Katarina Johnson-Thompson at tokyo 2020 surrounded by medics

Katarina Johnson-Thompson’s fall in Tokyo 2020’s heptathlon is a story of heartbreak and determination

Posted by for Strength

Katarina Johnson-Thompson may be out of the Olympics, but her statement about her heartbreaking injury was incredibly powerful. 

Katarina Johnson-Thompson is one of Britain’s most successful Olympians, but also the owner of one of the best Twitter bio’s in the world: “Chronically indecisive so I’ve adopted two surnames & the heptathlon.” Yet, during the Tokyo 2020 200m final, the sixth of her eight events, she knew exactly what she wanted: to cross the finish line at any cost.

She did it. After falling part-way through the race with a calf injury, she was surrounded by medics attempting to get her into a wheelchair. She shrugged them off and kept looking down the track, knowing exactly where she wanted to go. She got up and limped her way to the end of the race. 

Those moments were shield-your-eyes and hand-over-mouth heartbreaking to watch. But no one was left quite as physically or mentally shattered as Johnson-Thompson herself. 

The athlete, who was unsure if she’d make it to the games thanks to a ruptured Achilles in December, said in a statement on Twitter: “I don’t know where to begin in trying to explain how I feel. Only a handful of people understand what I’ve been through. Even a smaller amount understand the mental and physical challenges I’ve faced trying to make it back in time through a pandemic after my Achilles ruptured the back end of December.

“I started the year in a wheelchair and I was not willing to end my Olympic campaign the same way.” 

The Olympian went on to explain that crossing the line was a “miracle. To not do that, but to be on my way to putting a decent score together, is heartbreaking.”

Johnson-Thompson was disqualified from the 200m race and has since withdrawn from the competition due to her injury. But those moments were one of the game’s most emotional displays of true grit and determination. 

“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,” Johnson-Thompson continued. “I am a fighter, I’m gritty AF and I find it extremely hard to give up. I can rest easy knowing I applied myself every single day and pushed until I couldn’t push anymore.”

While the nation may be heartbroken for Johnson-Thompson, we should also let her injury, comeback and fall be a lesson in believing in ourselves too. 

Images: Getty

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Chloe Gray

Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).

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