Few have bigger years mapped out on their 2024 calendars, but Katarina Johnson-Thompson made sure she spared an evening to celebrate the tireless work being carried out to improve the lives of young people through sport.

The reigning heptathlon world champion attended the Youth Sport Trust Conference Awards, sponsored by Sports Directory and The LEGO Group.

The 31-year-old presented seven awards to schools, settings, trusts, and individuals across the country who have gone above and beyond to make sport integral to young people’s development.

It was an opportunity for the Liverpudlian to give back to an organisation that stands for everything Johnson-Thompson has gone on to achieve.

She said: “It feels great to be here tonight, it’s a really good evening and event.

“It’s what I do and how I’ve been brought up, youth development and all the competitions that I did through this organisation as a kid.

“It’s nice to be here and giving back and it’s great to hear so many inspiring stories.

“It’s a bit surreal being that inspiring person, I remember when I did a competition back in the day and I’m sure Denise Lewis came to it when I was one of the young athletes.

“I was there getting her autograph and getting her to sign my bib. It feels like a complete turnaround.”

The Youth Sport Trust is the UK’s leading charity improving every young person’s education and development through sport and play.

More than 120 nominations were received from across seven categories, and judging panels of experts reviewed the shortlisted entries to decide finalists.

With a chance to add a first-ever Olympic medal to her world titles in the summer, Johnson-Thompson reflected on her long-standing identity as an athlete.

She said: “I don’t know who I am without sport and that came from PE lessons doing high jump when I was younger.

“From that young age, I found an identity through it where I was known for being good at something.

“I started at such a young age to develop that identity but now when I look back I realise I don’t need anything else.
“I have a huge resume of different experiences, different challenges, some of my hardest moments that come through being an athlete.

“Sport is unpredictable but that’s why we all love it. I always just want to be involved.”

The Youth Sport Trust Annual Conference Awards celebrate schools, settings, trusts, and individuals who, working alongside Youth Sport Trust, have made a real and impactful change to the lives of young people. Find out how the Youth Sport Trust is building brighter futures for children through sport and play. https://www.youthsporttrust.org/