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Entertainment The childhood friends who soared to stardom in VERY different fields: How new heptathlete world champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson followed best pal Jodie Comer on the road to success

17:15  04 october  2019
17:15  04 october  2019 Source:   dailymail.co.uk

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Getty © Getty Getty A new star of British athletics was born last night as Katarina Johnson-Thompson broke the national heptathlon record held by her hero Jessica Ennis-Hill as she claimed a stunning gold medal at the World Championships.

The 26-year-old Liverpudlian, who grew up as the childhood best friend of Killing Eve star Jodie Comer, scored an astonishing 6,981 points to crush the rest of the field and go sixth on the all-time list.

Her sensational comeback story left her on the brink of tears and comes after several years of heartbreak on the track, following emotionally-crushing outings in the Olympics and the last two World Championships.

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Katarina Johnson-Thompson holding a racket on a court © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Initially earmarked as a future star of the sport and the 'next Jessica Ennis', the down-to-earth girl from Merseyside struggled to live up to her billing, and even claimed that as times she felt like an 'impostor' among the elite.

Katarina was a mess after blowing a medal-winning position with three long jump fouls at the worlds in 2015, and she capitulated amid injury to sixth at Rio 2016 having held bronze through five stages. 

She revealed how the setbacks left her 'crying and crying for hours' after events in numerous hotel rooms before she made the life-changing decision in 2016 to uproot her training regime and move to Montpellier in France.

Jodie Comer posing for a photo: Katarina has revealed how back in the day she and Jodie Comer (pictured together) were inseparable - the aspiring athlete and aspiring actress who once got a U grade in the written element of a drama exam © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Katarina has revealed how back in the day she and Jodie Comer (pictured together) were inseparable - the aspiring athlete and aspiring actress who once got a U grade in the written element of a drama exam

Leaving behind the comfy surroundings of Woolton, the affluent suburb of Liverpool where she grew up, Katarina took on a Monk-like existence of training, eating and sleeping in a bare-walled apartment in a foreign country.

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The upheaval, which saw the John Moore University graduate leave behind her dancer mother Tracey, has almost instantly paid off, with Katarina racking up win after win.

The death of her Barbadian father Ricardo, who Katarina lived apart from since the age of one, threatened to dis-rail her training following a heart attack at the age of 59 in 2017.

Jodie Comer holding a glass of wine: The 26-year-old Liverpudlian, who grew up as the childhood best friend of Killing Eve star Jodie Comer (pictured), scored an astonishing 6,981 points to crush the rest of the field and go sixth on the all-time list © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited The 26-year-old Liverpudlian, who grew up as the childhood best friend of Killing Eve star Jodie Comer (pictured), scored an astonishing 6,981 points to crush the rest of the field and go sixth on the all-time list However the athlete revealed how her father's death would prove a huge motivator for her career, as never having him in the crowds at one of her big wins made her even more determined to 'win in front of mum'. 

Speaking after her record-breaking night on the track, Johnson-Thompson, who has been dating fellow Team GB athlete Andrew Pozzi since 2018, admitted winning the world title had felt like a dream and a moment of catharsis. 

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'The last two worlds have been heartbreaking,' she said. 'The last two World Championships, mid-heptathlon, I've gone back to my hotel and cried and cried for hours when things have gone badly.

'It was after the high jump in London in 2017 and after the long jump in 2015 in Beijing. Those were the low points of my career. Rio Olympics, as well. I've had a lot of bad years. I'm just so happy I came out in front for a change.

a little girl holding a toy: Katarina as a child © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Katarina as a child 'Everyone's got their journey. It's not been very straightforward for me. I had to move coach. I had to move country, I had to learn a new language and settle in. I tore everything up and started again and it's worked.'

Her breakout year of success and rise into a household name comes at almost exactly the same time as her long-time friend Jodie Comer, the new darling of British acting thanks to her role as a Russian assassin in Killing Eve.

The pair have been close ever since meeting as 11-year-olds at St Julie's Catholic secondary school in Liverpool and continue to be big parts in each other's lives despite living in different countries.

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Katarina has revealed how back in the day they were inseparable - the aspiring athlete and aspiring actress who once got a U grade in the written element of a drama exam.

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Speaking recently about her friend's success, Katarina said: 'Oh my god, she got like a BAFTA the other week. It's amazing. She's just brilliant.

'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.

'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.' 

Jessica Ennis et al. posing for the camera: Jessica Ennis is pictured after capturing gold at London 2012, along with her teammates Katarina Johnson-Thompson (left) and Louise Hazel (right) © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Jessica Ennis is pictured after capturing gold at London 2012, along with her teammates Katarina Johnson-Thompson (left) and Louise Hazel (right) While self-praise does not seem to be Katarina's thing, she can surely now be content to know that she too, like the occasionally shy aspiring actress she first met in 2004, is finally fulfilling her potential.

After all the injuries from 2014 to 2016, the flopped performances from 2015 to 2017, she is out of that shadow, a slog of a decade on from winning the world junior title that led commentators to fawn over her potential.

She used to be a cruel punchline; now she is the reigning Commonwealth champion, world indoor champion, European indoor champion and, wonderfully, world champion.

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