Katarina Johnson-Thompson claimed Britain’s first gold of the IAAF world indoor championships last night as Laura Muir, Eilidh Doyle and Zoey Clark earned themselves shots at following her onto the podium.
The 25-year-old from Liverpool, so often left empty-handed on the grandest stages, finally turned talent into triumph with a consistent effort in the pentathlon at Arena Birmingham, ending on 4,750 points with a margin of 50 over Austria’s Ivona Dadic in second with Cuba’s Yorgelis Rodriguez claiming bronze.
Long tipped to emulate Jessica Ennis-Hill as a multi-eventer supreme, Johnson-Thompson’s resolve has been tested and sacrifices made with a move away from home comforts to the south of France with only her two dogs for company. The favourite, this was an opportunity she had to take – and she duly did.
“As always in the pentathlon there are highs and lows throughout the day but I am so happy to have won,” she said. “I knew going into the 800 I was in the lead. All I needed to do was keep ahead of Dadic and Rodriguez. Something just happened to me in the third lap and I just felt good so I wanted to go for the win.
“I’m happy it came off because I haven’t been too well this last week. I’m just happy it’s all over and I’ve won gold.”
Muir, already with 3,000m bronze tucked away, eased into tonight’s 1,500m final with second place behind Genzebe Dibaba. The Scot would dearly love to deny the Ethiopian a golden double but even in the quickest heat in the competition’s history, she was doing everything to hold something in reserve for what will be her third race inside 72 hours.
“It was actually quite a quick race for a heat,” said Muir, pictured. “It was a bit scrappy at the start I was trying to stay out of trouble and I followed Dibaba. But I didn’t go that hard. I just kept an eye on the screen for the girls behind me because I just wanted that second spot.”
Eilish McColgan bowed out with sixth place in her semi and must seek some answers ahead of the Commonwealth Games. “That is the next big goal and I have a month to get myself right,” she admitted.
Clark and Doyle will clash in tonight’s 400m final but both progressed in unconventional style after originally coming third in their semis. Doyle saw Swiss rival Lea Sprunger disqualified to move her through while Clark profited when Glasgow 2014 gold medallist Stephenie Ann McPherson of Jamaica was ruled out.
“I didn’t quite get the race right,” said Clark, who had a nightmare 33-hour drive south from Aberdeen two days ago. “I eased off too much. It’s hard to find an extra gear when you’ve cooled off but I’ve got a chance to redeem myself.”
Muir’s £1,500 taxi dash south on Wednesday evening will be deemed money well spent. For Clark, it was an itinerary of planes, trains then automobiles which saw her leave home in Aberdeen at 11am that day and arrived at the team base an astonishing 33 hours later. It was her relentless coach Eddie McKenna at the wheel after two cancelled flights. “My son Jonathan was almost permanently on speaker phone to make logical choices,” he recounted. “By 7:30pm, the M80 was gridlocked and closed so we decided to stay put in Bannockburn and make a decision Thursday at 11 by which time the Red warning had lifted.”
Elsewhere today, medal hopes Chris O’Hare and Jake Wightman enter the 1,500m, Mhairi Hendry gets her international debut in the opening round of the 800m, while Grant Plenderleith makes his bow in the 4x400 relay.
Meanwhile, Callum Hawkins took his lead from Clark and Muir with his indulgence in motorway mayhem yesterday, his Dad and coach Robert taking the wheel as the pair were forced to drive from Paisley to London to ensure the 25-year-old can line up against Mo Farah in tomorrow’s Vitality Big Half.
But the Scot admits he cannot falter between here and the Gold Coast if he wants to fulfil his dream of Commonwealth gold.
“There are going to be some good athletes in that – even some of the Kenyans,” Hawkins said. “If you look at their credibility, they’re still pretty strong.”