Johnson-Thompson in record hunt

Published: Friday 6th March 2015 by The News Editor

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Katarina Johnson-Thompson was in contention to break the pentathlon world record after a storming start to the European Indoor Championships in Prague on Friday.

The 22-year-old, bidding for her first major gold medal, was 94 points down on Ukrainian N ataliya Dobrynska’s mark after three events at the O2 Arena.

Johnson-Thompson, billed as Jessica Ennis-Hill’s natural heir, lay second overall on 2,941 points, 35 behind Belgian Nafissatou Thiam. The Briton, though, has by far the stronger finish to the day, so the title was still hers to lose.

The Liverpool athlete, fired up by last year’s injury frustrations when a foot problem ruled her out of the Commonwealth Games and European Championships, roared to a 60 metres hurdles personal best of 8.18 seconds – her third PB in the discipline in less than three weeks – before clearing a championship record 1.95m in the high jump and equalling her season’s best of 12.32m in the shot put, by far her weakest event.

With the long jump, at which she is the British indoor record holder and reigning world indoor silver medallist, and 800m to come, Dobrynska’s three-year-old record of 5,013 points was within reach.

Even closer was Ennis-Hill’s British mark of 4,965 points.

Johnson-Thompson admitted ahead of the competition that those injury troubles from 2014 had made her fearless, saying: ” Getting that injury changed me as a person and I’m not afraid to compete any more.”

She certainly looked unaffected by the expectation in her first pentathlon for three years.

Seventeen-year-old Morgan Lake rose to the occasion too, with PBs of 8.81secs in the hurdles and 13.91m in the shot, to lie in sixth place.

There were a number of impressive British performances on the opening morning in Prague, Lucy Hatton catapulting herself into the gold medal frame with a huge PB of 7.96secs in the 60m hurdles, making her by far the fastest qualifier for the semi-finals.

Serita Solomon won her heat in 8.03.

Team captain Lawrence Clarke, whose speech to the team on the eve of the championships included a letter from the Prime Minister, qualified in the men’s 60m hurdles in 7.65, but will have his work cut out to make the medals with French trio Dimitri Bascou, Wilhem Belocian and Pascal Martinot-Lagarde looking on course to lock out the podium.

European leader Seren Bundy-Davies cruised through the 400m heats, winning hers in 53.67, with Laura Maddox and Kirsten McAslan and, on the men’s side, Jarryd Dunn also progressing.

World number one Jenny Meadows, who was denied victory four years ago by a Russian drug cheat and was only awarded the title 18 months after the event, battled illness to win her 800m heat in 2:02.59.

“Normally I don’t worry about heats, but I’ve had a cold since Monday,” said the 33-year-old.

“You never quite know how your legs are going to feel out there. They didn’t feel as good as normal, but certainly didn’t feel bad. I’ve not run since Monday so it’s not the best preparation. I needed that race to be ready for tomorrow.”

Guy Learmonth won his 800m heat in the men’s event.

Laura Muir and Emelia Gorecka both looked impressive in progressing in the 3,000m, but Kate Avery declared herself “absolutely devastated” after crashing out.

Published: Friday 6th March 2015 by The News Editor

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