Mel Watman has the stats and takes us through a fantasy seven-event contest

Who would come out on top if some of the most outstanding heptathletes of recent years competed against each other at the peak of their powers?

In a contest between Olympic champion Nafi Thiam and world gold medallist Katarina Johnson-Thompson, it is intriguing to see who would win on paper, comparing their PBs in each individual event.

But why restrict this fantasy contest to them? Let’s bring in three other highly distinguished all-rounders from the last 30 years and see how it pans out.

Our dream field is: European record-holder Carolina Klüft of Sweden (PB score of 7032 in 2007; gold medals at 2004 Olympics and 2003, 2005 and 2007 World Championships), Thiam of Belgium (PB 7013 in 2017; gold medals at 2016 Olympics and 2017 Worlds), Sabine Braun of Germany (PB 6985 in 1992; gold medals at 1991 and 1997 Worlds) and the British pair of Johnson-Thompson (PB 6981 in 2019; gold medal at 2019 Worlds) and Jessica Ennis-Hill (PB 6955 in 2012; gold medals at 2012 Olympics and 2009, 2011 and 2015 Worlds).

Ennis-Hill storms into the lead

The opening event is the 100m hurdles and Jess gets off to a flying start as she is the only world-class exponent at this discipline.

The British athlete wins by close to five metres in 12.54 and has an immediate lead of 78 points.

Result: 1. Jess 12.54 (1195 points); 2. Sabine 13.05 (1117); 3. Kat 13.09 (1111); 4. Carolina 13.15 (1102); 5. Nafi 13.34 (1074).

Thiam makes up ground

Next up is the high jump.

Jess is by far the shortest competitor at 1.64m yet still manages to soar a foot over her head with 1.95m. However, the standard in this event is such that it places her only third equal and her lead is cut to 28 points as Nafi moves from fifth to second with a magnificent leap of 2.02m.

Result: 1. Nafi 2.02 (1264); 2. Kat 1.98 (1211); 3eq, Carolina & Jess 1.95 (1171); 5. Sabine 1.94 (1158).

After two events: 1. Jess 2366; 2. Nafi 2338; 3. Kat 2322; 4. Sabine 2275; 5. Carolina 2273.

Change of leaders

The shot is one of KJT’s two really weak events and she drops from second place to last as Nafi displaces Jess in the lead.

Result: 1. Nafi 15.52 (896); 2. Sabine 15.08 (866); 3. Carolina 15.05 (864); 4. Jess 14.79 (847); 5. Kat 13.86 (785).

After three events: 1. Nafi 3234; 2. Jess 3213; 3. Sabine 3141; 4. Carolina 3137; 5. Kat 3107.

Brits show their speed

Nafi’s lead is short-lived, for in the closing event of the first day, the 200m, she finishes a distant last (as in the hurdles) while the British pair speed to a one-two with Kat the winner in a splendid 22.79.

Jess, a close second, leads overnight by a healthy 91 points over Carolina, whose sub-23 clocking moves her up from fourth to second overall.

Result: 1. Kat 22.79 (1100); 2. Jess 22.83 (1096); 3. Carolina 22.98 (1081); 4. Sabine 23.65 (1015); 5. Nafi 24.37 (945).

After four events: 1. Jess 4309; 2. Carolina 4218; 3. Kat 4207; 4. Nafi 4179; 5. Sabine 4156.

Klüft takes control

A high-class long jump sees Carolina fall only just short of seven metres and she seizes the lead for the first time, by 22 points over Jess.

Result: 1. Carolina 6.97 (1162); 2. Kat 6.93 (1149); 3. Nafi 6.86 (1125); 4. Sabine 6.76 (1092); 5. Jess 6.63 (1049).

After five events: 1. Carolina 5380; 2. Jess 5358; 3. Kat 5356; 4. Nafi 5304; 5. Sabine 5248.

Thiam shows strength

Thanks to a stunning javelin throw of 59.32m, Nafi leaps up in the standings from fourth to first.

Such is her prowess in this discipline that she scores 148 points more than the next best (Sabine) and gains a massive 298-point advantage over Kat, who consequently drops from third place overall to last.

Result: 1. Nafi 59.32 (1041); 2. Sabine 51.71 (893); 3. Carolina 50.96 (879); 4. Jess 48.33 (828); 5. Kat 43.93 (743).

After six events: 1. Nafi 6345; 2. Carolina 6259; 3. Jess 6186; 4. Sabine 6141; 5. Kat 6099.

Two-lap climax

The British duo are the strongest 800m runners but it’s clear that the ‘title’ will be claimed either by the Belgian or the Swede.

For Nafi to hold on to her lead she needs to finish no more than about 5.9 seconds behind Carolina … and she comes so close but at the finish there is 6.35 seconds between them and Carolina has won the dream contest by just six points.

Jess holds on to third place but despite winning the 800m Kat can’t quite catch Sabine.

Result: 1. Kat 2:07.26 (1005); 2. Jess 2:07.81 (997); 3. Carolina 2:08.89 (981); 4. Sabine 2:09.41 (973); 5. Nafi 2:15.24 (889).

FINAL HEPTATHLON RESULT 

1. Carolina Klüft 7240
2. Nafi Thiam 7234
3. Jessica Ennis-Hill 7183
4. Sabine Braun 7114
5. Katarina Johnson-Thompson 7104

How good was Jackie Joyner-Kersee and why wasn’t she competing in this fantasy line-up?

The greatness of this American athlete can be gauged by the fact that she set her world record score of 7291 when winning the 1988 Olympic title in Seoul and her seven individual personal bests (12.61, 1.93m, 16.84m, 22.30, 7.49m, 50.12m, 2:08.51) add up to a colossal 7654 points!

We didn’t want this imaginary contest to be so one-sided and thus the American wonderwoman was not invited.

With Nafi (25) and Kat (27) still very much active, it seems highly possible that Nafi will eventually top 7300 adding up her PBs if and when she improves considerably at the hurdles and 200m, and Kat would top 7200 when she progresses in the throws.

That’s all conjecture, though. In the meantime let’s savour the actual competition as they battle it out for Olympic and world titles.

» This feature was first published in the March 26 edition of AW magazine

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