Great Britain have a heptathlon star in waiting - and it’s not injured Jessica Ennis.
Katarina Johnson-Thompson, 20, stepped into the spotlight at the World Championships in Moscow in the absence of Sheffield’s Jess and produced the performance of her life. A personal best haul of 6449 points left her just 28 off the medals in fifth place, but the potential for the future is there for all to see.
And, having targeted a top-eight place ahead of the championships, she knows she is ready for much better. The Liverpudlian said: “I’m regretful I didn’t say I could get a medal, because if I had belief in myself from the start. It’s weird to think I can target medals if I just sort out my throws.”
Johnson-Thompson has already broken Ennis-Hill’s British junior record - she exceeded it three times last year - and former Olympic champion Denise Lewis said she showed the Olympic champion’s “class” last night. It is difficult to argue with three personal bests, two of them huge, to go with the one she set over 200 metres in the final event of day one. She went into the 800m, the final event, in contention for bronze and smashed her PB with a run of two minutes 07.64 seconds. It took four PBs and one national record from the athletes above her to keep her off the podium.
Were it not for a poor high jump, normally one of her strengths, and the customary terrible shot put yesterday it could have been even better.
She said: “I know I let myself down in the high jump. That’s where I should have got big points. It would have been a much easier race for me in the 800m, but I’m glad I’ve got that PB now in the 800m and I know I can always rely on that.
“But I can’t let myself lose that many points in the throws. It’s a bit embarrassing for me.”
Johnson-Thompson had not given up on a bronze medal even going into the home straight of the 800m as she closed on Claudia Rath.
She finished second behind the German, who moved ahead of her to take fourth by 13 points, but it was Holland’s Dafne Schippers in third who held on to bronze following a remarkable run.
Johnson-Thompson took almost three seconds off her previous best, Rath took more than two seconds off hers and Schippers a staggering 6.9secs off hers.
“There were seven people going for the bronze medal in that one race so it was very fast and I just knew I had to stay within half a second of the German. It was a bit like a rat race in the end.” she said.
After admitting she had “mixed emotions” with how her first day went, today she was “over the moon”.
A leap of 6.56m in the long jump was followed by an even more impressive 40.86m in the javelin, more than two metres further than she has thrown before.
She finished 15th just 12 months ago at London 2012, and even if this field was missing Ennis-Hill and Russian defending champion Tatyana Chernova, the youngster’s rise has still been a rapid one.
Last month brought her the European Under-23 title and the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next summer will surely herald a first senior medal.
Last night, Ukraine’s Ganna Melnichenko took the gold with Canadian Brianne Theisen Eaton, whose husband Ashton Eaton won the decathlon on Sunday, getting silver.
Perri Shakes-Drayton fired out a statement of intent by powering into the 400m hurdles final.
The Londoner produced a strong finish down the home straight to win her semi-final in 53.92s, running down a fading Lashinda Demus, the defending champion from the United States, over the last couple of barriers.
Scotland’s Eilidh Child ensured there would be two Britons in the medal race as she finished third in the first heat in 54.32.
Meghan Beesley ran a huge personal best of 54.97s, but sixth place was not good enough to progress.
Shakes-Drayton is set for a titanic battle with Czech gold medal favourite Zuzanna Hejnova in Thursday’s final, with the world number one the fastest qualifier in 53.52.
Tomorrow’s race will be a first global outdoor final for Shakes-Drayton after she missed out at London 2012 and she admitted it was a relief.
She said: “It (London 2012) came to my head. I thought, ‘I’ve been here before, but why are you thinking like this Perri? Put that behind you, that was in the past’.
“Why am I thinking about putting doubts in my head? That was gone once I got into my blocks.”
Andrew Osagie also impressed in finishing fifth in the 800m, powering down the home straight to move up from last and clocking 1:44.36, his best time of the year.
Elsewhere, Eilish McColgan was 10th in the 3,000m steeplechase, Hannah England advanced to the 1500m final, while Robbie Grabarz qualified for the high jump final.