Katarina Johnson-Thompson claimed a stunning heptathlon gold at the World Championships in Budapest to complete a remarkable turnaround in her career.
The Briton, now a two-time world champion, feared injury may end her career just months after her 2019 win.
But Johnson-Thompson, whose Achilles rupture four years ago marked the start of a difficult period, has rediscovered her spark and this gold is her reward.
She defended a narrow lead over Anna Hall in a captivating final 800m event.
Johnson-Thompson held off Hall by running a personal best of two minutes 05.63 seconds to finish within 1.54 secs of the American favourite and take overall victory by 20 points.
The Briton had reached the decisive two-lap race with an advantage of 26 points over Olympic and world silver medallist Anouk Vetter.
However, it was 22-year-old Hall – 43 points behind in third – who provided the significantly greater threat with a personal best more than four seconds quicker than that of Johnson-Thompson.
The 30-year-old’s lead over Hall after six events represented an advantage of about two-and-a-half seconds, setting up a dramatic conclusion to an enthralling competition.
And so it proved. Hall led from the front but could not break away from Johnson-Thompson, who measured her effort to perfection before collapsing to the ground in a mixture of exhaustion and celebration.
Johnson-Thompson’s triumph was followed by another British medal when Zharnel Hughes claimed bronze in the men’s 100m to bring the team’s total to three after two days.
How Johnson-Thompson battled back to triumph
Since winning her first global title in Doha Johnson-Thompson has endured her fair share of heartbreak.
Recovering from that career-threatening Achilles rupture – on the take-off leg which is crucial to her jumping capabilities – in just eight months to make the Tokyo Olympics, she was dealt another crushing blow.
A calf tear sustained during the 200m left her writhing on the track in pain, the cruellest end to her bid for a first Olympic medal and led to a year of indifference and underperformance in 2022.
But, just as she did that day when she refused medical assistance to cross the finish line, she has picked herself up and carried on.
It was her experience at last year’s World Championships, where she felt a spectator as she finished a disappointing eighth, that proved the catalyst for change.
Gold at a home Commonwealth Games in Birmingham 12 months ago reignited her desire to fight for titles and she hinted at a return to her former self in finishing runner-up to Hall in Gotzis in May.
Now this unexpected triumph marks a significant personal moment for Johnson-Thompson who, when her achievement has had time to sink in, will look towards next summer’s Paris Olympics with ambition and belief.
Personal bests needed to hold off Hall
In the absence of world champion Nafissatou Thiam it was Hall who began the two-day competition as the clear favourite.
But, despite amassing the fifth-best points total in history when she beat Johnson-Thompson in Gotzis, the American had predicted a medal “dogfight” in Budapest – and that is exactly what materialised.
Hall led overnight but Johnson-Thompson ensured she would begin the second day firmly in contention with a competition-leading time of 23.48 secs in the 200m moving her in to second after four events.
The Briton was unrelenting as she maintained her podium push on Sunday, overtaking Hall with an unmatched 6.54m in the long jump before producing a superb javelin personal best of 46.14m to extend her overall lead.
With a marginal advantage to lean on, it meant the 800m would decide the world champion.
That Johnson-Thompson responded to the pressure with another personal best spoke volumes about her physically and mentally.