Defending champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson looks back on winning ways

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

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

Johnson-Thompson sits on 3,765 points, 109 ahead of Northern Ireland’s Kate O’Connor.

The pandemic and two serious Achilles and calf injuries have stopped Johnson-Thompson from winning a title since the 2019 World Championships, but she is closing in on 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 this will be it again and my transition back. It’s hard to be confident when my results have happened in the last year but I’m confident in myself, I’m enjoying it, I’m happy, that’s all I can do.

“I got two season bests and two weeks after jet lag, travel and seven games (from the World Championships) I didn’t really expect them. I am very happy, feel good and feel that I have recovered well.

“It’s been tough but I’ve pushed so hard this season that I was happy to have a week off, it was nice to be at home, not training and letting my body recover. It’s my last competition of the year so hopefully it will be a great way to end the season.

Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games - Day Five

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

Johnson-Thompson is coming off the back of finishing eighth at the world championships, relinquishing the title to Olympic champion Nafi Thiam.

On Tuesday, she had a lead of 17 points after the 100 meter hurdles and high jump on the opening morning. After a throw of 12.94m in the shot put she was down to 11 points, ahead of O’Connor, but after winning the 200m in 23.70 seconds she increased her lead.

Meanwhile, Holly Bradshaw was forced to withdraw from the pole vault. Bradshaw, who won Olympic bronze last year, was unable to recover from the hamstring injury she suffered in a freak accident at the world championships.

Her pole broke during her final training jump – when she saw her land hard and hurt her hamstring – and she had to pull out in Eugene. At Alexander Stadium, after testing the injury before the competition, she was unable to compete.

Daryll Neita

Daryll Neita won his 100m heat (Isaac Parkin/PA)

She told the BBC: “I had a scan after my event at worlds and I had a partial tear in my hamstring and tendon. I jumped into Saturday very tentative and I thought I would be fine, but during the warm-up I felt something come up. This was going to be my last Commonwealth Games and a chance for a medal, but it wasn’t meant to be. I’m glad I gave it a chance and didn’t stay at home.”

Earlier, England’s Daryll Neita declared that she is ready to challenge Elaine Thompson-Herah for gold. The 25-year-old clocked 11.02 seconds to win his 100m heat at Alexander Stadium in the morning.

She reached Wednesday’s semi-final ahead of an expected final showdown with reigning Olympic 100m champion Thompson-Herah. With Dina Asher-Smith out after suffering a hamstring injury at the World Championships, the spotlight is on Neita who is ready to go for the top spot.

“I always aim for gold. Every time I step on the court I want gold. I will get as close as I can, said last year’s 100 meters Olympic finalist.

“It was nice to get out after what has been a long week of traveling and adjusting to the UK. It’s great to win the heat and get ready for the final tomorrow.”

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

She said: “My training has been really good since coming home and if anything I think I’m only going to get fitter. I’m just hoping that by the weekend I’m in a good place to get on the podium.”

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

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