31 July, 2019

Daley Thompson: KJT can close gap on Thiam

Multi-event behemoth Daley Thompson says Katarina Johnson-Thompson could be the first rival to put real pressure on Nafi Thiam, starting with their long-jump duel at Muller Grand Prix Birmingham.

The Alexander Stadium will host a duel for the ages as Thiam and Johnson-Thompson, gold and silver medallists at last year’s European Championships, lock horns for the first time since Berlin.

Not only will the second city host reigning Olympic champion Thiam’s Diamond League debut on British soil, but it will be a crucial tussle in the pit six weeks out from the IAAF World Championships.

Double Olympic decathlon champion Thompson believes the 26-year-old from Liverpool can close the gap on Thiam, beginning in Birmingham on 18 August.

“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,” said Thompson.

“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.”

Also performing in the pit at the home of British Athletics will be reigning World and European indoor champion Ivana Spanovic (SER) and Britain’s Lorraine Ugen.

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

Yet, with just under a year to go, the countdown towards the Tokyo Olympics has begun.

Johnson-Thompson towering personal best of 6,813 at the Hypo Meeting in Gotzis, effectively a World Championships for multi-eventing, represents an imposing mark with major challenges ahead.

With Britain’s heptathlon lineage stretching back to Denise Lewis and Jessica Ennis-Hill, Thompson is confident his near namesake will be in the shake-up for Olympic gold in a year’s time.

“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.”

Tickets to see Thiam and KJT go head-to-head are now on sale at www.britishathletics.org.uk.