Nafissatou Thiam in the heptathlon javelin at the Hypo Meeting in Gotzis (© Jean-Pierre Durand)
Olympic champion Nafissatou Thiam shot to third on the world all-time list with her 7013 heptathlon victory at the Hypo Meeting on Sunday (28), breaking the competition record at the IAAF Combined Events Challenge meeting in the picturesque Austrian village of Götzis.
In one of the greatest heptathlon competitions of all time, two other women surpassed 6800 points with Germany’s Carolin Schäfer taking second place with 6836 and Laura Ikauniece-Admidina finishing third with a Latvian record of 6815. In fourth, overnight leader Katarina Johnson-Thompson scored 6691to break the PB she set when winning the 2014 Hypo Meeting.
Meanwhile, Damian Warner scored a world-leading 8591 to win the Hypo Meeting decathlon for the third time in his career. Eeelco Sintnicolaas made a successful return from injury to take second place with a Dutch record of 8539, while Germany’s Rico Freimuth returned to the Götzis podium with 8365 in third place.
German heptathletes were in great shape in the long jump at the start of the second day. But for a brief moment, Carolin Schäfer would have been getting flashbacks after recording fouls on her opening two attempts.
The 25-year-old exited the 2015 World Championships by fouling three times in the long jump. She narrowly avoided a repeat of that at last year’s Olympics, having fouled in the first two rounds of the same event before registering a valid mark in the third round.
Thankfully, today’s competition was more reminiscent of Rio than Beijing and Schäfer flew out to a lifetime best of 6.57m with her third and final attempt, leaving her in joint first place with Thiam after five events.
Thiam narrowly missed her personal best by two centimetres with a solid 6.56m leap, while Johnson-Thompson went out to 6.53m in the first round, followed by two fouls that looked farther.
Latvia’s Laura Ikauniece-Admidina surprised with a PB of 6.64m to consolidate her fourth place overall. But Claudia Salman Rath, the European indoor bronze medallist in this event, was the best of all as she leapt to 6.86m to move up from ninth to fifth overall.
But the excitement was only just beginning to mount.
In an outstanding javelin competition, the competition record fell twice. First, world U18 champion Geraldine Ruckstuhl – still an U20 athlete – set a senior Swiss record of 58.31m. But in round three Thiam produced the biggest surprise of the day when she sent her spear out to a jaw-dropping 59.32m, smashing both the meeting record and the Belgian record.
It meant Thiam led with a score of 6124 before lining up for the final event, the 800m.
Four other heptathletes threw the javelin beyond 50 metres. Ikauniece-Admidina set a PB of 56.17m to move into third overall ahead of Johnson-Thompson, who produced a best throw of 39.98m. European champion Anouk Vetter narrowly missed her personal best with 55.43m, while world indoor U20 pentathlon record-holder Alina Shukh set a PB of 52.92m. Two-time European champion Antoinette Nana Djimou improved her overall standing by three positions to seventh place thanks to her 50.19m.
After exceeding her expectations in the javelin, Thiam soon realised that a 7000-point score was a realistic goal ahead of the 800m. It would simply require a revision of 0.3 of her personal best.
She exceeded her target time by almost a full second in the final event, running 2:15.24 to cap an impressive heptathlon with her fourth individual PB of the weekend. It brought her winning tally to 7013 as she became just the fourth woman in history to exceed 7000 points.
It was the highest score in the world for 10 years and narrowly missed the European record of 7032 set by Carolina Kluft at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka.
“It was an amazing competition; it’s really unbelievable,” said a delighted Thiam. “I came here to see where my form is at this moment. I was a little bit scared as I felt a little elbow problem in the javelin, but I was able to relax after I threw 51.61m on my second attempt.
“I am really pleased with this weekend,” added Thiam, who is currently studying geography at university. “I enjoyed the amazing conditions. The crowd was very supportive and it was very warm. I was congratulated by my mother Daniéle Denisty, who was a combined events athlete when she was younger. My teachers understand my situation and support me. Studying at university helps me not to focus just on athletics.”
Schäfer clocked 2:14.73 to finish runner-up overall ahead of Ikauniece-Admidina, who ran 2:11.76. Schäfer’s 6836 is the best score by a German heptathlete since 1992, when Sabine Braun set the national record of 6985 and makes her the fifth German woman to exceed 6800 points.
Salman-Rath won the final event in a personal best of 2:05.54 – the fastest heptathlon 800m since 2011 – to end the competition in fifth place with a career best of 6580. USA’s Erica Bougard clocked 2:08.68 in the 800m to wrap up the best competition of her career with a PB of 6502.
Warner too good
Canada’s world silver medallist Damian Warner picked up where he left off by equalling his 13.54 meeting record in the 110m hurdles to extend his overall lead to more than 200 points over Ukraine’s Oleksiy Kasyanov, who clocked 14.03.
Germany’s Rico Freimuth set the second-fastest time of the day, 13.80, to move up to third overall, overtaking Canada’s Pierce LePage.
Freimuth moved up one more place to second after winning the discus with 49.35m and got within 172 points of Warner, who threw 44.35m.
Spain’s Pau Tonnesen and Eelco Sintnicolaas were the best pole vaulters on display as they both cleared 5.40m. It was enough to move Sintnicolaas, the 2013 European indoor champion, into second place overall behind Warner, who cleared 4.70m.
Sintnicolaas further closed the gap in the javelin, throwing 62.13m to Warner’s 57.69m. It meant the Canadian had a lead of just 46 points with one event to go.
Freimuth maintained his overall third place after a release of 57.77m, while Adam Sebastian Helcelet moved from eighth to fourth after throwing 68.04m.
The final event, the 1500m, went to the form book with Warner securing his overall win by running 4:29.33, ending the competition with 8591, his best ever score outside of a major championships.
“It was very special to win in Gotzis for the third time in my career, as it’s a great meeting,” said Warner. “I performed well in the hurdles and in the long jump but there is a lot of work to do in every event. There is a lot of room for improvement.”
In second, Sintnicolaas scored 8539 to break his own Dutch record from 2012, while Freimuth took third with 8365. Helcelet, Pieter Braun and Mathias Brugger rounded out the top six by setting respective PBs of 8335, 8334 and 8294.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF