Defending champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson wants to get back to winning ways

Defending champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson wants to get back to winning ways

Defending champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson is aiming for a return to the top as she bids for her first heptathlon title in three years.

The 29-year-old is the overnight leaders at the Commonwealth Games after a solid first day at Alexander Stadium.

Johnson-Thompson is 109 ahead of Northern Ireland’s Kate O’Connor with 3765 points.

The pandemic and two serious hamstring and calf injuries have prevented Johnson-Thompson from winning a title since the 2019 World Cup, but she is close to a successful defense in Birmingham.

She said: “It’s really nice, in 2018 this competition was the platform for me to win global medals so hopefully it will be like that again and my transition back. It’s hard to be confident when my results have been coming in the last year, but I’m confident, I’m enjoying it, I’m happy, that’s all I can do.

“I have two season bests and two weeks after jet lag, traveling and heptathlon (from the world championships) I wasn’t really expecting it. I’m really happy, feeling good and feeling like I’ve recovered well.

“It’s been tough but I’ve pushed so much this season I was glad to have a week off, it was nice to be at home not training and letting my body recover. It’s my last competition this year so hopefully it’ll be a nice end to the season.”

Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games - Day Five

Katarina Johnson-Thompson was in dominant form in the 200m (Mike Egerton/PA)

Johnson-Thompson finished eighth at the World Championships, relinquishing her title to Olympic champion Nafi Thiam.

On Tuesday, she held a 17-point lead after the 100-meter hurdles and high jump on opening morning. A 12.94m throw in the shot put put O’Connor 11 points clear, but after winning the 200m in 23.70 seconds, she extended her lead.

Meanwhile, Holly Bradshaw has had to retire from pole vaulting. Bradshaw, who won Olympic bronze last year, was unable to recover from a hamstring injury sustained in a freak accident at the World Championships.

Her bar broke during her final practice jump – when she saw it land awkwardly and injured her hamstring – and she had to bail out in Eugene. She was unable to compete at the Alexander Stadium after testing the injury before the competition.

Daryll Neita

Daryll Neita won her 100m run (Isaac Parkin/PA)

She told the BBC: “I had a scan after my incident in the world and I had a partial tear of my hamstring and tendon. I jumped very hesitantly on Saturday and thought I was ok, but while warming up I felt something pop. This was supposed to be my last Commonwealth Games and a chance at a medal, but it wasn’t to be. I’m glad I tried and didn’t sit at home.”

Earlier, England’s Daryll Neita said she was ready to challenge Elaine Thompson-Herah for gold. The 25-year-old won her 100-meter dash in the Alexander Stadium in 11.02 seconds.

She reached the semifinals on Wednesday before an expected final showdown with reigning Olympic 100m champion Thompson-Herah. With Dina Asher-Smith out at the World Championships after suffering a hamstring injury, the spotlight is on Neita, who is poised to claim the top spot.

“I always strive for gold. Every time I go to the track I want gold. I’ll get as close as I can,” said last year’s 100m Olympic finalist.

“It was nice to come out after a long week of traveling and readjusting to the UK. It’s nice to win the heat and get ready for the final tomorrow.”

Scotland’s Laura Muir, who won bronze in the 1500m in Eugene last month, also reached the 800m final in one minute and 58.84 seconds, joining Keely Hodgkinson and Alexandra Bell on Saturday.

She said: “My training has been really good since I got home and if anything I think I’m just getting fitter. I just hope I’ll be in a good place to get on the podium by the weekend.”

Hannah Cockroft won the T33/34 100m ahead of her English teammate Kare Adenegan.

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