“Niggle” causes Katarina Johnson-Thompson to withdraw in Rome – AW

    World heptathlon champion suffers Olympic injury scare as Belgian duo battle for gold at European Championships

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson has suffered a pre-Olympics injury scare, a “niggle in her right leg” forcing the reigning world champion to withdraw from the women’s heptathlon after just three events on the opening day of the European Championships in Rome (June 7).

    The Briton had been short of top form, sitting 318 points behind leader Nafi Thiam in ninth place following the 100m hurdles, high jump and shot put. The reason for her subdued performance became clearer shortly before she was due to compete in the 200m on Friday evening.

     “Kat has developed a small niggle in her right leg, and in light of the proximity of the Olympic Games we have chosen to bank what we have learned from this first day of competition and withdraw from the heptathlon,” said her coach, Aston Moore.

     “We don’t want to risk losing any time from training which could be the result if she was to carry competing with it for another day. We wish all the other competitors well for the rest of the competition.”

    With 62 days until the start of the heptathlon in Paris, the news will be a concern, with the 31-year-old who fought back from serious Achilles and calf injuries to take global gold in Budapest last summer looking to claim her first Olympic medal and mount a major challenge in the French capital.

    Nafi Thiam and Noor Vidts (Getty)

    Thiam, meanwhile, experienced a very different opening day. The Belgian has had her own Achilles issues to fight and this was the Olympic champion’s first competitive action since the middle of last year.

    How would she fare? She closed day one in the lead with a total of 3955 points, though her compatriot and world indoor champion Noor Vidts is mounting an impressive challenge and sits just 35 points behind, while French champion Auralia Lazraq-Khlass is enjoying the competition of her life and is only a further five points adrift, setting up a fascinating day two.

    The British challenge is now being fronted by Jade O’Dowda, who sits ninth with 3655.

    For Thiam, there was an understandably conservative start in the 100m hurdles, her run of 13.74 leaving her 16th after the first event, but she shot straight into the lead after the high jump thanks to first-time clearances of 1.80m through to 1.95m. She took one unsuccessful attempt at 1.98m before calling a halt to conserve energy.

    She then produced a 15.06m throw in the shot put, second furthest overall, but Vidts managed a lifetime best of 14.79m to close the gap and reduced that further by clocking 23.85 to Thiam’s 24.81 in the 200m.

    Lazraq-Khlass could barely have asked for more, running a personal best of 13.35 in the 100m hurdles, clearing a PB-equalling 1.77m in the high jump, adding 1.24m to her shot put best with 15.27m and clocking her fastest ever 200m with 23.56.

    Johnson-Thompson had clocked 13.66 in the hurdles, then cleared 1.83m in the high jump – usually one of her strongest events – before a best of 12.44m in the shot.

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