Katarina Johnson-Thompson splits from coach months after moving to the US

Katarina Johnson-Thompson of Great Britain GBR reacts during Women’s Pentathlon – Long Jump on day one of the World Indoor Athletics Championships Belgrade 2022 at Belgrade Arena on March 18, 2022 in Belgrade, Serbia – Getty Images Europe

Katarina Johnson-Thompson will defend her heptathlon world title next month without a trainer after suddenly leaving her American training setup just five months after moving to Florida.

Johnson-Thompson crossed the Atlantic to join trainer Petros Kyprianou earlier in the year in order to return to full fitness after a series of significant injury problems.

Just last month, he spoke enthusiastically about the setup there, telling Telegraph Sport that “training is going well” and that he was enjoying “really good facilities, really good weather and good [training] crew”.

However, he has undergone a dramatic change of heart since posting his second-lowest heptathlon score in a decade in Austria a fortnight ago, after which he informed Kyprianou he would not be returning to Florida and instead flew back. to his hometown of Liverpool.

With her world title defense set to begin on July 17, the 29-year-old Johnson-Thompson is now working with a team of British athletics coaches and will attempt to retain her world and Commonwealth gold medals under their guidance before undertaking another search for a permanent coach after the end of the season.

The shocking separation from Kyprianou represents the latest turbulence in a career that has already undergone significant change. Leaving her childhood coach in Liverpool and moving to Montpellier, France, after the 2016 Olympics, she was forced to find a new base when Bertrand Valcin, the man who guided her to the world title in 2019, took on a new role with the French Athletics Federation and could no longer coach her full-time.

After an extensive global search process, including input from mentor and former Olympic heptathlon champion Denise Lewis, he chose to join a newly created group under the leadership of Kyprianou, who was crowned USA National Collegiate Coach of the Year. three times and trains the American pair Garrett Scantling. and Kendall Williams, who finished fourth and fifth respectively in multiple events at the Tokyo Olympics.

Britain's Katarina Johnson-Thompson competes during the long jump of the traditional athletics decathlon on May 29, 2022 in Goetzis, Austria - AFP

Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson competes during the long jump of the traditional athletics decathlon on May 29, 2022 in Goetzis, Austria – AFP

Injuries caused Johnson-Thompson and Kyprianou to struggle in competition during their brief period together. In her first major event working with Kyprianou, Johnson-Thompson retired midway through the world indoor pentathlon in March, before posting her modest point tally of 6,174 in Gotzis, Austria, last month, in her first heptathlon since returned from surgeries on a left. -Achilles tendon rupture in the leg and tear in the calf of the right leg.

Speaking afterwards, Johnson-Thompson gave no indication of the impending split, although she remained optimistic about her World Championship chances despite the quick turnaround.

“Seven weeks is a long time in my world,” Johnson-Thompson insisted. “I know I can change this.

“I think it’s all there. I’ve been in worse situations before. I’m leaving completely healthy, I don’t have to go to rehab now and worry about it. It’s disappointing, but I’m not panicking.”

At the same time, Kyprianou said: “When you support a champion, you have to support her through the good, the bad and the ugly. Right now, we are somewhere between bad and ugly. I knew this was not going to be easy.”

Two days earlier, the Cyprus-born coach had spoken of his excitement at working with an athlete who believes she can still be the best heptathlete in history despite her numerous injury problems.

“The first time we met, I said, ‘You’re probably the only one in the world right now who has [world-record holder] Jackie Joyner-Kersee potential,’” he recalled. “’If there is anyone who could challenge the world record, given that you are healthy and everything is fine, it is you.’ I don’t think there is anyone else with that kind of ability.

“If you arrive earlier you will be very well received. But I knew it was going to be a long challenge when I agreed to work with her.

“If we end this year with something positive in the World Championships, it would be a big step forward for the next two years. When 2024 rolls around, that’s really what we’re working towards. It’s a long process”.

Unbeknownst to him at the time, he will no longer be a part of that process.

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