Katarina Johnson-Thompson has already defied the odds to make the Olympic Games after rupturing her achilles in December. And on the evidence of an understandably hesitant return to elite competition in Gateshead, she will need to do so again to claim a dream medal in Tokyo.
Johnson-Thompson, however, was keen to take the positives from her first long-jump performance of the year despite leaping a modest 6.10m – 67cm down on her best when winning heptathlon gold in the 2019 world championships in Doha.
As the 28-year-old pointed out, it was the first time she had jumped off a 19-step run-up since that victory. And, crucially, she confirmed she had felt no ill-effects after finishing eighth behind the world champion Malaika Mihambo. “I felt good,” she insisted. “The distance wasn’t great unfortunately but I have three weeks to get in the best shape for Tokyo.
“I need to focus on my technique instead of trying to think about my achilles. I feel 100% fit and that was the first time I’ve gone off that run‑up since Doha. I know my body can handle it, I just need to think what to do when I actually take off now. It sounds so simple!”
Having made her return with a 1.84m high jump in a low-key competition at the end of last month, Johnson-Thompson intends to compete once more in France before flying to Tokyo. And she confirmed that her ambitions for the Olympics have not changed. “My goals remain the same,” she said. “To get to the start line, confident and healthy, and I am slowly getting there.”
Earlier in the final Diamond League event before Tokyo, the American Trayvon Bromell underlined his status as Olympic 100m favourite by blasting to victory in 9.98sec. The 26-year-old, who has barely raced over the past five years because of a series of injuries, was well clear of the field after 10m and effortlessly increased his lead by halfway before easing down.
“I’ll take the win,” Bromell said. “I’m happy to cross the line with no injuries. I’m just trying to tune up for Tokyo, stay mentally relaxed and continue to fight.”
Britain’s CJ Ujah underlined his improved form by coming second in 10.10 while Zharnel Hughes was third in 10.13. “It still could have been better, but I will take it for now,” Ujah said. “I know I can do better than that. I want the gold. This is a different CJ and I am really excited. It’s now about getting out to Japan, acclimatising and preparing for the race.”
Meanwhile the Olympic 200m champion Elaine Thompson-Herah also looked comfortable in beating a strong field, easing down in 22.43sec. “I am very pleased. I am going to train, reset and stay focused,” she said.
There was also a notable performance by Britain’s Jodie Williams, who ran a season’s best of 22.60 to beat Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare into second.
Less than 45 minutes later, Williams then returned to the track in the women’s 400m where she ran a personal best of 50.94 to finish second to Stephenie Ann McPherson. “I’m exhausted but really happy,” Williams said afterwards. “It’s been a good day.”
Another British athlete to impress was Elliot Giles, who held on to win the Emsley Carr Mile men’s race in a personal best of 3:52:49 – beating Jake Hayward by one-hundredth of a second.
“I’m coming into incredible form,” Giles said afterwards. “I keep going up and up each week. I just keep ticking boxes, so come Tokyo I should be in incredible shape.”
Asked if he felt capable of winning gold, he said: “I wouldn’t be doing this otherwise. I wouldn’t waste my time. The start line doesn’t discriminate. “There’s no heads-on favourite and it’s all to play for.
You’d be stupid and unrealistic to say I’m guaranteed to win, but I’m going to damn sight put myself in a position to do so and put it all out there.”
There was another British victory in the women’s 100m hurdles as Cindy Simber beat a modest field in 12.69. But in the women’s pole vault Holly Bradshaw was denied by the American Sandi Morris, who won with a clearance of 4.76m.
Meanwhile Britain’s Andy Pozzi said he was happy to finish third in the men’s 110m hurdles behind the Jamaican Ronald Levy, who won in 13.22. “I think it was a solid race,” Pozzi said.
“I have had a few challenges in the last period but this will help me tune up. That was nothing dynamite, but it’s got me moving again.”