The last time Katarina Johnson-Thompson contested a pentathlon, at the 2015 European Indoor Championships in Prague, she finished a tantalising 13 points shy of Nataliya Dobrynska’s world record tally of 5013.
At the time, the young Briton looked set to emerge ahead of compatriot Jessica Ennis-Hill as the global leader in women’s combined events – only for a lack of form in the throws and what appears to have been a crisis of confidence at crucial times in the jumps to have undermined her progress, having fouled out in the long jump during the 2015 World Championship heptathlon, finished sixth at the 2016 Olympics and fifth at last year’s World Championships in London.
Now, at 25, and into her second year training under the guidance of French coach Bertrand Valcin, Johnson-Thompson has the chance to finally claim her first senior global combined events title.
The 2009 world U18 heptathlon champion, and 2012 world U20 champion and 2014 world indoor silver medallist in the long jump has tested herself over four of the five events this year, with encouraging results in her two strongest events (6.71m long jump and 1.93m high jump), plus 8.36 in the 60m hurdles and 11.49m in the shot. In the absence of Belgium’s world and Olympic champion Nafissatou Thiam, Johnson-Thompson will start as the woman to beat.
Erica Bougard of the US tops the 2018 world list with 4760 and is partnered by Kendell Williams, who set a North American U20 record in 2014. The field also includes Yorgelis Rodriguez, the Cuban who finished fourth in the heptathlon at last year’s World Championships with a national record of 6594.
Ivona Dadic is another possible medal contender. The Austrian finished just behind Johnson-Thompson in sixth in London and took European indoor silver behind Thiam in Belgrade a year ago.
The latest combined events talent to emerge from Ukraine, 19-year-old Alina Shukh, will be looking to measure her progress in Birmingham. The European U20 heptathlon champion last year set a world U20 indoor pentathlon record of 4550, breaking the mark set by Carolina Kluft, the great Swede who claimed her first senior global crown at the 2003 IAAF World Indoor Championships in Birmingham.
Simon Turnbull for the IAAF