In the months leading up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the fitness of Katarina Johnson-Thompson has quietly been a concern for many Team GB athletics fans - but with just days to spare, Britain’s world heptathlon champion has finally proved she is in good shape following her Achilles injury.
After a low key high jump competition in France, she returned to the big stage in Gateshead last night, producing a fairly modest 6.10m in the long jump at the British Grand Prix.
The result was not really important. Johnson-Thompson is one of Team GB’s greatest hopes for success in Japan, but as the Games have crept closer and she was constantly missing from start lists, more and more questions were being asked about how her recovery was going from a frustrating long-term issue.
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Her return in the north east of England will surely help her overcome a significant mental barrier. Johnson-Thompson was upbeat about how her body felt after the competition and this was about putting it under stress in a serious competitive environment.
"I didn't know what to expect. It was all about the feeling, I was about trying to get on to the board, it was about getting back to my 19-stride run-up,” she said.
"I've been 100 per cent fit and that was the first time that I went off that run-up since maybe Doha, so I know that I can handle it and that my body can handle it. Now I just have to think about what to do when I actually take off. It sounds so simple, I know."
The most encouraging take away from Johnson-Thompson’s interviews last night was that her focus immediately switched to performance, and not her injury. The issue was no longer lingering in her mind and now it is about getting herself competition ready across all disciplines.
She has three weeks to do that, and will need to be in her best shape to match up with long-time rival Nafi Thiam of Belgium. Heptathlon is a gruelling event which will present a serious test to her fitness. But Johnson-Thompson has proved herself as a natural talent who puts in the work away from track and field.
There is an argument that this will stand her in good stead in Tokyo. The break will have been frustrating but it will also have given her time to strengthen other areas, and although she is perhaps not competition sharp, she is fresh.
When the heptathlon kicks-off with the 100m hurdles on August 4, Johnson-Thompson will have overcome one of the greatest challenges of her career - now she will aim to replicate that performance from the 2019 World Championships and achieve her dream of winning Olympic gold.
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