Katarina Johnson-Thompson ended her wait for her first global outdoor title by powering to heptathlon gold at the World Championships in Doha.
The 26-year-old, previously without an outdoor medal at this level, won with a British record 6,981 points, beating 2017 champion Nafissatou Thiam by 304 points. Austria’s Verena Preiner took third.
Johnson-Thompson secured Britain’s third medal in Doha, after Dina Asher-Smith’s 200m gold and 100m silver. This is the result of so many attempts of trying to perform on this stage,” Johnson-Thompson told BBC Sport.
The low moments have helped me come back and look at myself. This has been my dream. It has been such a long road. I am just happy that I’m coming into my best in these two big years.
Over the course of one of the finest performances in recent British athletics history, Katarina Johnson-Thompson remained expressionless. She believed – just as she had somehow continued to believe through the pain of her very public previous failures – but she refused to succumb to her emotions.
The memories were too raw; the labels still too close. Choker. Bottler. Destined for failure. She could not let it happen again. Not this time. Not with the world title in her grasp.
Yet here she was within sight of Ennis-Hill’s incredible national record set when winning Olympic gold at London 2012. In what became an 800-meter race against the clock, Johnson-Thompson went for it, keeling over-exhausted after the finish line to hear her final score: 6,981 points.
Better than Ennis-Hill (by 26 points) and better than Denise Lewis. Having revealed earlier this year that she suffered from imposter syndrome, Johnson-Thompson had proven even herself wrong. She was a world champion and she most certainly belonged.
It is not difficult to see how such deep mental scars emerged. Four years ago, she looked certain to win a first World Championships medal only to crash out when failing to register a legal mark in the long jump. Two years on it was a dreadful high jump that let her down. In between, she finished only sixth at the Olympics.
“The last two World Championships have been heartbreaking,” she said. “Mid-heptathlon, I’ve gone back to my hotel and cried and cried for hours when things have gone badly.
“It was after the high jump in London in 2017 and after the long jump in 2015 in Beijing. Those were the low points of my career. Rio Olympics, as well.
Day one had passed in a blur of near-perfection with 100m hurdles and shot put personal bests combining with a championship best high jump and event-topping 200m to give her a 96-point cushion over Thiam overnight. The lead only grew.
A 6.77m long jump – her best ever during a heptathlon – kicked off the second day, while Thiam could go no further than 6.40m. If the Belgian was to somehow deny her, the major swing would have to come in the javelin, an event Johnson-Thompson has long seemed destined never to master. But on a night for fresh storylines, she wrote a new narrative, flinging it 43.93m with the best throw of her life.
After two British gold medals in two days, Laura Muir has faint hopes of completing the hat-trick in Saturday’s 1500m final. Muir, who had not raced for 10 weeks prior to these World Championships after tearing her calf, dictated proceedings from the front of her semi-final to ensure she crossed the line in third.