A year in Review: The women’s Heptathlon

The Heptathlon is an event that is close to British hearts, mainly because it is our most successful event for the last 20 years or so and so 2015 was going to be a year to savour.  Last season Katarina Johnson-Thompson (hereafter known as KJT because it just sounds cooler!) was the world number 1 ranked heptathlete after winning in Gotzis with 6682 points.  It, at the time, was the highest score since Jessica Ennis-Hill’s winning total of 6955 in London 2012.  Indeed due to injury and then pregnancy, Jess did not record a score in the Heptathlon in 2013 or 2014.

gotzis 2014

However, not far behind KJT last year was the Canadian and Commonwealth Champion (sadly with no KJT to compete against due to injury) Brianne Theisen-Eaton who was neck and neck with KJT for most of the 2014 Gotzis event (2nd with 6641 points).  Also proving that you must have a double-barrelled surname in order to be any good at the Heptathlon apparently! Beijing would prove this beyond doubt.

brianne theisen eaton

So, it was beautifully set up, you had the returning Olympic Champion on the comeback trail, with the media mainly focusing on her bid to retain her Olympic title in Rio next year rather than success in Beijing.  You also had the ever improving Theisen-Eaton and the fellow Brit looking to take over from Jess in KJT.  Both looking to win their first global titles with Theisen-Eaton looking to improve on her silver medal from the 2013 World Championships in Moscow.

KJT was in absolute supreme form in the indoor season, having jumped a national indoor record for the Long Jump in Birmingham (6.93m) and in the High Jump for the second successive year when she jumped 1.95m.  She also set PB’s in the 60m hurdles.  At the European Indoor Championships in Prague, she dominated the Pentathlon event.  She led from the first event where she got another PB in the 60m hurdles (8.18) before winning the High Jump and Long Jump (where she jumped far enough to medal in the individual event) and damaged limitation in the Shot Put (albeit in a Pentathlon PB).  She had the competition won going into the 800m, and with an opportunity to break Dobrynska’s world record of 5013 points.  She came really close, as she effectively had to run a solo time trail, but ended up scoring exactly 5000 points to take the gold and achieve the second highest points total in history, even more than one Jessica Ennis-Hill.  Also leading to THIS legendary reaction.  That is the face of a winner if I ever saw one!

KJT prague

This only increased the anticipation for the outdoor season, where Jessica Ennis-Hill announced she would compete in her first Heptathlon since London 2012.  She said that her main aim was just to qualify for Rio in 2016 but you suspected that she was hoping for more.  However, KJT withdrew shortly before the competition was to start due to injury but we still had the return of Jess and the likes of Theisen-Eaton and the soon-to-be exclusive sprinter Dafne Schippers competing to make it an intriguing competition.  It was the Canadian this time who dominated the event setting multiple PB’s to take the win with a super impressive 6808 points, a big new Heptathlon PB.  It certainly sent a message.  However also sending a message was the Olympic Champion Jessica Ennis-Hill.  Even though she looked rusty in some events (but looked awesome in the high jump and the 800m where she won) her 6520 points was good enough for 4th place here to mark a successful return.  Jess was being cautious about whether she would compete in Beijing but with plenty of time to improve, hopes were high that she would be there.

The form of the three was mixed going into Beijing.  Theisen-Eaton continued on from her great form in Gotzis and competed well in the Long Jump at the Pan-American games and she even picked up a medal as part of the 4x400m relay.  KJT was having issues with injuries and therefore was not jumping quite as far in the Long Jump as she would have liked so there were some doubts over her fitness.  Jess at the Anniversary games, in the Olympic Stadium, put on a very encouraging performance over the two days.  She ran her equal second quickest 100m hurdles time ever and got SB’s in the Long Jump and in the 200m.  Everyone knew that was the signal for her to confirm her participation in Beijing and she was selected along with KJT a few days later.

jess ennis anniversary games

So finally it came down to Beijing.  BTE versus KJT versus JEH!  The first event saw PB’s for both Theisen-Eaton and KJT, while Jess was surprisingly beaten by Nadine Visser (who had a tremendous championships considering she is only 20) but was still ahead of her main rivals.  The High Jump would in many ways be a sign of things to come for all of the main contenders.  Theisen-Eaton very surprisingly was only able to jump 1.80m giving a big opportunity for the two brits to put some distance between themselves and the Canadian.  For Jess it was quite serene really, she cleared all her heights up to 1.86m with little difficulty, matching her performance in Gotzis as well as London 2012.  KJT meanwhile just could not get her run up sorted.  She nearly went out at 1.80m (which was her opening height, meaning she would have lost any chance of a medal had she not cleared it) but somehow cleared it of basically just 2 steps.  The next height was cleared easily enough but then she repeated the drama at her next height of 1.89m, clearing it on her third try despite a huge stutter in her run up.  Steve Cram said it best, ‘talent got KJT through that.’

kjt high jump

The shot put is not a great event for any of the three and while Jess and Theisen-Eaton were both a bit shy of their Gotzis marks, KJT was able to through close to her best in her weakest event.  In the 200m, KJT led a  British one-two clocking 23.08 to finish the day in second place overall behind Jess who has always had a very strong first day.  Theisen-Eaton was only in fourth having been down in 3 of the 4 events so far compared to her Gotzis performance.

It was clear that the Long Jump could be the crucial event in deciding where the medals were going and so it proved in the most dramatic of ways.  The drama surrounded KJT, who was jumping far but couldn’t get in a legal jump.  Jess had jumped another SB with her second jump of 6.43 to really put the pressure on.  Theisen-Eaton jumped 6.55m, a good jump but again down on her best.  KJT’s last jump was massive, somewhere between 6.80m to 6.90m but after a long period of uncertainty it was given as a foul (a very marginal one at that) and her challenge was over.  There was an appeal but it was rejected and it was sad to see KJT having to carry on when she had the individual Long Jump event still to focus on.

kjt long jump

After that, it seemed inevitable that Jessica Ennis-Hill would complete her remarkable comeback by winning the world championships barely a year after the birth of her first child.  She had a 102 point lead going into the last two events.  In the Javelin, Jess threw close to her season’s best, while Theisen-Eaton was down on her personal best.  It was the story of their respective championships.  Nadine Broersen, always there or there abouts, moved into second place overall with 53.57m but still 84 points behind Jess.  Just like London, it was all but a certain she was going to be World Champion for the second time (officially anyway!).

jess ennis 800m

In the 800m, Jess went past the Canadian on the home straight to take the win and the Gold medal with 6669 points.  Theisen-Eaton took her second consecutive world silver while the Latvian Laura Ikauniece-Adminina (see I told you the double-barrelled surname was a bare minimum for heptathlon success!) was able to take the bronze from the more experienced Broerson.  For KJT and BTE, their respective Gotzis winning scores would have been enough for gold here.

The season is not quite over yet, there is an event in Talence, starting on Saturday 19th September, where KJT will be competing.  She is incredibly talented, in my opinion even more so than Jess, and her Rio campaign will start there.  I wouldn’t bet against her putting out a very strong message there.  In Rio next year, this event will be one of the highlights for me personally and to see these three tremendous athletes compete against each other at their very best could be something very special.  All of them would be worthy Olympic Champions.  That particular race starts now.

kjt jeh bte

QUESTION TIME:  Who do you think will win the Olympic title in Rio next year? Jess, KJT, Theisen-Eaton or maybe someone like Visser or Thiam will break through.

Final Note:  Just a quick thank you to anyone who took the time to read anything I’ve written so far.  As of writing I am just shy of 100 views which is 100 more views than I thought I would get so thank you very much! You can follow me on twitter @AthlAppetizer (should be able to at the bottom of this page) for athletics news, stories, opinion and for links to any future blogs I write on this site!

Until next time!

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