Anna Hall’s Focus Is Razor Sharp On Paris

Proud of her trade-up from Worlds heptathlon bronze in ’22 to silver last summer, Anna Hall wants even more in the Olympic year. (VICTOR SAILER/PHOTO RUN)

“I’M NOT AT THE TOP of my own event yet,” says Anna Hall, uttering a simple sentence that will define her trajectory for ’24. The multi-talented Florida alum, now competing for adidas, has produced world-class marks in both hurdle races as well as the high jump. However, any further serious efforts in those directions are going to take a back seat for now, as the 22-year-old is planning to concentrate on her bread-and-butter event, the heptathlon, for the Olympic year.

“We need to focus on that,” she says, mindful of her silver medal performance at last summer’s World Championships in Budapest. Hall finished just 20 points shy of gold medalist Katarina Johnson-Thompson’s score in a tense finale remarkable, especially, for the determination with which Hall pushed through an untimely knee injury sustained in practice.

Many of her fans had figured that Hall would emerge as the world’s top multi-eventer in ’23. A bronze medalist at the ’22 Worlds, she then produced a world-leading 6988 in late May at Götzis. Along the way, she hit PRs in 4 of the 7 events: 100H in 12.75, high jump at 6-3½ (1.92), 200 in 22.88, and 800 in 2:02.97.

That collection of performances vaulted the Colorado native to No. 2 in U.S. history, behind only the legendary Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Along with JJK, only three others in world history have ever surpassed Hall’s best. Together they account for 14 World and Olympic gold medals. It’s no wonder folks looked to Hall, a 2-time U.S. heptathlon champion now, as the next big star in the event.

That certainly was her goal for the season. “As the year played out, it was looking really good. I was in the shape of my life,” she says. “And then, unfortunately a few weeks before we left for Budapest, we had a little bit of an accident in practice. We just decided, no worries, we’re gonna throw everything at this, do our best to get here fit and just show up and fight.”

The injury came when she hyperextended a knee while long jumping, leading to a PCL (posterior cruciate ligament) injury and a bone bruise on her takeoff leg.

She says she still came to Budapest thinking she could win. On the yearly list, her lead had a daunting 432-point gap on No. 2. “In my mind, I was ready to score 7000, so by no means did I come in expecting anything less than the best from myself.”

She does admit, though, that the injury caused her some stress in the practices just before Budapest. “High jump — I just hadn’t figured it out, the knee thing, still afraid of taking off, things like that, we were trying to work through it. I threw a little tantrum at practice. I threw the high jump bar and told them, ‘We’re not going to Budapest. It’s not even worth it.’ I went to my car.”

After taking some time to compose herself, Hall says, “Came back, finished practice. After that, I felt good to go. Definitely, not mentally the way I was hoping to come in, especially when you know you worked for more than you’re going to get. But that’s just life, that’s sport, especially at the professional level. People get banged up and you still have to show up and be ready to go.”

Once the competition began, she got through the hurdles without a problem, hitting 12.97. But in the high jump, her leg gave out at one point. She forged ahead. At the end of Day 1 she led by 93 points. The next morning, though, she showed up with her left calf wrapped and long jumped more than a foot shy of her season best. With Johnson-Thompson drawing closer, she would need to be firing on all cylinders.

It came down to the final event, and Hall gritted her way through a meet record 2:04.09. It wasn’t quite enough; KJT finished just 1.54 seconds back, close enough to hold onto a 20-point win, 6740–6720.

Says Hall, “I just tried to manage [the injury] as best as I could and know that I’m 22, I’m still learning… Having the weight of the world on your shoulders when you know you’re not 100% healthy and nobody knows that. It’s not easy. I’m proud of the way I handled that and just kept fighting.”

There’s nothing shameful about a silver medal. Hall was the same age in Budapest as JJK was in Los Angeles when she took silver in the Olympic heptathlon. “We actually talked about that,” says Hall about one of her conversations with JJK. “It was really close for her too and she said it was like a turning point for her where she was like, ‘Never again.’ It’s nice to be able to vent to somebody who gets it.”

Hall’s focus on the multi is understandable. She grew up having perhaps more familiarity with it than most athletes; her father was a decathlete for Michigan. Yet she says she didn’t really get sold on the event until she broke the High School Record with her 5798 as a junior at Valor Christian High in Highlands Ranch, Colorado.

“When I set the HSR, that’s when I was like, ‘Wait, I’m on track to be pretty good.’ Actually when I was in high school, I wrote a little poster board and I had little steps and stuff I wanted, like win the World Championships, win the Olympics, World Record, etc. I think those were my long-term goals and by no means did I think I would be this close to possibly winning a global title or this close to 7000 points this early. So the timeline’s definitely sped up a bit. Really, I’m just trying to focus on making my career dominant in the long run.”

That longterm focus is something that hasn’t always come naturally. She admits, “I’m greedy and impatient. I just want everything right now, and that’s just not how sport works and that’s not how progress works.”

Post-Budapest, Hall’s focus switched to “rest and healing.” Then she got back to training, with the emphasis on the 7 key events. “What a privilege it is to chase my dreams for a living,” she tweeted this fall with video of her regimen.

As for her other ambitions, the 400H among them, Hall says, “The plan next year is probably to put that on the shelf… but at future global championships, I definitely do hope to be there in multiple events or maybe even on relays.”