Glasgow joy for the host nation’s pentathletes as they win gold and silver on opening day of European Indoor Championships

Katarina Johnson-Thompson retained her European indoor pentathlon title on Friday in Glasgow and once again gave Nataliya Dobrynska’s world record a scare. The Briton also fell short of her own national record, yet her performance in the Scottish city demonstrated she has moved up a gear this winter. Full of poise and power, Johnson-Thompson dominated the competition, while teenage team-mate Niamh Emerson excelled as well by taking a hard-earned silver medal.

Johnson-Thompson scored 4983 in Glasgow compared to her UK record of 5000 when she won the title for the first time in Prague in 2015. World under-20 champion Emerson showed more of her brilliant potential, too, with 4731 to finish runner-up.

“My score today is still a huge performance,” said the winner. “It’s not the world record (Dobrynska’s 5013) but it’s the world record for a reason. You can’t afford to make any mistakes if you want to break that record. It wasn’t to be for me here but it doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy today.”

Johnson-Thompson has clearly wintered well in her French training base and she added: “Luckily I was able to peak at the right time and I put good performances together when it mattered, so I’m very proud of what I did today. I knew I’d had a good winter block of training and I was in good shape. It’s just sometimes hard to convert that into competition. It sounds stupid because I’m 26 now but I’m still learning.”

In this form, Johnson-Thompson would have posed a serious challenge to the absent Olympic, world and European heptathlon champion Nafi Thiam. The injured Belgian athlete’s pentathlon best, after all, is 4870 when winning the 2017 European indoor title in Belgrade.

The two Britons had enjoyed an incredible first half of the day with success littered with PBs and season’s bests in the first three events – the 60m hurdles, high jump and shot put. These included marks of 8.27m, 1.96m and 13.15m for Johnson-Thompson and 8.54, 1.87m and 13.93m for Emerson. 

The evening session began well again for the host nation duo but not quite good enough for Johnson-Thompson as a long jump best of 6.53m effectively ended her hopes for a world record. After achieving the mark in the second of three rounds, she attacked her final round attempt aggressively but was frustrated for it to be judged a no-jump.

Emerson’s dream day continued, meanwhile, as she began with two jumps just under six metres before a final round effort of 6.29m, which was an indoor PB and placed her in the silver medal position going into the 800m.

Prior to the final event, Johnson-Thompson led with 4006 from Emerson’s 3804, Laura Ikauniece’s 3794, Solene Ndama’s 3786 and Ivona Dadic’s 3769.

With gold virtually assured, Johnson-Thompson finished in style by winning in front of a noisy, partisan Emirates Arena crowd in 2:09.13, while Emerson clocked 2:12.56 despite wobbly legs in the final metres.

The battle for bronze was won by French athlete Ndama after a 2:11.92 800m.

“It’s my longest race but it goes in a flash so I really have to keep my concentration,” said Johnson-Thompson. “I’ve only maybe got three more 800m races before Tokyo so my coach said ‘let’s go for it and see where you’re at’,” she continued, before adding that she plans to have two weeks off training now at home in Liverpool before hopefully building up to an early summer heptathlon test in Gotzis.

Emerson was equally delighted with her medal and said: “I outperformed myself in every event. I tried to be solid and if you do that then it’s likely to go well. In the long jump, though, I was really stressful so to get a PB on the last jump was really good.”

On the final event, she added: “In the 800m my legs went at the end. I genuinely thought I was going to lose a medal. I flopped over the line and then I was so relieved when I found out I’d won silver.”

Elsewhere, in the men’s shot put there was a second continental title for Poland’s Michał Haratyk as he added European indoor gold to the outdoor win he secured in Berlin last summer.

The 26-year-old opened with a European-leading throw of 21.65m in the first round and that proved enough for him to take the title ahead of Germany’s three-time European outdoor champion David Storl, who had a best of 21.54m, and Czech Republic’s world indoor bronze medallist Tomas Stanek, who threw 21.25m.

Haratyk had been the only Polish athlete in the final after his team-mates Jakub Szyszkowski and defending champion Konrad Bukowiecki failed to qualify.

Following the qualifying round of the women’s event, British champion Sophie McKinna was left feeling “bitterly disappointed” to miss out on the final, especially in a season which has included a PB of 17.97m.

“I’ve just got to deal with it and now look forward to the outdoor season and hopefully crack 18 metres,” she added.

Her GB team-mate Amelia Strickler also didn’t progress after a best of 16.81m. Germany’s Christina Schwanitz led qualifying with a throw of 19.09m.

In men’s triple jump qualifying, Nathan Douglas equalled his season’s best of 16.48m to reach the final. GB team-mate Julian Reid did not make it, though, as he jumped 15.93m in a qualifying competition that was led by Nelson Evora of Portugal with 16.89m.

Britain’s Morgan Lake and Russia’s 2015 champion Mariya Lasitskene were among those to book their places in the high jump final after clearing 1.93m, while athletes securing pole vault final places included Poland’s Piotr Lisek and Pawel Wojciechowski.

Over in the women’s 3000m, Laura Muir completed the first part of what she hopes will be another golden double, clocking 8:35.67 to win ahead of Germany’s Konstanze Klosterhalfen and her fellow Brit Melissa Courtney. Read more here.

» See the March 7 edition of AW magazine for in-depth coverage of the championships

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