Katarina Johnson-Thompson drew an emphatic line under years of tears when she struck heptathlon gold at the World Championships here Thursday.

The 26-year-old British star had finished her previous two world championships left wondering where it all went wrong, often sobbing alone in her hotel room.

Not any more.

"This is crazy, it's crazy for me," Johnson-Thompson said after downing reigning world and Olympic champion Nafissatou Thiam of Belgium to take gold.

Johnson-Thompson finished the seven-discipline event with a world-leading 6,981 points to claim her first major outdoor crown.

Thiam finished with 6,677pts to take silver while Austria's Verena Preiner claimed bronze with 6,560pts.

It has been a long road to the top for Johnson-Thompson, who was anointed the natural successor to British golden girl and former Olympic champion Jessica Ennis-Hill but had struggled to live up to that billing.

All too often Johnson-Thompson's medal chances have been scuppered by self-inflicted mistakes, notably at the 2015 World Championships where she fouled three times in the long jump.

Poor performances in the shot put and javelin left her out of the medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics while at the London 2017 World Championships a dire high jump left her out of contention.

"The last two worlds have been heartbreaking," Johnson-Thompson said. "The last two World Championships, mid-heptathlon, I've gone back to my hotel and cried and cried for hours when things have gone badly.

"It was after the high jump in London in 2017 and after the long jump in 2015 in Beijing.

Britain's Katarina Johnson-Thompson celebrates after winning the women's heptathlon at the World Championships
Britain's Katarina Johnson-Thompson celebrates after winning the women's heptathlon at the World Championships AFP / Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV

'A lot of bad years'

"Those were the low points of my career. Rio Olympics, as well. I've had a lot of bad years.

"I'm just so happy I came out in front for a change.

"Everyone's got their journey. It's not been very straightforward for me."

Johnson-Thompson's fortunes began to change when she relocated to France to work with the same coaching group that handles decathlon world record holder Kevin Mayer.

"I had to move coach. I had to move country (to France), I had to learn a new language and settle in," she said. "I tore everything up and started again and it's worked."

Johnson-Thompson had pulled into a 96-point lead after the first day of competition where she notched two huge improvements on personal bests in the opening four events.

On Thursday, she picked up where she left off, recording a solid 6.77-metre leap on her second jump.

With Thiam only able to manage a longest effort of 6.40m, Johnson-Thompson had widened her lead over her Belgian rival to 216 points heading to the javelin.

Johnson-Thompson, then produced the performance of her life to improve her personal best with a second throw of 43.93, more than a metre further than her previous longest mark.

Thiam, who has been troubled by an elbow injury this season, was unable to overturn the points deficit, fouling on her first throw before recording a second effort of 48.04m, well down on her personal best of 59.32m.

That left Johnson-Thompson firmly in control of the competition with only the 800m to come, leading by 137 points.

Johnson-Thompson made no mistake in the 800m, setting the pace early on and then powering home to win in another personal best of 2min 7.26sec.