Olympic Women’s Heptathlon — Joining JJK

A 13.54 flight of hurdles led off defending champ Nafi Thiam’s successful quest to join Jackie Joyner-Kersee as a 2-time gold medalist. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

APPREHENSION TEMPERED ANTICIPATION of the matchup between the world’s two best current heptathletes —Nafi Thiam and Katarina Johnson-Thompson — as both entered at less-than-desired form.

That left the door open for many, including a strong U.S. threesome which entered with the year’s three best scores but would miss the podium despite its collective best-ever finish in the Olympics at 5-6-9.

Most eyes were rightly on defending champion Thiam and reigning world champ Johnson-Thompson, both normally far ahead of the rest. Thiam hadn’t competed a 7-eventer since an injury-hampered effort in Doha left her well behind the zenith of KJT’s career.

Everything changed for the 28-year-old Briton in December when she ruptured an Achilles. Her cautious return shifted gears in Tokyo, when she would let it all out for the first time.

Thiam, 26, came from behind to win, joining Jackie Joyner-Kersee as the event’s only 2-time gold medalist, while KJT was felled by a heartbreaking injury. The Belgian was eventually followed by two from neighboring Netherlands — Anouk Vetter and Emma Oosterwegel, who earned medals over yet another Belgian in Noor Vidts, followed by top American Kendell Williams.

100 Hurdles
KJT (13.27) and Thiam (13.54) each produced seasonal bests, with the Briton showing promise with the second-fastest of her career. Oosterwegel (13.09) PRed by 0.24, a margin matched by Vidts (13.17) as both were quickly on the trail to massive PR improvements overall.

The three Americans were in the fast section, which was won by Williams at 12.97, just off her 12.95 at the Trials. U.S. champ Anna Kunz notably recovered well from an early hit hurdle.

High Jump
This was prime testing ground for the fitness of Thiam and KJT as perhaps the strongest individual event for each. KJT got a seasonal best of 6-1¼ (1.86), but it was far lower than the 6-4¾ (1.95) she jumped in Doha. She ended the event in 3rd overall.

Thiam was closer to her norm, clearing 6-3½ (1.92) — far off her world heptathlon best of 6-7½ (2.02) but her highest since ’17. She moved into the overall lead at 2176, 19 points up on the third American Erica Bougard, whose 6-1¼ (1.86) matched the jump from her 6725 PR in ’18.

Shot
Thiam was good but not great at 48-7½ (14.82) in increasing her lead to 56, while KJT produced a third-straight seasonal best at 43-8 (13.31), the second-longest of her career. Kunz took over the American carousel with a 49-8½ (15.15).

Moving into 2nd points-wise was Vetter, silver medalist at the ’17 Worlds, with Vidts lurking 38 points behind after a second PR in three events.

200 Meters
Thiam showed vulnerability with a 24.90, more than a second behind the PRs of Vidts (23.70) and Vetter (23.81) as both passed her in the Day 1 standings. Kunz maintained the lead among Americans.

Disaster struck, with KJT collapsing as she approached the straightaway. Many assumed reinjury to her left Achilles, but her right calf was the culprit. She declined assistance and got up to finish in about 93 seconds before officials looked heartless in dutifully DQing her for leaving her lane.

“I started the year in a wheelchair and I was not willing to end my Olympic campaign the same way,” she explained on her Instagram page.

Long Jump
As the second day kicked off Thiam almost regained her eventual lead with a solid 21-8 (6.60), the longest as PRs were scarce in all Day 2 events. With KJT’s withdrawal, the anticipated race for bronze became one for silver that leader Vetter had as all hers barring disaster.

A free-for-all took shape for the resulting fight for bronze, with Kunz (4819) and Williams (4806) in contention but behind surprising Vidts (4890). At this point Oosterwegel was only 8th at 4692 in her first appearance in the top 10 during the whole competition.

Javelin
Thiam virtually sealed victory with a 179-5 (54.68) that was her third-farthest ever. Vetter looked equally solid for silver but she missed an opportunity to move up as her (168-0 (51.20) was below her PR of 191-7 (58.41) and her seasonal best of 179-8 (54.77).

Williams passed Kunz to regain the top U.S. spot with a PR 160-0 (48.78), a point ahead of Oosterwegel, who had PRed at 179-1 (54.60), for 3rd.

800 Meters
The settling event was a coronation for Thiam, joining JJK in select Olympic glory at 6791. Vetter got silver, raising the Dutch Record to 6689.

The only real medal fight was for bronze. Both Vidts and Oosterwegel PRed by large margins, but Oosterwegel’s 282-margin had a total 19 points better than the 331-point improvement of Vidts, 6590–6571.

Said the winner, “The first day was difficult for me, but I started Day 2 really focused. I knew I needed to do something really good in the long jump and javelin. I was hoping to do a little bit better in the 800m, but overall I’m really happy. What counts the most is the gold medal, and I got it.”


WOMEN’S HEPTATHLON RESULTS

(August 04–05)

1. Nafi Thiam (Bel) 6791 (WL)

(13.54, 6-3½/1.92, 48-7½/14.82, 24.90 [3921–3], 21-8/6.60, 179-5/54.68, 2:15.98 [2870]);

2. Anouk Vetter (Neth) 6689 NR

(13.09, 5-10¾/1.80, 50-2/15.29, 23.81 [3968–1], 21-2¾/6.47, 168-0/51.20, 2:18.72 [2721]);

3. Emma Oosterwegel (Neth) 6590 PR

(13.36, 5-10¾/1.80, 43-7/13.28, 24.25 [3752–11], 20-7¾/6.29, 179-1/54.60, 2:11.09 [2838]);

4. Noor Vidts (Bel) 6571 PR

(13.17, 6-0/1.83, 47-¼/14.33, 23.70 [3941–2], 20-9/6.32, 137-2/41.80, 2:09.05 [2630]);

5. Kendell Williams (US) 6508

(12.97, 5-10¾/1.80, 40-8¾/12.41, 24.00 [3776–9], 21-6¾/6.57, 160-0/48.78, 2:16.91 [2732]);

6. Annie Kunz (US) 6420

(13.49, 5-10¾/1.80, 49-8½/15.15, 24.12 [3870–4], 20-9/6.32, 140-4/42.77, 2:15.93 [2550]);

7. Carolin Schäfer (Ger) 6419

(13.29, 5-10¾/1.80, 45-10¾/13.99, 24.33 [3801–7], 18-11¾/5.78, 177-6/54.10, 2:14.82 [2618]);

8. Ivona Dadic (Aut) 6403

(13.61, 6-0/1.83, 46-3¼/14.10, 24.33 [3800–8], 20-½/6.11, 158-9/48.40, 2:15.10 [2603]);

9. Erica Bougard (US) 6379

(13.14, 6-1¼/1.86, 41-7¾/12.69, 24.08 [3837–6], 19-10¾/6.06, 152-1/46.60, 2:15.92 [2542]);

10. Ninali Zheng (Chn) 6318

(13.27, 5-10¾/1.80, 44-5½/13.55, 24.56 [3754–10], 20-1/6.12, 139-9/42.60, 2:10.35 [2564]);

11. Verena Mayr (Aut) 6310

(13.65, 5-9¾/1.77, 44-7/13.59, 24.55 [3665–16t], 20-1/6.12, 147-5/44.95, 2:07.92 [2645]);

12. Yekaterina Voronina (Uzb) 6298

(14.19, 5-9¾/1.77, 45-1¾/13.76, 24.67 [3588–20], 20-½/6.11, 163-8/49.88, 2:09.73 [2710]);

13. Xénia Krizsán (Hun) 6295

(13.58, 5-8½/1.74, 45-2½/13.78, 24.96 [3611–19], 19-3½/5.88, 165-11/50.59, 2:07.65 [2684]);

14. Evelyn Aguilar (Col) 6214

(13.89, 5-6/1.68, 44-½/13.42, 24.05 [3555–21], 20-7¾/6.29, 147-1/44.85, 2:10.45 [2659]);

15. Odile Ahouanwanou (Ben) 6186

(13.31, 5-8½/1.74, 50-8¼/15.45, 23.85 [3867-5], 19-11/6.07, 144-3/43.96, 2:29.05 [2319]);

16. Adrianna Sułek (Pol) 6164

(13.58, 6-0/1.83, 42-0/12.80, 24.16 [3734–13], 19-5½/5.93, 120-10/36.84, 2:07.92 [2430]);

17. Maria Huntington (Fin) 6135

(13.20, 5-10¾/1.80, 40-11¾/12.49, 24.50 [3699–14], 20-¼/6.10, 140-9/42.91, 2:19.28 [2436]);

18. María Vicente (Spa) 6117

(13.44, 5-9¾/1.77, 41-8/12.70, 23.50 [3736–12], 20-3½/6.18, 121-6/37.04, 2:16.99 [2381]);

19. Vanessa Grimm (Ger) 6114

(13.88, 5-9¾/1.77, 47-7¾/14.52, 25.03 [3649–18], 19-6/5.94, 146-10/44.75, 2:16.27 [2465]);

20. Georgia Ellenwood (Can) 6077

(13.47, 6-0/1.83, 40-7¾/12.39, 24.51 [3690–15], 19-2¾/5.86, 144-8/44.11, 2:19.21 [2387]);

… DNFs—

Nadine Broersen (Neth) 3655

(13.74, 5-10¾/1.80, 47-7/14.50, 25.57 [3655–16t], dns)

Katarina Johnson-Thompson (GB) 2886

(13.27, 6-1¼/1.86, 43-8/13.31, dq, dns)

Marthe Yasmine Koala (BF) 2714

(13.07, 5-8½/1.74, 41-1¾/12.54, dns)

Yorgelis Rodríguez (Cub)

(dnf, dns).


Heptathlon Top 10 Leaders by Event

100 Hurdles

1. Williams 1129; 2. Koala 1114; 3. Vetter 1111; 4. Bougard 1103; 5. Vidts 1099; 6. Huntington 1094; 7. tie, Zheng & Johnson-Thompson 1084; 9. Schäfer 1081; 10. Ahouanwanou 1078; 11. Oosterwegel 1071;… 15. Thiam 1044

High Jump

1. Thiam 2176; 2. Bougard 2157; 3. Johnson-Thompson 2138; 4. Vidts 2115; 5. Williams 2107; 6. Vetter 2089; 7. Huntington 2072; 8. Ellenwood 2071; 9. Zheng 2062; 10. Schäfer 2059… 13. Oosterwegel 2049

Shot

1. Thiam 3025; 2. Vetter 2969; 3. Vidts 2931; 4. Kunz 2901; 5. Johnson-Thompson 2886; 6. Ahouanwanou 2872; 7. Bougard 2864; 8. Schäfer 2852; 9. Dadic 2851; 10. Zheng 2826;… 12. Oosterwegel 2795

200

1. Vetter 3968; 2. Vidts 3941; 3. Thiam 3921; 4. Kunz 3870; 5. Ahouanwanou 3867; 6. Bougard 3837; 7. Schäfer 3801; 8. Dadic 3800; 9. Williams 3776; 10. Zheng 3754; 11. Oosterwegel 3752

Long Jump

1. Vetter 4965; 2. Thiam 4961; 3. Vidts 4890; 4. Kunz 4819; 5. Williams 4806; 6. Ahouanwanou 4738; 7. Bougard 4705; 8. Oosterwegel 4692; 9. Dadic 4683; 10. Zheng 4641

Javelin

1. Thiam 5912; 2. Vetter 5848; 3. Williams 5642; 4. Oosterwegel 5641; 5. Vidts 5592; 6. Kunz 5540; 7. Schäfer 5524; 8. Dadic 5512; 9. Bougard 5499; 10. Ahouanwanou 5481 ◻︎

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