcome as I did go for a medal. I'm pleased with particular events, such as the High Jump and perhaps the 200m. But as a whole I was disappointed in myself and my performances. I felt as if I could of done a lot of things better.”
Johnson-Thompson has come a long way since running around stadiums competing in up to four events per day at Young Athletes League meetings for her club, Liverpool Harriers. She has harnessed her talent for multi-events to become World Youth Champion 2009 and is now in a position to attack the Olympic A standard of 6150 in the forthcoming year. The ambitious young athlete has a long term plan and sees the London Olympics as a stepping stone to greater success.
“I will be doing a couple of indoor competitions including a pentathlon in the middle of march, then I will be going for the big 6150 in Italy in May. I'll still be young enough to do the World Juniors this year, but my target is to go to the Olympics for the heptathlon, and in that gain experience for Rio (Olympic Games) 2016, and London (World Championships) 2017.”
It is clear that Katarina Johnson-Thompson is an athlete who is both determined and intelligent in her approach; 2012 promises to be a year in which her potential continues to be realised.
By Craig Gundersen