Gemili backs Johnson-Thompson to win Olympic gold despite injury

• Heptathlete yet to compete this year due to extended recovery
• Gemili: ‘She’s in a good place and ready to go’

Katarina Johnson-Thompson’s Olympic dream is still on track despite a serious achilles injury late last year and she remains capable of winning gold in Tokyo, according to her friend and fellow Team GB athlete Adam Gemili.

Johnson-Thompson was forced to spend weeks with her foot in a boot due to the severity of the injury, believed to be on her jumping leg, and returned to training in Montpellier later than expected. She is yet to compete this season. However, in a notably upbeat assessment, Gemili – who shares the same agent as his teammate – dismissed concerns about whether she would be fit for Tokyo. “She’s in a good place and ready to go and defend her world title at the Olympics,” said Gemili. “Hopefully she can win an Olympic gold. I think she’s more than capable of doing that.”

Johnson-Thompson – who splits her time between Liverpool and Montpellier – has not competed in a heptathlon since beating Rio 2016 gold medallist Nafi Thiam in 2019. But Gemili predicted that she would be ready for the highly anticipated rematch in Tokyo in two months’ time. He said: “She’s one of the best talents we’ve ever had in the UK and she believes it. She knows that if she puts it together on the day, there’s no one that can really touch her. Her and Nafi Thiam, obviously the head to head is going to be fantastic. I speak to Kat every now and again and she’s good.”

Meanwhile, despite having injury problems of his own, Gemili insists he will be in top shape for the UK trials next month as he targets his third Olympic Games. The popular 27-year-old looked sluggish in the opening Diamond League meeting at Gateshead on Sunday night, finishing sixth in the 200m behind the American Kenny Bednarek in a modest 21:18 sec. However, he maintains that he still has time to come to the boil after recovering from a foot injury.

Adam Gemili came sixth in the 200m at Gateshead on Sunday.
Adam Gemili came sixth in the 200m at Gateshead on Sunday. Photograph: Lee Smith/Reuters

“I had quite a big injury, so I couldn’t really do any running between February and March,” said Gemili, who finished fourth in the 200m at the 2016 Olympics and 2019 world championships. “That’s why my season was a bit delayed. What’s important is being healthy, making the GB team at trials, and then when the Olympics comes around, I’ll be ready.

“I had sort of stress inflammation in my foot, It wasn’t a fracture, which was pretty lucky. But just to get it completely cleaned up, so I just didn’t run for a good two and a half months. I was on the bike every day trying to keep fit but it is not the same. So I’ve been playing catch-up. There’s been a lot of hard work, longer runs and fitness stuff.”

Gemili was also emphatic when asked whether he was worried about missing the Olympics. “No, I’m old enough and experienced enough to know that injuries are part and parcel of the sport. I’ve got full belief in myself that when I’m healthy and fit I can roll with the best. And I’ve shown everyone I can do that at the worlds and Olympics before. So for me it’s just about getting fit and getting healthy as quickly as possible.”

Gemili is due to compete again on Friday when the Diamond League circuit moves to Doha, along with fellow Britons Holly Bradshaw in the pole vault and Daniel Rowden, Jamie Webb and Keely Hodgkinson in strong men’s and women’s 800m races. However, Dina Asher-Smith, who ran so impressively in beating a stacked field over 100m in Gateshead on Sunday, has decided to stay home.


Sean Ingle

The GuardianTramp

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