sport

Black confident for future

The future is bright according to British Athletics performance director Neil Black, especially for Katarina Johnson-Thompson or Richard Kilty.

Kilty won Britain's only gold medal at the World Indoor Championships in Sopot at the weekend with a stunning victory in the 60 metres, while heptathlete Johnson-Thompson was no less impressive in taking silver in the long jump.

And although the pair have taken contrasting paths to the top, Black believes they both have what it takes to stay there and help Britain continue to win medals at global championships. The total of six won in Poland has only been bettered twice before at a World Indoors.

Johnson-Thompson was prevented from trying to qualify for the pentathlon due to illness and overlooked for a wild card, but produced a personal best of 6.81 metres to claim silver in the long jump.

The 21-year-old from Liverpool - who also set a new British record in the high jump in February - led the competition from the second round until France's Eloyse Lesueur jumped 6.85m in the fourth, partially making amends for being unable to take advantage of the absence of Jessica Ennis-Hill in the pentathlon.

"She's just outstanding," Black said. "Katarina and her coach Mike Holmes have got a brilliant working relationship. They are calm, targeted, focused on the events.

"They took it on the chin when she wasn't selected for the pentathlon here and she has come back and shown everyone what she can do. I think she really is turning into a mature athlete who I think we can genuinely expect is going to be competitive at the highest level in the future."

Johnson-Thompson, who finished 15th in the heptathlon at the London Olympics and fifth in the World Championships in Moscow last year, has often been touted as Ennis-Hill's natural successor, most notably by Ennis-Hill herself.

The Olympic champion said in 2012: "I think she'll be better than me one day," and although Black was too wise to make such a prediction, he added: "She's going to be a great multi-events athlete.

"She is obviously world standard in individual events. We are all really, really optimistic about what she can produce going forwards. She is one of the calmest (athletes), she is focused, she gets on with the business and is a great communicator.

"I have worked with her closely both as a therapist and as the performance director and she's just sensible, responsive - exactly what you would expect to happen."

Kilty's path to glory has been far less clear cut, with the 24-year-old from Stockton losing an appeal over his controversial omission from the Olympic team in 2012 and being convicted of criminal damage as recently as November last year.

However, Black has been impressed by the way Kilty responded to being reinstated to the governing body's funding programme last October and hopes he can achieve his stated aim of breaking the 10-second barrier for the 100m.

"It's just craziness but it's fantastic," Black said of Kilty's win on Saturday evening. "Those of us who have worked pretty closely with Richard over the last year know he has responded brilliantly.

"He has matured, he's applied himself 100 per cent to it and moved to Loughborough and has a brilliant working relationship with (coach) Rana Reider so it wasn't such a surprise. He'd had a consistency in the 6.52s, 6.53s and so he was somebody who we were thinking 'He just might'. Somebody might just step up and Richard was the one.

"Everyone is talking can he run sub-10 and the stats suggest it's possible, but something that's possible and actually doing it is different so let's see."

Kilty's emergence bodes well for British sprinting and a 4x100m relay team which has suffered a number of high-profile failures since winning gold at the Athens Olympics in 2004.

And although Black neatly sidestepped the mention of a "golden age" of British sprinting, he added: "We are on the verge of something that says sprinting is kind of back on the map as far as GB are concerned.

"It's exciting, there are young people running fast, wanting to be part of teams, so it feels like the beginnings of a really, really high-performance age to me."