Johnson-Thompson hunts gold at European Athletics Championships

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Dress rehearsals are seldom arsenic beautiful – aliases important – arsenic nan 1 being staged successful Rome complete nan adjacent six days. For astir of nan continent’s biggest way and section stars are successful nan Eternal City, hunting not only a European Athletics Championships golden medal, but hoping to laic down a important marker earlier adjacent month’s Paris Olympics.

And erstwhile it comes to gladiatorial showdowns, they don’t travel overmuch bigger than nan 1 that kicks disconnected Friday’s action, arsenic Britain’s double world heptathlon champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson faces disconnected against Belgium’s double Olympic champion Nafi Thiam for nan first clip since 2022.

Organisers are billing it arsenic a “clash of nan titans”, which owes much to Greek than Roman mythology, but location is nary doubting nan size of nan task facing Johnson-Thompson.

“Nafi is 1 of nan top athletes of our generation, of each time,” she says. “I don’t consciousness for illustration it is spoken astir enough. To person her successful nan section is decidedly going to raise everyone’s game.”

Few would reason pinch that. When Johnson-Thompson shocked almost everyone to win world golden successful Budapest past year, aft superior achilles tendon and calf injuries appeared to person derailed her career, Thiam was absent pinch an achilles wounded of her own. It intends their latest conflict is shrouded successful intrigue and uncertainty – particularly arsenic Johnson-Thompson is besides keeping her cards adjacent to her chest.

“I’m emotion good,” she says. “It’s a title I haven’t won – it’s a title I would for illustration to have. It’s my first heptathlon of nan year. You ne'er cognize what to expect from your first heptathlon. In 2 days we’ll find retired if nan training has been going well.”

Johnson-Thompson’s shape successful 2024 has truthful acold been coagulated alternatively than spectacular, but it was surely encouraging that successful Graz past period she had her 2nd champion ever javelin performance, throwing 44.88m.

“The heptathlon is ever for illustration spinning plates,” she says. “Some things are going good complete present and immoderate are complete here. I conscionable want to put it each together.”

Keely Hodgkinson wins nan women’s 800m successful Oregon successful precocious May.
Keely Hodgkinson wins nan women’s 800m successful Oregon successful precocious May. She is 1 of Team GB’s biggest hopes for golden successful Rome. Photograph: Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports

Johnson-Thompson is astatine nan vanguard of an impressively beardown British team, particularly among nan female athletes, pinch Dina Asher-Smith successful nan 100m, Daryll Neita successful nan 200m, Keely Hodgkinson successful nan 800m and Molly Caudery successful nan rod vault each having a beardown chance of gold.

The men’s squad is noticeably weaker, however, pinch each 4 of Britain’s individual antheral medallists from Budapest – Josh Kerr, Matthew Hudson-Smith, Zharnel Hughes and Ben Pattison – absent. But location are precocious hopes for 400m starlet Charlie Dobson, who showed his people by moving 44.46 past period aft a bid of injuries.

“British athletics is successful a really bully place,” says Johnson-Thompson. “There are truthful galore chances to triumph medals. You can’t count them connected nan fingers of 1 hand. It’s really, really breathtaking to beryllium portion of a beardown team.”

Lots of eyes will besides beryllium connected CJ Ujah, who will compete successful his first awesome championships since his grounded narcotics trial costs Team GB an Olympic metallic badge successful Tokyo successful 2021. The 30-year-old, whose affirmative trial aft nan Olympic last was recovered to person been caused by a contaminated amino acerb bought connected Amazon for £10 during lockdown, will tally successful some nan individual 100m and nan 4x100m arsenic he seeks to re-establish his credentials earlier Paris.

Organisers are letting schoolchildren successful for 1 euro, and nan dream is that decent crowds will bask watching nan pick of European talent, including nan world rod vault champion Mondo Duplantis, nan Olympic 1500m and world 5,000m champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen and nan world 400m hurdles champion Femke Bol.

Several names that are apt to clang into nan mainstream astatine this summer’s Olympics are besides competing, including Ireland’s 21-year-old prima Rhasidat Adeleke, who runs successful nan 400m, and nan superb 18-year-old Serbian precocious jumper Angelina Topic.

Naturally nan location fans’ attraction will mostly beryllium connected their Olympic golden medallists from Tokyo, 100m champion Marcell Jacobs and precocious jumper Gianmarco Tamberi, who are some seeking a aureate homecoming.

“I dream to beryllium capable to tally nether 10 seconds this weekend,” says Jacobs, who ran 10.03sec recently. “I haven’t shown that I’m beardown yet, but there’s capable clip to get to nan apical astatine nan Olympic Games: that’s my goal.”

Source theguardian