Johnson-Thompson fourth in heptathlon at Gotzis despite finding old form

KJT set a new personal best that would have won her podium spot at every major championships ever

Johnson-Thompson has made impressive strides since Rio — but so have her rivals MARTIN RICKETTS/PA

LONDON (i newspaper) —

Katarina Johnson-Thompson regained her form in the heptathlon at the Gotzis Hypo-Meeting on Sunday, but was left feeling perturbed after she missed the podium despite having a score good enough for gold in Rio.

The prestigious two-day event in Austria has been a happy hunting ground for the 24-year-old in recent years, and she kept up the tradition by improving her personal best set here in 2014 to an impressive 6,691 points.

That tally would have delivered her a medal at every major championship in history, and that Johnson-Thompson came only fourth showed just how high the standard has become as Nafissatou Thiam scored 7,013 to claim victory.

But having entered her first heptathlon since moving to the south of France with the intention of falling back in love with athletics, the smile on her face suggested she can mull some positives when she returns home on Monday.

“My glass is half full for sure,” Johnson-Thompson said. “I didn’t know what sort of shape I would be in so I’m over the moon with that. I’ve been told it was the highest ever points total for fourth place.

“Maybe I’ll change my biography to that,” she joked. “All those three girls were on fire. It’s one of those things where you can’t control what other people do. I know I’m in a good place where I’m not getting to my ceiling,”

It is worth noting that Johnson-Thompson had arrived on Sunday as an unexpected favourite for the title after an excellent opening day saw her take the overnight lead with 4,095 points, her greatest ever first-day score.

With only a three-point advantage over eventual silver medallist Carolin Schafer, the margin for error on the final day was always going to be small, and finishing behind her and Thiam in the long jump proved a fatal start.

Johnson-Thompson’s leap of 6.53m was still respectable, but as would be the case in the other events over the course of another searing hot day in the Austrian countryside, Schafer and Thiam found altogether a higher gear.

Indeed, as the Liverpudlian grappled with the 40m mark in the jevlin — her weakest event — her nearest rivals were trying to break the 60m ceiling, and it was, of course, Thiam who came closest with an almighty 59.32m throw.

By the time Johnson-Thompson crossed the finish line in the 800m, not even a 2:11.12sec effort in the 800m could close the now insurmountable gap, as the 22-year-old Belgian ran off to celebrate a truly historic achievement.

Long tipped as the heir-apparent to Jessica Ennis-Hill, many had seen it as Johnson-Thompson’s destiny to become the first to break the 7,000 point barrier since Carolina Kluft in 2007. Now she hopes to have the motivation.

“My goal has always to score 7,000 points and I feel Thiam is going to get me over the line because it will inspire me,” she said.

Elsewhere, British decathlete Ashley Bryant qualified for the world titles in London after he scored a personal best of 8,163 points at the Hypo-Meeting, the highest score of any Britain since Dean Macey at 2004 Athens Olympics.

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