Thompson: Johnson-Thompson will be in the mix in Tokyo

Katarina Johnson-Thompson won silver behind Nafi Thiam at the European Championships in 2018
Katarina Johnson-Thompson won silver behind Nafi Thiam at the European Championships in 2018

In terms of endorsements for heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson, few carry more weight than double Olympic decathlon champion Daley Thompson.

So when Thompson says that his near namesake has a genuine shot of an Olympic gold medal in just under a year’s time in Tokyo, it is worth listening.

It might seem far-fetched, with Belgium’s Nafi Thiam the standout heptathlete in the world, having won gold in Rio ahead of Jessica Ennis-Hill before adding world and European titles to her collection.

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The latter came at the expense of Johnson-Thompson in Glasgow last summer – but while the 26-year-old from Liverpool lags behind her rival in the throwing events, Thompson believes there is a way for her to close the gap.

“I think that Katarina Johnson-Thompson is definitely going to be in the mix,” said Thompson, who won Olympic gold in Moscow in 1980 before retaining his title four years later in Los Angeles.

“It’s whether or not on her worst couple of events, whether she can do a small personal best to get a bit more confidence and do really well in the things she’s good at.

“From my point of view, it’s just about practice and how you practise. Sometimes, people are let down because they are not used to competing under the stress and pressure of it.

“When you are training, you need to invent routines that give you little bits of pressure which allow you to practise it. It’s not the same but you should do a little bit.

“If she can just throw a little further, 50 or 60cm in the shot, and a couple of metres in the javelin, I think she would have a really good chance of getting a gold medal.

“Thiam, while the best heptathlete in the world, hasn’t really been pushed and put under pressure. You never know what is going to happen when people do that to you.

“When you tend to be a lot better than everybody else around you when you are coming up through the sport, you never tend to be put under pressure. You never know what it’s like.

“Sometimes people, when they are put under pressure, react badly. Admittedly, they might react really well and perform even better but you never know until you get the chance to perform under pressure.

“What KJT has to do is go to all the major championships in the best shape she can and perform at the level she can perform at. If the other girl is too good for her, that’s the way it is.”

It is notable that Thompson talks about the ability to perform under pressure, having spent his entire career seeming impervious to stress.

As well as his legendary work ethic, Thompson also had little techniques in training which helped him to perform on the biggest stage.

“It was practising under pressure,” explained Thompson who is launching Bridgestone UK’s “Everyday Battlers” campaign which will help ten Brits across the country to overcome their personal obstacles in life by training for a 10k run.

“It’s only silly things but one of my coaches, for six or seven years, made sure that every day, we attempted to do something as well as we can.

“We only had one throw to throw 15 metres or one jump to jump 2m05 in the high jump. It’s how you react to those things that help you build up that resilience when you get to the big show.”

The next major challenge for Johnson-Thompson will be the World Championships in Doha at the end of September.

However, with almost exactly a year to go, the countdown has begun for Tokyo.

And with a two-time Olympic decathlon gold medallist backing her, who is to say that Johnson-Thompson will not follow in the footsteps of Denise Lewis and Ennis-Hill in becoming a British Olympic heptathlon champion.

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