It was a magical night for Katarina Johnson-Thompson (coach: Bertrand Valcin) as she secured her first ever senior world title in spectacular style.
The evening started in solid fashion for the Liverpool Harrier who leaped 6.50m twice to earn 1007 points to take a narrow lead into the final event, 33 points ahead of Austria’s Ivona Dadic.
Knowing she had to stay with Dadic and Yorgelis Rodriguez over 800m to confirm the gold, the Liverpool Harrier watched every move as the race developed and bided her time. At the bell, she moved around the outside to place herself at the front of the pack. Despite the Austrian silver medallists’ best efforts, she could not go past KJT who held on, crossing the line first to secure her title.
World Indoor gold adds to the European Indoor title from 2015, but this was Johnson-Thompson’s finest moment of her young career so far.
Johnson-Thompson commented: “I can’t believe it; I’ve dreamt of this for so long and to do it here at a home world championship is incredible. It has been a long time coming but I am finally a senior world champion, so I am so happy. I just wanted my family to actually see me achieve something.
“It has been up and down; a long old day but the crowd have really pushed me on. Thanks to them for coming out in the snow, they got me around that 800m.
“The shot put went best for me. I’m so happy because my warm-up wasn’t good but I got an indoor PB which I was delighted with. It is an event I struggle with so to get a PB was amazing. It has been a really fun day.”
After her medal-winning antics on the track last night in the 3000m, Laura Muir (Andy Young) returned in style like a pro to secure her place in Saturday night’s 1500m final.
Tracking 3000m champion Genzebe Dibaba all the way around, Muir positioned herself expertly over the seven and a half laps to grab her place on the start list as she has another shot at a world medal.
Muir commented post-race: “That was good; I obviously wanted to get that top two spot and that was a tough heat with Dibaba in it but I got the job done so I’m really happy with it.
“Today I’ve been eating, seeing my physio and just relaxing as much as possible. I had the little mint chocolate from my hotel room last night and that was my ‘little treat’ but no I did the same as always.”
Eilish McColgan (Liz Nuttall) was involved in the scrappier, and slower of the heats, narrowly avoiding a mid-race fall from Sweden’s Meraf Bahta to cross the line in sixth place in 4:13.32.
There was excellent news for Birchfield’s Elliot Giles (Jon Bigg) who wowed the home crowd as he progressed to the 800m final. Setting an indoor best of 1:45.46 along the way, he looked supreme, taking up the lead at the bell to stay out of trouble. With the end in sight, Alvaro De Arriba of Spain made a move past him but he just held off USA’s Drew Windle to qualify for the final on Saturday evening.
A focused Giles commented: “I almost got caught out at the end. I ran the race well but the last ten metres I backed off and I shouldn’t have. In the end we got the result and that is good.
“I’m not overly aware of the crowd but being home for me and hearing the Birmingham accent is quite comforting because I am based in the south now. Being around my own kind, if you like, is hugely inspiring.
“I am going to recover now, that is my first job and then see what happens from there. I did expect to run that fast.”
There was late drama in the 400m – so late that it was post-race – as Eilidh Doyle (Brian Doyle) and Zoey Clark (Eddie McKenna) both progressed to the final after initially finishing outside the automatic qualifying places. Disqualifications to Lea Sprunger and Stephanie Ann McPherson meant the British duo progressed for a shot at the medals.
Doyle had Shakima Wimbley and Sprunger in her heat, two of the fiercest competitors in the entire competition, and she put up a valiant effort but crossed the line in third, recording a time of 52.15. However, the Swiss athlete was later DQ’d for a lane infringement which Doyle advance.
After Clark saw her world indoor dream cut short by 0.003 seconds – the time between her and second place Justnya Swiety-Ersetic – she cut a disconsolate figure on the track.
However, after semi-final winner Stephanie Ann McPherson was rightly seen to step out of her lane, thus shown the red card, seeing the world relay silver medallist reach her first individual world final with a time of 52.63.
British champion Lee Thompson (John Henson) gave everything he had in his semi-final but sixth position in 47.14 left him outside the qualification places. Nevertheless, it was a breakthrough moment for the Sheffield & Dearne athlete, on his international debut. He returns for his second taste of the Birmingham crowd in the 4x400m relay.
In a semi-final worthy of a final itself, such was the stacked nature of the line-up, Asha Philip (Steve Fudge) finished in fifth position in her stacked heat but that was not enough for her to progress to the final as only the top two advanced automatically alongside two fastest qualifiers from three heats.
The British champion was evidently disappointed not to progress to the final which was won by eventual gold medallist Murielle Ahoure from the Ivory Coast.
In the last of the three 60m semi-finals, Bianca Williams (Lloyd Cowan) ran a lifetime best of 7.26 but it was bittersweet as she placed sixth which was not enough to reach the final. However, having only had the call-up to the team at the start of the week after Daryll Neita’s withdrawal, the performance exceeded her expectations:
“I came in with no expectations as it was a late call but it always sucks when you don’t reach a final. You are so close, so it is always annoying.
“A personal best is alright but I’m not totally happy. I had a niggle, that’s why I missed Glasgow, so each day is a work in progress. If I hadn’t had that, I may have run even faster so there is some frustration there.”
On her senior international debut, Megan Marrs (Jerzy Maciukiewicz) returned to the venue where she won the British title two weeks earlier, clocking 8.28 for sixth position in the second heat. Similarly, Marilyn Nwawulor (Lloyd Cowan) was sixth in 8.22 but like her compatriot, did not progress to the semi-final stage.
British Athletics Medal Tally:
Katarina Johnson-Thompson (Pentathlon)
Laura Muir (3000m)