Great Britain star Katarina Johnson-Thompson will go head-to-head with heptathlon rival Nafi Thiam at the 2024 European Athletics Championships in Rome this weekend, in what is set to be a mouthwatering warm-up for this summer’s Olympics.

Thiam has had the upper hand over the course of the pair’s rivalry, with the last two Olympic titles to show for it as well as two European crowns.

But Johnson-Thompson has her own medals to boast about too, not least back-to-back victories at the 2019 and 2023 World Championships meaning she arrives in Rome in fine fettle.

It sets up one of the battles of the Championships in the Eternal City, with both athletes out to add another piece of silverware to their impressive collections as well as a potential physiological battle ahead of their meeting in Paris later this summer.

“It’s a title I haven’t won - it’s a title I would like to have,” said Johnson-Thompson. “But as a heptathlete, I know so much can go right, so much can go wrong, so much can happen, so much can happen in the lead-up. 

“I’m feeling really motivated - probably more motivated than ever coming off the back of last year. Now I just want to put out a good performance.”

Johnson-Thompson has kept herself busy at the start of the outdoor season, posting her second-best javelin distance of 44.88m, in Graz in May.

By contrast, Thiam has been fairly quiet as she gears up her bid for a third straight Olympic gold. The Belgian missed out on last year’s World Athletics Championships in Budapest, but posted a world record in the pentathlon at the European Athletics Indoor Championships earlier that year - a stark reminder of her incredible ability.

"Obviously, it’s the world record and I was so happy, but what’s even more exciting for me was how much better I could still do and how much potential is still there,” said Thiam.

The heptathlon is one of the headline events over the first two days of the Championships at the Stadio Olimpico, with competition getting underway on Friday before coming to a climax on Saturday evening.

Both Johnson-Thompson and Thiam will hope to be battling it out for gold by the time the 800m come around on Saturday, where there is the potential for the final two laps of the track to be decisive in who ends up atop the podium.

But they will not be the only ones fighting it out, with Thiam’s fellow Belgian Noor Vidts expected to challenge after a near miss at the 2022 Championships in Munich while Switzerland’s Annik Kalin and Finnish hotshot Saga Vanninen will also have eyes on a medal and Xenia Kriszan, who finished fourth in Budapest, will look to step onto the podium.

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