Previews28 Jul 2012

Women's Heptathlon - PREVIEW


Jessica Ennis takes the British 100m Hurdles title in Birmingham (© Getty Images)

The women’s Heptathlon competition in London promises to be a very high standard one. It can’t be the best though, as Jackie Joyner-Kersee (USA) scored the standing World record 7291 points for the gold medal in Seoul 1988 and that mark is beyond reach for all of the athletes in London. Silver and bronze medal results were great in 1988 as well with East German’s Sabine John (6897p) and Anke Behmer (6858p) and these results are the best ever in Olympics for second and third. But the level in 2012 is a high one, so these results could be in jeopardy here.

Unlike in the men’s competition, for women’s Heptathlon all of the three medallists from Beijing return to the Olympics in London. The reigning champion Nataliya Dobrynska of Ukraine scored 6733 points in 2008 for the gold, but that result will hardly be enough for a medal in 2012.

Dobrynska has been extremely quiet during the outdoor season following her World indoor Pentathlon title in Istanbul with a 5013 World indoor record, but there is a very good reason for this. Her husband and coach Dmytro Polyakov passed away right after Istanbul on 25 March and this made her pause her training for a while.

She did however restart in April and scored a lowly 6311p for ninth place in Götzis at the end of May, but that should not be taken as a sign that she will not be in shape to defend her title in London. In fact, looking back to 2008, she came to the Beijing Olympics having scored 6268p for ninth place in Götzis and then beat that mark by almost 500p to win the gold.

Beijing silver medallist, American Hyleas Fountain, has scored 6419p to win the Olympic Trials, but will be stretched to win a medal this time.

Beijing bronze medallist Russian Tatyana Chernova, who won the World Championships in Daegu last season, will be one athlete looking for the gold medal. She is in second place in the 2012 world lists behind Jessica Ennis (GBR) with 6774p from Götzis and her 6880p personal best in Daegu shows she is capable of going close to 7000p in London.

26-year-old Ennis finally broke Sydney Olympic champion Denise Lewis’ national record with a 6906p winning score in Götzis and is the number one favourite for the win before the home crowd here. She finished second with a 4965p national indoor record in Pentathlon in Istanbul at the World indoors and is no stranger to outdoor medals either having won the World Championships in Berlin 2009.

The three top favourites, Ennis, Dobrynska and Chernova are good in very different events and could produce some world class marks in individual events as well.

Ennis is extremely fast in the opening 100m Hurdles event and a lot will depend on a super fast time there, maybe even 12.7. Javelin is traditionally a difficult event for her and although she has progressed to a 47.11m personal best this season, she did lose the 2011 World title to Chernova because of a poor 39.95m javelin result in Daegu.

All three are fast 800m runners, but Dobrynska is an exceptional shot putter with a 17.29m personal best in Beijing 2008. Chernova’s best events are the Long Jump with a 6.82m PB, javelin (54.49 PB) and 800m where she ran a huge 2:06.50 at the Olympics in Beijing 2008.

None of the three have any possibility for a poor result in one of the events, because of a high score will be needed for the win. There is a good chance that the winning result will be the best in 20 years since Joyner-Kersee’s 7044p in Barcelona. Swede Carolina Klüft won in Athens 2004 with 6952p and that result should be in the sights of the 2012 Olympics winner in London.

Behind the top trio there are some inexperienced faces looking for a good finish. 21-year-old Russian Kristina Savitskaya has scored a 6681 PB this season, but is entering her first major championships.

Canadian Jessica Zelinka scored a 6490p national record for fifth place in Beijing and she is back here having set another NR 6599p this season.

Ida Antoinette Nana Djimou of France is the fresh European Champion from Helsinki, where she set a 6544p PB.

A couple of European youngsters include 20-year-old Daphne Schippers, who is an exceptional sprinter having set 22.69 NR for the Netherlands in Daegu and also won a European silver medal in Helsinki in the 4x100m relay and just 19-year-old Briton Katarina Johnson-Thompson, who has already set a 6248 national junior record this season and won the World Junior Championships Long Jump with a huge 6.81m wind aided jump in July.

Mirko Jalava for the IAAF
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