Dutch heptathlete Nadine Broersen (Getty Images)

How it works

This is the women’s ultimate all-round test, a seven-event contest covering a range of events across a two-day programme.

The first day consists of (in order): 100m hurdles, high jump, shot put and 200m. Day two comprises the long jump, javelin and 800m.

Competitors earn points for their performance in each discipline and the overall winner is the athlete who scores the most points.

Heptathletes are allowed to commit one false start in the track events. A second false-start will lead to disqualification. In the shot, long jump and javelin each athlete is limited to three attempts.

Should athletes end the competition tied on points, a joint winner is declared.

A heptathlete requires speed, explosive strength, skill and agility.


Women first competed in the pentathlon – five disciplines – at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo. This format was later replaced by the seven-event heptathlon and introduced at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee is among the greatest heptathletes in history. The US all-rounder secured back-to-back Olympic titles in 1984 and 1988.

At the 1996 Games, Ghada Shouaa became the first Syrian athlete in history to win an Olympic gold by winning the heptathlon. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Nafi Thiam of Belgium achieved a world-class high jump of 1.98m on her way to heptathlon gold. This height would have been good enough to have won her gold in the individual women’s high jump in Rio.

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