Britain's golden girl! How Heptathlon star Katarina Johnson-Thompson08/26/2023
Britain’s golden girl! How Heptathlon star Katarina Johnson-Thompson has overcome injury and heartbreak following the death of her father to win the World Championships – as her best pal Jodie Comer hails her a ‘champ’
- Katarina Johnson-Thompson won the heptathlon gold medal in Budapest
- READ MORE: Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson clinches heptathlon gold at the World Athletics Championships to complete her remarkable return to the podium after years of injury hell
When Katarina Johnson-Thompson regained podium glory with her heptathlon gold medal at the World Championships, she declared it the ‘best day of [her] life’.
‘I’ve committed to getting my heart broken again but this time I didn’t,’ she said after being crowned (quite literally) in Budapest, Hungary – referring to years of heartbreak in her professional career following the rupture in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, plus a calf injury to boot.
However, the 30-year-old Liverpudlian athlete has also suffered tragedy in her personal life, after her father Ricky passed away from a heart attack in 2017.
Katarina has previously spoken of how the pain of his death at just 59 years old has spurred her on – and she also has the support of her close friends including a very famous face in Jodie Comer (who yesterday hailed her as a ‘champ’ on Instagram), plus her boyfriend Andrew Pozzi, a fellow Team GB athlete.
‘I just thought I’d fade into the background and just be one of those athletes who’s just there to make up the numbers and it’s just the last thing I wanted,’ the gold medalist said yesterday – but after a few years in the wilderness, her star is on the rise once more.
Katarina Johnson-Thompson, who hails from Woolton, Liverpool, won gold in the heptathlon at the World Championships in Budapest on Sunday
Katarina was born and raised in Woolton, Liverpool, to Ricky and her professional dancer mother, Tracey.
Her parents moved to the Bahamas after Katarina was born, but when work dried up for Tracey, she returned to the UK and took Katarina with her while Ricky remained on the island of New Providence.
Despite the distance between father and daughter, they remained close, and Ricky revealed before his untimely death that he sent money to Tracey and Katarina in the UK every month when he got paid.
‘I’d take trips there every time I got vacation from work,’ he told the Mail on Sunday in 2015. She and Tracey would fly over here. It was so important for me to keep those ties. Katarina is my only child – she’s the light of my life.’
the 30-year-old has been in a relationship with fellow Team GB athlete, Andrew Pozzi, since 2018
Katarina went to St Julie’s Catholic High School in Merseyside where she met and befriended BAFTA-winning actress Jodie Comer
The 30-year old was born in Woolton, Liverpool, to mother Tracey (pictured), a dancer and father Ricky
When she went to St Julie’s Catholic High School, she befriended Emmy and Tony-award winning actress Jodie Comer who remains one of her biggest supporters to date.
After she scooped her gold medal last night, Jodie took to Instagram to pay tribute to her best friend.
She wrote on her Instagram story: ‘When you give everything to a thing. We love you! Champ.’
When Katarina struck gold for the first time at the World Championships in 2019, Jodie wrote on Instagram: ‘World champion right there!!!!!!! We couldn’t be prouder of you.
‘Your hard work and dedication shows no limits. Soak it all up. You’re the best… it’s actually official. (always has been)!’
Katarina’s father Ricky (pictured holding her as a baby) tragically died from a heart attack in 2017 aged 59
And the athlete has been just as complimentary about her actress friend in the past, singing her praises after she won her first BAFTA.
‘We were in the same form from Year 7 onwards and we’re still on the group chat on our phones (the group is called H**s in Different Area Codes, as it happens) and we catch up when we can,’ Katarina revealed.
‘She was always talented, doing her accents or whatever. People probably saw her speech when she got the BAFTA and heard her Scouse accent and didn’t know what to think. She totally deserves it.’
After finishing school, Katarina, who is often nicknamed after her initials KJT, attended Liverpool John Moores University where she studied sports science.
She made her debut on the world stage when she competed for Team GB at the London 2012 Olympics and was tipped to be the next Jess Ennis-Hill.
Both Andrew Pozzi (left) and Jodie Comer (right) posted on Instagram to pay tribute to Katarina Johnson Thompson
And as her star began to rise, her supportive family were cheering her on from the sidelines – with Ricky among her biggest fans.
Speaking two years before his death, he revealed his excitement every time he saw his daughter on the TV.
‘I get so excited that I run out into the street and call everybody into the house,’ he said. ‘I point to my TV and shout to them, ‘Come in here, look!’ He added he always prayed before she was due to compete.
However, he also revealed it was an emotional experience for him, as he was unable to see his daughter as frequently when her training became more intense.
‘Seeing Katarina’s success always gave me mixed emotions. I felt so happy but also sadness because I wanted to be there for her and I wasn’t, so I just couldn’t see it all,’ he said.
‘It’s such an achievement for her and she’s done it all by herself. Watching her collect the gold on that podium would be amazing.’
Like many world-class athletes, Katarina has experienced highs and lows throughout her career, which she has spoken openly about in the past.
When her father died in 2017, the athlete paid tribute to his ‘infectious laugh and a heart of pure love’ on Instagram on the day of his funeral.
Speaking to Sportsmail the following year as she was about to compete in the European Championships, she said of Ricky’s death: ‘It’s been difficult, especially winter.’
She continued: ‘What happened with my dad is why I have been so switched on in competitions,’ she said. ‘He didn’t see me win and that has actually made me want to win in front of my mum (Tracey) even more, if that makes sense.
‘She comes to see me in every single competition and I always feel for her when I don’t do well, or I let myself down, or I don’t reach my potential.’
That same year, she began dating her current partner – fellow Team GB athlete Daniel Pozzi, who is a hurdler.
The pair don’t publicly share much about their relationship, but they share snippets of holidays they have taken together, plus sweet tributes to each other on special occasions like birthdays.
On Katarina’s 30th birthday in January, he posted a series of photos of her and wrote: ‘Happy birthday my love.’
She responded in the comments section by posting three love-heart emojis.
And following Katarina’s sensational gold medal win in Budapest, Andrew summed up the thoughts of the nation with a shining tribute to his girlfriend on his Instagram story.
Posting a collage dedicated to her, he wrote: ‘The best all round athlete on the planet. Again.’
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