Katarina Johnson-Thompson plays down Tokyo favourite tag

The 26-year-old is bidding to become the third British Olympic heptathlon champion.

By Press Association Published: 16 October 2019 - 8.41am

Great Britain’s world heptathlon champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson has played down suggestions she is favourite for Olympic gold at Tokyo 2020.

Johnson-Thompson won her first global outdoor title at the World Championships in Doha with a British record 6,981 points.

The 26-year-old admits the success has given her a major confidence boost but expects a strong reaction from reigning Olympic champion Nafi Thiam after taking the Belgian’s world crown.

Asked if she considered herself to be the front-runner for the Olympics, Johnson-Thompson told BBC 5 Live’s Breakfast programme: “I’m not too sure. I don’t know. It hasn’t settled in.

“For me, even though I’ve won this time around, it’s one of those things, I know that I’m capable of winning now, it has given me confidence for the future, but I know what it’s like to come second, I know what it’s like to feel like you’ve under-performed.

“So, I’m fully expecting Nafi to go away and have an amazing winter and come back with a different sort of motivation.”

Johnson-Thompson, nominated for the IAAF World Athlete of the Year award, is bidding to become the third British Olympic heptathlon champion.

She hopes to follow in the footsteps of 2000 winner Denise Lewis and Jessica Ennis, who won at London 2012, and admits the two former champions have been major influences on her progress.

“Both Jess and Denise have been vital in my development and motivation and inspiration to do those performances,” said Johnson-Thompson.

“Denise travelled to France when I was looking for a coach in 2016, we travelled to different countries trying to find a coach together.

“And obviously with Jess, I was there in 2012 when she got that British record. That inspired me beyond belief.

“I was only 19 years old at the time and to see that happen first hand was a huge inspiration, I was like, ‘I want that in the future’, and I’m just happy and grateful that I was able to put those results down on the track.”