By Ayisha Gulati
Dame Denise Lewis believes there is no reason why Katarina Johnson-Thompson can’t medal at the Olympics in Paris next year, but acknowledged that it won’t be easy.
Lewis, Olympic champion in Sydney 23 years ago, was at the SJA British Sports Awards 2023 collecting the SJA Committee Award on behalf of her fellow heptathlete.
Johnson-Thompson won the award off the back of her fantastic year, in which she became world champion for a second time, only the third British woman to win two athletics world titles.
Lewis said: “You don’t become a double world champion by accident. She’s immensely talented and she definitely has the capability.
“Like anything, it’s about confidence and having a strong mind – Jess Ennis-Hill and I have demonstrated that in the past.
“She would love to join that line of heptathletes that have Olympic, dare I say, gold medals. But it’s not easy to win.”
After rupturing her Achilles in 2019 and then being offered a wheelchair to exit the Olympic arena after a calf injury in Tokyo, many had written Johnson-Thompson off.
And yet, she defied the odds to make a thrilling comeback in Budapest in August and win World Athletics Championships gold, a feat Lewis never achieved in her otherwise glittering career.
Lewis said: “She’s not just an ordinary athlete. KJT’s year has been phenomenal. Some sort of comeback!
“Others wouldn’t have thought she was able to do that, but she has that willingness to keep coming back – that bouncebackability you have to have in sport.
“Things don’t always go your way. She’s had to rebuild herself after several years of below-par performances and injuries.
“I’m immensely proud to be here receiving an award on her behalf.”
Now with two World Championships and two Commonwealth Games titles under her belt, Johnson-Thompson will be desperate for an Olympic gold to complete the set in Paris.
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