It was the perfect end to an incredible two days of heptathlon action for Katarina Johnson-Thompson (club: Liverpool; coach: Bertrand Valcin) as she sealed the world title in a superb British record at the IAAF World Championships in Doha tonight.
Four personal bests and her best-ever leap in a heptathlon long jump contributed to a phenomenal total of 6891 points which exceeded the score set by Jessica Ennis-Hill in the Olympic Games in 2012. It was an exceptional display by the European and Commonwealth gold-medallist who beat defending champion, Nafissatou Thiam (BEL) by over 300 points.
This followed on from day one where she led the field on 4138 points, Thiam by 96 points. Personal best in the 100m hurdles (13.09) and shot put (13.86m) had contributed to a score which was the fourth best ever by a heptathlete at the end of day one of competition.
On day two, she enjoyed an excellent long jump competition, leaping out to 6.77m on her second attempt to add 1095 points to her overall score. Continuing the theme from day one, she was breaking new ground for herself in a heptathlon, and a 216-point lead from Thiam was looking very healthy heading into the javelin.
The PBs kept flowing and after two plus 40 metres throws, she launched the javelin to a lifetime best of 43.93m on her final attempt, a one metre and one-centimetre improvement to her previous best. As Thiam faltered to 48.04m, someway down on her career best, KJT seized the advantage, heading into one of her strongest events, the 800m, on a score of 5976; 137 points ahead of the Olympic champion.
She confirmed the golden moment after recording another lifetime best of 2:07.26 over 800m, which earned her 1005 points, which culminated in an overall score which moved her to sixth on the global all-time list, as well as top of the British all-time rankings.
Johnson-Thompson spoke after her lap of honour: “These whole two days have been so fast and because it has been at night, it’s actually felt like a dream. Doing it under the lights and everything was unbelievable. I can’t believe this is the result. I have had so many attempts at this result so to perform on this stage makes me so happy. I couldn’t have done without them [previous championship experiences]; not going to lie, I’m sure it would have been sweet in 2015 but here we are. The low moments have helped me come back and make the move [to Montpellier] and try and look inward on myself.
“This has been my dream. 7000 points is one of my main career goals. On the score calculator, I’ve been working out all sorts of combinations throughout my entire life but the last couple of years I have chilled with the predictions and I have just tried to compete, perform and beat myself. I’ve found a formula that works but I just want more!”
After qualifying remarkably for the women’s shot-put final with a personal best of 18.61 metres on Wednesday, Sophie McKinna (Mike Winch) enjoyed her time in the throwing circle once again as she finished 11th in her first world championship final.
Being the first woman since Venissa Head and Judy Oakes in 1983 to reach a women’s shot-put world championship final, McKinna threw a best of 17.99m in round one. Two further throws in the high 17 metres meant she did not get three further throws, but the 2019 World Championships in Doha marked a real breakthrough in the career of the Great Yarmouth athlete.
She spoke afterwards: “I am drained from yesterday to be honest. I am just pleased that I got into the final. I exceeded my own expectations, I’ve done what I came to do – I threw over 18.50m and got my qualifying mark for Tokyo next year and that was the most important thing for me.
“I said today that I would like to throw over 18 metres in the final, but I forget that coming into this year that my PB was 17.76m, so 17.99m, you can’t get much closer to 18m than that. I didn’t get much sleep last night, everything went a little bit crazy, so it was definitely hard to settle in, but I have got to learn how to do it.”
In the women’s 1500m semi-finals, Laura Muir (Dundee Hawkhill; Andy Young) comfortably moved into the final, while Sarah McDonald (Birchfield; David Harmer) just missed out.
European champion, Muir, showed her class as she controlled the pace as the second semi-final unfolded, placing third in an impressive time of 4:01.05 to earn her place in Saturday’s final.
Muir commented afterwards: “It went really well and I felt really good. I knew I was going to stay out the way for the first half of the race, and make sure I was in position for the second half. I did that and I conserved as much energy as I could. I just wanted to get an automatic qualifying spot and I’m really happy.
“I’ve got 48 hours now before the final – that’s loads of time for me to recover. I’m used to doing hard sessions back to back. In terms of recovery, in terms of the final I’m really positive.”
In the first semi-final, with six athletes vying for five automatic qualifying spots coming into the home straight, Sarah McDonald (David Harmer) was run out of those spots despite her best efforts. Clocking 4:15.73, it was by far slower than semi-final two, therefore it ended a season of improvement for the Birchfield Harrier – including PBs over 800m and 1500m – at this stage of the championship.
In the men’s 1500m heats, it was a clean sweep for the British contingent as they all negotiated their way through highly entertaining heats.
In the first of three heats, Jake Wightman (Edinburgh; Geoff Wightman) progressed after clocking 3:37.72 for fourth but it was a scrappy contest. With seven athletes separated by just 0.15 at the finish – only six guaranteeing their place in the semis – the Briton made sure he was in those automatic slots.
Similarly, it was another messy contest in Josh Kerr’s (Edinburgh; Danny Mackey) heat, but he stayed out of trouble to book his spot in the semi-finals. He worked his way onto the shoulder of reigning champion Timothy Cheruiyot (KEN) down the back straight on the final lap, holding his form for second in a time of 3:36.99.
Another Scottish athlete made it three from three as Neil Gourley (Giffnock North; Mark Rowland) showed composure to hold the inside line on the final lap, moving into fourth place in 3:36.31 to advance to the semis on Friday evening.
British medallists at the IAAF World Championships:
Dina Asher-Smith – 200m
Katarina Johnson-Thompson – Heptathlon
Dina Asher-Smith – 100m
4th – Adam Gemili – 200m
4th – Holly Bradshaw – Pole Vault
4th – Mixed 4x400m relay team
6th – Zharnel Hughes – 100m