Scottish Daily Mail

Cheers and then tears for Kat the golden girl

- MARTHA KELNER reports from Prague

IT Is a mark of Katarina Johnson-Thompson’s huge potential that, minutes after winning the first major gold medal of her career, she stood in the corridors of the O2 arena here draped in the Union flag, crying. Not tears of happiness at breaking a British record previously held by Olympic champion Jessica Ennis-Hill, or becoming only the second woman to break 5,000 points in the pentathlon. These were tears of dejection mixed with anger. She was less than a second — or 13 points, on pentathlon scoring — short of the world record held by Ukraine’s Nataliya Dobrynska. It was within her reach and she knew it. ‘I’ve been tearing my brains out these last couple of weeks thinking I could get it. To come so close, I’m disappoint­ed,’ she said before dissolving into tears. Heading into the 800metres, the day’s final event, gold was all but assured for Johnson-Thompson (below) but she needed to run 2min 11.86sec to pass the mark set by Dobrynska in 2012. Her personal best outdoors is four seconds faster. At the start, she beamed, crossed her fingers and the BBC switched from coverage of the Davis Cup in Glasgow to show her event live. The nation was with her but, after the gun went, she was on her own. Far superior to the rest, she was forced to go it alone. At halfway, she was on course to do it but, after stopping the clock on 2:12.78, she raised her hands to her head. ‘I was gutted, instant regret,’ she said. ‘I think I could have pushed myself a bit more. I wasn’t as tired as I normally am after the 800m. ‘If someone had said to me: “You’ve got 5,000 points and a gold medal at the beginning of the day”, I would have taken it. But because it was all going well and I was so close, that’s what made me so sad.’ First, a personal best of 8.18sec in the 60m hurdles, then a clearance of 1.95m in the high jump at the first attempt. She launched the shot putt 12.32m, just 17cm short of her personal best, a perfectly respectabl­e throw in her weakest event. She briefly trailed Belgium’s Nafissatou Thiam by 35 points but the long jump is where she excels. Her leap of 6.89m, 4cm shy of her national record set last month, was incredible for a multi-eventer. It would have been good enough for gold in the individual competitio­n at six of the last seven European Indoor Championsh­ips. Johnson-Thompson was congratula­ted by Ennis-Hill, who was watching at home as the 22-year-old broke her British record of 4,965 set in 2012. The two will meet in what promises to be a gripping battle in Gotzis, Austria, at the end of May when Ennis-Hill makes her comeback after the birth of her first baby, Reggie. Meanwhile, Laura Muir insists she won’t take a medal for granted tonight, despite coasting through the semi-finals of the 3,000m. The 21-year-old from Perthshire secured the second-quickest qualifying time behind Dutch rival Maureen Koster in 8:58.17. ‘You have to look at it positively when you’re running that well,’ said Muir. Fellow Scot Guy Learmonth advanced into today’s 800m semis with a storming win in his heat. ‘In my head, I ran to win and it felt great,’ he said. ‘This is the big-boy stuff and I’m ready for that.’ But Bath-based Scot Kirsten McAslan will have to chase a medal in tomorrow’s 4x400 relay after missing out on the 400m final with fourth place in her semi.

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