Katarina Johnson-Thompson (Liverpool Harriers, Bertrand Valcin) won heptathlon gold on day six of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, as 18-year-old Niamh Emerson (Amber Valley & Erewash, David Feeney) recorded a personal best score for a well-earned bronze.
After ending the first day of competition with 3765 points and a healthy lead, Johnson-Thompson’s first task of the morning was to navigate the long jump. A 6.30m (-0.7) opener was followed by a 6.50m (+0.3) mark, 31cm further than the next best effort set by Nina Schultz (CAN), who cemented her position in second place overall.
In the javelin, the 25-year-old Johnson-Thompson produced a first round 40.46m and didn’t throw again – she had felt her calf twinge in the previous evening's 200m. Although her lead over Schultz, who threw 43.11m, was cut, Johnson-Thompson still retained an effective 11-second cushion entering the 800m finale.
That was more than enough: she clocked 2:21.24 to win gold with 6255 points to become England’s fifth Commonwealth heptathlon champion. The title is her second of the year after winning world indoor gold, the score an early world lead.
A relieved Johnson-Thompson said: “It has been a very emotional day for me. I’m so happy to finish the heptathlon and win the gold; it is a relief to complete all the events. I felt something in the 200m last night and then I started to feel it more today. It hurt during the 800m but I just carried on.
“I’m so proud of myself for coming here in April and setting seasons’ bests so early. I haven’t had chance to do a lot of training between world indoors so I’m happy to be competitive and winning the title here. I’ve got 16 weeks to build on this and be ready for the Europeans.
“The heptathlon is difficult and anyone can step up. The Australian girls looked strong. And then you look at Niamh [Emerson], who is still a junior – she scored 6000 points last year and now. She did brilliantly to win the bronze medal.”
Emerson, starting the day in fourth, recorded a 6.06m (-1.1) long jump mark with her second jump, losing some ground on Celeste Mucci (AUS), who recorded 6.10m and occupied the bronze medal berth.
Successive PB efforts of 39.91m and 40.34m in the javelin still left her 109-points short of the podium going into the 800m, as home hope Mucci found 43.03m.
In the closer, Emerson shadowed Angela Whyte (CAN) before moving on 400m, pushing hard to win the event in 2:12.18 – over 17 seconds swifter than Mucci and enough to displace her for a memorable bronze.
Her 6043-point haul is a PB, and the bronze comes three years on from winning the Commonwealth Youth title in high jump. Emerson was delighted, particularly after an injury-effected build-up.
She said: “I’m really, really happy. I always wanted to get a medal, it was always my aim. But wanting to get it and actually doing so are two very different things, so I’m very happy!
“I was very pleased with my high jump and also my 200m and javelin. I think I was quite solid overall, but these areas stood out. I knew going into the 800m that I had to beat the girl ahead of me by 10 seconds, so I had a plan in place. Because of my knee injury, I only started high jumping properly about four weeks ago, so I had no idea I had that in me!
“KJT is very inspirational – she’s very helpful, just saying little things that help. I’ve now got a busy season with World Junior and also Europeans, so all being well I’ll do both of those.”
Sprint silver for Arnott on debut
The first English medal of the day was won by James Arnott (City of Plymouth, Ryan Freckleton), who bagged silver in the T47 100m, which was won by Suwaibidu Galadima (NGR) in 11.04.
Competing in his first Commonwealth Games, the 21-year-old Arnott was clearly focused ahead of the gun. He had the quickest reaction time and transitioned well through the middle section of the race, holding his top-end speed superbly to cross the line in 11.30.
“I didn’t know anyone going into the race, so I was very skeptical,” said Arnott. “But I didn’t really care about anyone else, it was all about my lane and my race.
“It was a surreal experience – all the crowds cheering. I think I’ve done my country proud. I got out really nicely and was really happy with my transition into the run. I could feel the guy on my left come through and I was a bit like ‘woah’ as I wasn’t expecting it. But I knew I had to do what I do in training and I came away with a silver medal.”
Holly Bradshaw (Blackburn Harriers, Scott Simpson) led the British threat in the pole vault but missed the medals by the narrowest of margins.
In a contest won by Alysha Newman (CAN) in a Games record 4.75m, Bradshaw cleared first time at 4.40m and 4.50m before passing at 4.55m.
Requiring a second effort to go clear at 4.60m proved decisive; neither she nor Australia’s Nina Kennedy could get over 4.65m, but the home athlete’s first time clearance at the previous height meant she edged Bradshaw for the bronze.
“I just feel a little bit disappointed because I could have got a medal in that field,” Bradshaw admitted, adding: “But when I hit it, it felt really good, so I just need to put the pieces back together over the next few months.”
The youngest member of England’s athletics squad, 18-year-old Molly Caudery (Cornwall AC, Stewart Caudery), enjoyed a memorable contest, recording a personal best 4.40m for fifth overall.
Lucy Bryan (Bristol and West, Alan Richardson) had first time clearances up to 4.30m but couldn’t improve. The European U23 bronze medallist finished in 7th place.
In the 800m, won in a Games record 1:56.68 by Caster Semenya (RSA), Alex Bell (Pudsey and Bramley, Andrew Henderson) finished fifth in a time of 2:00.83.
Bell, who had qualified for the final courtesy of a 2:00.11 PB, took up a position at the rear of the pack that gathered to chase Semenya, who won 1500m gold two days earlier. Hitting half way in 59.3, the 25-year-old moved steadily, picking off tiring runners with terrific pacing.
“I’ve had two 2-minute runs back to back – it took me all season last year just to run one, so to do so at this point in the season is great,” said a beaming Bell. “It gives me so much confidence competing against a world-class field.
“I’m really looking forward to what the season holds. I’ve still got a lot of work to do, a lot of tweaks here and there, but I’m excited to race and to be in the mix with these girls for the rest of the summer.”
Andy Vernon (Aldershot, Farnham and District, Nic Bideau) found himself in a rapid 10,000m final which was won by Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegie, who secured the distance double in a Games record 27:19.62.
Vernon, in his first track race of the season, set off swiftly but was smart enough to resist the pace being set at the front. Hitting halfway in 13:59.5 and 12th position, he began to move up the field for 9th in 28:17.11.
The 32-year-old said: “The pace was surging from the start which was a struggle too. I could have done with it going out a little slower and then building up – it’s easier to run like that. Now I plan to go back home and prepare for Highgate.”
In the shot put, Sophie McKinna (Great Yarmouth, Mike Winch) produced a personal best performance to finish 5th. Producing a lifetime best 17.70m in round two, the 23-year-old improved that by another 6cm with her next effort.
“There’s always positives to take away,” said McKinna. “I threw two PBs during that and it’s April, so hopefully I’ve got a very big season ahead of me. But there’s a lot more there and unfortunately I couldn’t unlock it today.”
Rachel Wallader (Windsor, Slough, Eton and Hounslow, Richard Woodhall) finished 6th courtesy of a fifth round 17.48m, while Amelia Strickler (Thames Valley) was 9th with a best of 16.78m.
The session concluded with the women’s 100m hurdles final, which was won by Oluwatobiloba Amusan (NGR) in 12.68. Tiffany Porter (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies) couldn’t reproduce her silver-medal winning form from Glasgow 2014, crossing the line 6th in 13.12. European U20 silver medallist Alicia Barrett (Chesterfield, Toni Minichiello) finished 8th in 13.64.
Athletics resumes tomorrow at 14:25 local time (05:25 UK). Full results can be found here.