Gold for Johnson-Thompson - and a river of emotion

Gold for Johnson-Thompson - and a river of emotion
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Katarina Johnson-Thompson, Nafissatou Thiam and Eliska Klucinova receive the first medals of these Prague 2015 European Athletics Indoor Championships.

When an athlete goes through those cold winter mornings of training, their minds wander to how good they can be. Katarina Johnson-Thompson looked to the top of the tree.

Her aim was to break the world record in the pentathlon at the showpiece event of the season, the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Prague.

And so it came to pass that she was in exactly the position she wanted to be with one event left on a dramatic, sensational day at the 02 Arena.

Ahead lied the 800m and the Briton needed to run it in 2:11.86 to break the mark of 5013 points that Ukrainian Nataliya Dobrynska has achieved in 2012.

The gun fired and Johnson-Thompson, who had smashed two championship pentathlon records on her way to this position, in the high jump with 1.95m and long jump with 6.89m, went for it.

With one lap to go, she was inside the time she needed but on the back turn, the clock was going slightly faster than her. She hit the home straight with the record disappearing and her face told the whole story as she finished in 2:12.78.

The record, there in her grasp, there for the taking, was gone. She ended with 5000 points, a Championships record and British record, and most importantly a gold medal, but her face was a picture of such frustration and upset.

"I was so close," was her instant reaction. "I could have run quicker."

Yet, let's step away from the raw emotion of what she was going through.

Johnson-Thompson, at 22, was the gold medallist by a huge margin, beating Belgium's Nafissatou Thiam into second with 4696 and the Czech Republic's Eliska Klucinova giving the home crowd so much to celebrate as she broke the national record with 4687.

Yes, 22 years old. Who knows what lies ahead if the standards she is setting herself are to be upset at winning gold but not breaking a world record.

No British woman had ever won this European Indoor title and France's Antoinette Nana Djimou had become the European multi-event queen. She had won the pentathlon on the last two occasions at this championship and the heptathlon at the last two European Athletics Championships, but this time she was back in fifth with 4591.

Now a new woman is wearing the crown and later, after the initial disappointment, her face lit up when she was told that she had indeed become the first British gold medallist in the event.

"Am I really?" said Johnson-Thompson. When you consider she is following in the footsteps of Dame Mary Peters, Denise Lewis and Jessica Ennis-Hill, all Olympic heptathlon champions, and Kelly Sotherton, twice a silver medallist at the European Athletics Indoor championships and an Olympic bronze medallist, they are quite a combined act to follow.

But the British legacy is so much alive because behind Johnson-Thompson in ninth was her teammate Morgan Lake, who is just 17, and with 4527, a personal best, she missed Carolina Kluft's world record junior record by a mere eight points.

Indeed, it was some competition. And when Johnson-Thompson reflects on those cold mornings, those dreams, those hopes, every session is now worth its weight in gold.

Local Organising Committee