|British teenager with Bahamian ties finishes 15th in heptathlon|
Guardian Sports Editor
Published: Aug 07, 2012
LONDON, England – With Sheniqua Ferguson bowing out of the women’s 100-meter (m) semi-finals on Saturday night, the Bahamas’ hopes for another finalist to join swimmer Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace, were dashed. However, as it turned out, there was reason to cheer after all.
British teenage sensation Katarina Johnson-Thompson, who has Bahamian ties, was still competing in the women’s heptathlon. Katarina’s father Ricardo Thompson, who works at the Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas, is 100 percent Bahamian. Katarina set a new British junior national record of 6,267 points to finish 15th overall in one of the more celebrated events of these games. British athlete Jessica Ennis responded to the pressure brilliantly as she scored 6,955 points for a new British senior national record, and the gold medal.
As for 19-year-old Johnson-Thompson, she was just elated to be competing in her first Olympic Games, and thrilled that she was able to shake off the nerves to perform so admirably. She had personal best performances in the 200 meters (m), 800m and the high jump, and matched a personal best time in the 100m hurdles to post her best score ever, in front of her home crowd.
“This was a tremendous experience. I’ve never experienced anything like this before,” she said. “There were about 80,000 people in the stadium, and to be here in Great Britain was wonderful. Everyone was so into the competition because of Jess (Ennis) and I were happy to experience that. I don’t know if I would ever experience anything like that ever again. This is something that is going to stick with me for as very long time.”
The talented teen is no stranger to international competition. She won the gold medal at the 2009 World Youth Championships in the heptathlon, and is also the World Junior Champion with her gold medal leap of 6.81m (22’ 4-1/4”) in the long jump in Barcelona, Spain this year.
“The stadium at the World Juniors was the same size but it was empty compared to this,” she said. “This here today was just wonderful. I’m happy for Jess. I aspire to get to that level one day. This whole experience was just wonderful though, and I was happy to be a part of it.”
Johnson-Thompson said that she definitely recognizes her Bahamian connection because it is a significant part of her. She said that she speaks with her father regularly, and will call him again in short order.
There’s no doubt that her affiliation is to Great Britain though. That’s where she spent her entire life, and that’s where her heart is. For Bahamians wondering if Johnson-Thompson would ever be interested in competing for The Bahamas, she kept her cards close to her chest. But over the years, athletes have been known to switch affiliation in terms of competing at the Olympics and in IAAF events for different countries. There is hope yet! The most popular athlete to come to mind is the legendary Jamaican Merlene Ottey, who, at 52, is still competing. After competing for many years internationally for Jamaica, Ottey moved to Slovenia at the beginning of this century, eventually became a Slovenian citizen. She has been competing for them ever since.
The International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) rules for switching affiliation certainly isn’t as stringent as those of other world level organizations such as the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), thereby giving Ottey the freedom to run for Slovenia just two years after representing Jamaica at the Olympics.
For Katarina Johnson-Thompson, she has, all things being equal, her entire senior career ahead of her though. For now, she’s just focused on competing and representing Great Britain to the best of her ability. She’s visited The Bahamas quite a few times, but make no mistake about it, she’s British to the core, so that’s definitely where her affiliation lies. As they say, home is where the heart is!