Katarina Johnson-Thompson in the pentathlon long jump at the IAAF World Indoor Championships Birmingham 2018 (© Getty Images)
Katarina Johnson-Thompson went into the penultimate pentathlon event just 13 points down on leader Yorgelis Rodriguez of Cuba following an indoor shot PB of 12.68m.
The 25-year-old won the 2012 world U20 long jump title and a world indoor silver in Sopot in 2014 and that pedigree in the event took her past Rodriguez and into the overall lead with her opening effort.
Having seen three of the first five women down the runway step over the board, the Briton wisely erred on the side of caution, taking off with room to spare and hitting the sand at 6.50m. It was a solid belt-and-braces effort, though there might have been more to come from the woman who set her UK indoor record of 6.93m in Arena Birmingham in 2015.
Rodriguez fouled her first effort, so at the end of the opening round Johnson-Thompson held a 68-point cushion in the overall standings, ahead of Austria’s European indoor silver medallist Ivona Dadic, who opened with 6.29m.
On personal bests, Johnson-Thompson had a huge 49-centimetre advantage over her rivals but she could make no improvement in round two, jumping 6.43m. Rodriguez got a valid jump on the board but only 6.15m – which put her 98 points down on the favourite in third.
Johnson-Thompson jumped another 6.50m in round three but Dadic improved to 6.40m, just one centimetre shy of her PB, taking her up into the silver medal position. That cut the favourite's lead to 33 points, reducing her comfort zone going into the 800m.
Given Johnson-Thompson’s superior half mile record both indoors (2:12.78 to 2:13.53) and outdoors (2:07.64 to 2:10.67), the chances are that she will stay ahead of Dadic and collect her first global combined events crown since her world U18 triumph in 2009.
With just the 800m to go, she leads on 3880 points, with Dadic second on 3847 and Rodriguez third on 3782. A 6.20m jump raised the Czech Republic's Eliska Klucinova into fourth with 3744.
US champion Erica Bougard only managed 6.18m, 26 centimetres down on her best, and has ground to make up in the medal stakes, standing fifth with 3741 – ahead of Xenia Krizsan (3710), Antoinette Nana Djimou (3705), Kendell Williams (3652), Alina Shukh (3620), Lecabela Quaresma (3598), Caroline Agnou (3588) and Katerina Cachova (3443).
Simon Turnbull for the IAAF