Johnson-Thompson returns to form

Published: Saturday 14th February 2015 by The News Editor

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Katarina Johnson-Thompson bounced back from last year’s injury frustrations in the best possible fashion with a new British high jump record – and then insisted she should have gone higher.

The 22-year-old heptathlete soared over 1.97 metres at the Sainsbury’s Indoor British Championships at Sheffield’s English Institute of Sport on Saturday to go one centimetre higher than the mark she set at the same meeting 12 months ago.

The Liverpool athlete endured a bitter-sweet 2014, finishing the year ranked number one in the world in the heptathlon, but seeing her Commonwealth Games and European Championship hopes dashed by a foot injury.

She is now, though, clearly fit and firing ahead of the European Indoor Championships in Prague early next month.

That she was angry not to make it over 2.00m, despite being the first British woman ever to attempt the height, was a measure of the level of her confidence and expectations.

“I am really happy with the personal best and that I’m back competing, but I never thought I’d be that disappointed with a 1.97m,” said Johnson-Thompson, who will return on Sunday for the 60m hurdles before a long jump competition in Birmingham next weekend and then a tilt at pentathlon gold in Prague.

“It’s crazy because it’s a British record and a personal best, but I wanted that two metres.

“I cleared the 1.97m first attempt with space, so I think I could have done a little better.

“I think it’s the big 2.00 on the board that puts you off a bit. If it was 1.97m plus three you would probably clear it. It’s probably a bit of a mental thing.

“This time of year it’s always nerve-racking to go into competition because you don’t know what sort of shape you’re in. Now I know that I am in quite good shape I can move on to the other events with confidence.”

The EIS witnessed a high-quality high jump competition, with Johnson-Thompson’s fellow heptathlete Morgan Lake, at 17 already the world junior champion in the heptathlon and high jump, taking second with 1.94m, a British junior record.

Lake is also aiming to compete in the pentathlon in Prague, but if she does not get a spot in that event will go in the high jump instead.

Even with Jessica Ennis-Hill yet to make her return to the sport, Britain’s multi-eventing future could scarcely look brighter.

Britain also has bags of sprinting potential, with Chijindu Ujah and Dina Asher-Smith leading the way.

Ujah, who became the third fastest Britain in history last year by clocking 9.96 seconds for 100m, and world junior 100m champion Asher-Smith were convincing winners of the men’s and women’s 60m titles, both sealing their spots on the team for Prague.

Ujah was annoyed he could only manage 6.57secs and said: “I think I could have done something special but I stumbled out of the blocks. I exerted so much power in my first couple of steps that I wasn’t ready.

“I’m going to clear up for the Europeans and be on the podium there hopefully.”

The 20-year-old, who struggled to back up his breakthrough sub-10 run last summer, said gold in Prague was “100 per cent” the target.

“If I execute I can go faster than my personal best of 6.53s, which I’ll look to do at the Europeans,” added Ujah, who was not challenged, with the likes of James Dasaolu, Richard Kilty and Dwain Chambers all absent.

Nineteen-year-old history student Asher-Smith, the European number one, was an even more convincing winner in 7.15s.

Lawrence Clarke booked his place on the team for the European Indoors with victory in the 60m hurdles in 7.69s.

Clarke has struggled for fitness since finishing fourth at London 2012, but has got back on track with a PB of 7.59s this year.

Published: Saturday 14th February 2015 by The News Editor

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