This is Stuart’s fourth column on KJT, and he was quite happy to write this one. Admired and respected, Katerina Johnson Thompson was thought to be a medal contender in Budapest, and that she came out with her second gold in WC is pretty astounding. Now, she is looking like a medal contender for Paris 2024!

Gold for KJT

Katarina Johnson-Thompson is the World Champion at the Heptathlon! It was her second world title, having won previously in 2019 in Doha. She was 8th in Oregon last year when not fully fit.  She was 5th in 2013 and 2017 when one discipline let her down. She was also the World Indoor pentathlon champion in 2018. Add to that 2 Commonwealth titles, 2 European Indoor golds, and a European outdoor silver medal, and you can see that she is a serial title winner.

Her record in Budapest was: 

13.04 – 100m Hurdles 

1.86m – High Jump

13.64m – Shot Put

23.48 – 200m

Long Jump – 6.54m

Javelin – 46.14m PB

800m – 2:05.63 PB 

To finish with two PRs just when she needed them is an indication of the competitor that she is.  While some people will say that she only won because Nafi Thiam was not competing, the reality is that you can only beat those who are on the starting line and KJT did.  Nafi Thiam might have won if she had been fit – but in an 8-event competition, anything can happen. Thiam might have won, but she didn’t, and KJT did.

Katerina Johnson-Thompson, World Athletics Championships
Budapest, Hungary
August 19-27, 2023, photo by Kevin Morris

She is currently coached by Aston Moore but has previously worked in France with Bertrand Valcin, who coaches Kevin Mayer.  She also acknowledges the help given to her by Britain’s two Olympic gold medal-winning heptathletes, Denise Lewis and Jess Ennis-Hill.  After her victory, she said of Denise Lewis: “Denise has been with me through thick and thin. She’s always texting me, and this one’s for her as well. She’s been part of the team just as much as my coaches, and I’m so happy we could do it. Jess is the ultimate person that I learned from back in 2012 and 2015”. 

KJT’s assessment of the 2023 World title was: “I’ve actually got no words. I can’t believe it. It’s like being in a dream. I have been thinking about this for months and months, and nobody else could see the vision apart from me and my team. I’m just so happy that it’s come true. It’s a dream come true to do it again.

KJT and Anna Hall, World Athletics Championships
Budapest, Hungary
August 19-27, 2023, photo by Kevin Morris

“This time last year, I came away from Eugene; it was such a horrible experience to be in the competition but not competing for the medals. All I ever wanted was a chance at gold, and I’m so happy. I had no nerves coming into the 800m, and when my name got called, I could see the montages. I saw my 2019 self and thought all I wanted was a shot at gold, and I’m so happy I was able to take that opportunity today.

 “The 800 was the easiest run I’ve ever done in my life! I didn’t know the time until halfway around the victory lap. It’s so easy to run when there’s something on the line; that was one of the easiest things I’ve ever done. I’m so happy that I’m able to commit. I committed to the vision and committed to trying again, committed to getting my heart broken, and this time I didn’t. It’s all come good, and I’m so happy.

Katerina Johnson-Thompson, Heptathlon Champion, photo by Getty Images for British Athletics

After disappointing championship performances in 2012, 2016, and 2017, she was sometimes referred to as the “nearly woman.” Three world titles, 2018-2023, have rather changed that perception. Her final comment was that she hoped that she could “take that form and confidence into next year”. In the 2012 Olympics, as a 19-year-old, she came 13th. She was sixth in Rio and was unable to finish in Tokyo due to injury. Budapest seems like another building block on the road to Olympic success in Paris 2024.