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Johnson-Thompson honoured by nomination in ‘breakthrough’ year for women’s sport

Only 13 women have won the award in the 54-year history of BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

Johnson-Thompson honoured by nomination in ‘breakthrough’ year for women’s sport

Katarina Johnson-Thompson hopes a “breakthrough” year for women’s sport will deliver another important moment at Sunday’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year award ceremony.

Alongside fellow track and field star Dina Asher-Smith, Johnson-Thompson is one of two women on the six-strong shortlist.

In the award’s 54 years, it has been won by women on only 13 occasions, with Zara Phillips’ success in 2006 the most recent of those.

But Johnson-Thompson, who claimed heptathlon gold at the World Championships in Doha three months ago, detects a changing outlook on how women’s sport is perceived.

“I feel that definitely this year it’s different in how it’s being reported on and spoken about,” the 26-year-old told the PA news agency.

“It definitely feels like bit of a breakthrough year for us with the World Cup and there are many women who are doing fantastic things.

“I’m happy that me and Dina are leading the way and it gives more exposure to women’s sport.

“Professional sport has certainly changed my life and little girls can see what they could do.

“I watched SPOTY from a very young age. It’s one of the biggest nights of the year in the sporting world and it’s a huge honour to be in the top six. I’m very honoured.

“It’s more than a dream to be recognised among the top sporting people in the UK.”

Johnson-Thompson, a staunch supporter of her hometown football club Liverpool, credits her move to “second home” Montpellier in 2016 for her elevation to British heptathlon record holder.

Katarina Johnson-Thompson
Katarina Johnson-Thompson won heptathlon gold at the World Championships in Qatar (Martin Rickett/PA)

“When I was younger a number of things happened for me to be put into the spotlight and the public expected me to win,” she said.

“I wasn’t ready for it, my body wasn’t capable of doing it. I’d break down and get injured. Or my mentality wasn’t entirely there.

“I just wasn’t good enough in a couple of events at the time and I couldn’t always put them together.

“So when I moved to France and broke everything down, we started training six days a week so that my body could handle the training and being on the track all the time.

“We worked on different techniques. I didn’t expect too much from myself and we knew it would be a four-year challenge with the Tokyo Games coming up next year.

“We’ve had success along the way, which is great. I feel a lot more at home in Montpellier and I’m settled in the place where I live.

“I’ve got my routines and it definitely feels like a second home for me – minus the language!

“I can get around and ask for things, but I won’t say I’m fluent because I’m not. It’s very hard for me to get the accent!”

Johnson-Thompson is joined on the shortlist for Sunday’s awards show, which starts at 7pm on BBC One, by Asher-Smith, England cricketer Ben Stokes, Manchester City and England forward Raheem Sterling, Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton and Wales’ rugby captain Alun Wyn Jones.

When asked who deserves to win, she said: “Ben Stokes – what he did in the cricket was unbelievable”.

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