4th August 2021


The hurdles took centre stage at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium on Wednesday morning as Katarina Johnson-Thompson made an impressive start in her quest for heptathlon glory, while Andrew Pozzi booked his place in an Olympic final.

Johnson-Thompson (coach: Bertrand Valcin, club: Liverpool) got her third Olympic Games underway with an outstanding season’s best time of 13.27s (wind: +0.2m/s) to win heat one of the heptathlon 100m hurdles.

The 2019 world champion finished ahead of Emma Oosterwegel of the Netherlands and Belgium’s reigning Olympic champion Nafissatou Thiam, with her clocking just 0.18s outside her personal best.

Belgium’s Noor Vidts and Finland’s Maria Huntington recorded times of 13.17 and 13.20 respectively in heat two before the USA’s Kendell Williams triumphed in a competitive heat three.

That meant Johnson-Thompson sat in an encouraging seventh on 1084 points after one event, 45 points off Williams atop the leaderboard, heading into her favoured high jump.

Having cleared 1.77m at the first time of asking, the Brit needed two attempts to get over 1.80m and all three efforts to clear 1.83m in Group A.

After briefly receiving treatment, Johnson-Thompson then soared over a season’s best 1.86m – a height matched by Erica Bougard (USA) – although she was unable to clear 1.89m with her three attempts.

Thiam cleared every height up to and including 1.92m on her first try but surprisingly fouled three times at 1.95m, although her score of 1132 still put the Belgian top of the standings on a total of 2176 ahead of the afternoon’s shot put and 200m.

Johnson-Thompson ended the morning in third with 2138 points, just 38 behind Thiam and 19 less than Bougard.

Meanwhile, in the men’s 110m hurdles, Andrew Pozzi (Santiago Antunez, Stratford-upon-Avon) was unlucky not to qualify for the final automatically after a competitive first semi-final in which he finished fourth, as Ronald Levy (JAM) and Pascal Martinot-Lagarde (FRA) moved straight through.

Pozzi then endured a nervy wait to see if he would advance as one of the next two fastest runners and his time of 13.32s (+0.3) ultimately held firm as Shunsuke Izumiya (JAP) finished 0.03s outside him in the third semi-final to confirm his passage.

“That wait was horrible, excruciating,” said Pozzi. “It’s the first time I’ve had to go through that wait, hopefully, it will be the last, and I’m so happy to make the final.

“I feel like I’m growing in this competition, I felt much more comfortable on that run, and I’m confident that tomorrow will be better again. I’m really happy to have the opportunity to do more.”

Pozzi will be back at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium to compete in the 110m hurdles final at 3.55am BST on Thursday.

However, David King (Tim O’Neil, City of Plymouth) couldn’t make the final on his Olympic debut as the 27-year-old finished seventh in the third semi-final with a time of 13.67s (-0.1).

“It was messy from the start,” said King. “I kind of stumbled out of the blocks and when you don’t set up your hurdles race right it’s hard to come back from it.

“My only goal however was to go out and enjoy it and I definitely did so it was nice to be around the guys running super-fast.

“It’s definitely nice to surround myself with these people, and it’s an Olympic Games – it’s a great experience.”

While there was no British interest in the women’s 400m hurdles final, Sydney McLaughlin (USA) became Olympic champion thanks to a brilliant new world record time of 51.46s to beat compatriot Dalilah Muhammad, who also smashed the old world record of 51.90, in an astounding race.