Katarina Johnson-Thompson, whose Olympic heptathlon dreams ended when she tore a calf muscle while in medal contention, says that refusing to get in a wheelchair despite being in huge pain was a last gesture of defiance after a tough year.
The world champion said she believed she could still win a medal despite missing six months of training until disaster struck. But even after her injury she kept hobbling to the line, in echoes of Dereck Redmond at the 1992 Olympics, because she wanted to show she was “as gritty AF”.
“I started the year in a wheelchair and I was not willing to end my Olympic campaign the same way,” she wrote on Twitter.
“I don’t know where to begin in trying to explain how I feel,” she said. “Only a handful of people understand what I have been through. An even smaller amount understand the mental and physical challenges I’ve faced trying to make it back in time through a pandemic after my achilles rupture at the back end of December.
“To make it to the line was a miracle, not only to do that but to be on my way to putting a decent score together is heartbreaking. I truly believed I was capable of winning a medal despite having up to half a year of missed training.”
Some criticised her decision to come to Tokyo after so little training or competition, but the 28-year had no regrets.
“More than ever I’m proud that I showed up, put myself out there and tried,” said Johnson-Thompson, who had looked likely to end day one of the competition in the medal positions. “It would have been very easy to shy away and pull out, to say I wasn’t ready and blame the injury, but I’m not that type of athlete or person.
“I am a fighter. I’m gritty AF and I find it extremely hard to give up. I can’t rest easy knowing I applied myself every single day and pushed until I couldn’t push any more.
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“I’ve sacrificed so much, moving my entire life to France five years ago, away from my family and friends. I’ve lost heart knowing that the work my team and I have done for these last eight months was for this outcome and I hate that my story has played out in more heartbreak.
“ I’ve been knocked so many times and got back up, but it will take a lot of time for me to process this reality. I appreciate the kind messages. Thank you x.”