PB-filled series sees Nafissatou Thiam claim Olympic heptathlon crown ahead of defending champ Jessica Ennis-Hill
Nafissatou Thiam far exceeded her own expectations and produced one of the surprises of the Games after a PB-filled two days saw the 21-year-old claim the heptathlon title with 6810 points ahead of Britain’s defending champion Jessica Ennis-Hill and Canada’s world pentathlon champion Brianne Theisen-Eaton.
Thiam, who four years ago was placing 14th as a 17-year-old in the World Junior Championships during the same summer that Ennis-Hill won her London gold, improved her personal bests in five of the seven events to add more than 300 points to her own Belgian record and beat world champion Ennis-Hill by 35 points.
While Ennis-Hill was a model of consistency, Thiam had many highs and, bar an elbow problem, seemingly no lows as she hurdled quicker, jumped longer and higher and threw further than she ever had before.
Since claiming her London 2012 title, Ennis-Hill has started a family and then returned to the top to claim an impressive world gold in Beijing last year, but after her defeat in Rio she hinted that this could be the end of her heptathlon career.
“I’m pretty emotional but these are happy tears and I’m really proud to be back on the podium, it’s been so tough,” she said. “But I’m really proud.
“I think it’s a mix of thinking back to the last few years,” she added. “I’m just so emotional and yeah, I’ve just got to make a decision as to whether this is my last heptathlon or not.”
Across two great days, Thiam set PBs in the 100m hurdles (13.56), high jump (1.98m world heptathlon best), long jump (6.58m), javelin (53.13m) and 800m (2:16.54), while she also threw 14.91m to win the shot put and clocked 25.10 in the 200m.
Having surprised herself, the 2014 European bronze medallist said: “It’s crazy. I wasn’t expecting that. Maybe top eight, but not the gold. It was very hard coming back from being injured, I wasn’t sure if I would even make these Games. But with the physio we did a lot of work and it worked.”
Having clocked 12.84 in the 100m hurdles to start her campaign off in winning style, Ennis-Hill followed that up with 1.89m in the high jump, 13.86m in the shot put and 23.49 in the 200m to lead overnight before 6.34m in the long jump, 46.06m in the javelin and finally 2:09.07 in the 800m.
Theisen-Eaton, who had ended the first day of competition in sixth place, worked her way up to the medals with 6.48m in the long jump, 47.36m in the javelin and 2:09.50 in the 800m.
Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson had gone into the competition with gold-winning ambition but her medal hopes slipped through her fingers as the javelin competition played out. She opened with 36.36m, some way off her PB of 42.01m from 2015, and couldn’t improve. Fouling in the next round, she finished with 33.42m to add to her 13.48 100m hurdles, 1.98m UK high jump record, 11.68m shot put, 23.26 200m, 6.51m long jump and 2:10.47 800m as she wound up sixth overall.
Thompson take title
Although two-time champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce was beaten in the 100m final, Elaine Thompson ensured the title remained with Jamaica as she upgraded from world 200m silver to Olympic 100m gold.
Clocking 10.71 to miss her PB by just 0.01, she beat USA’s Tori Bowie and ‘pocket rocket’ Fraser-Pryce, who clocked respective times of 10.83 and 10.86 for silver and bronze.
After her 100m golds in Beijing and London, as well as 200m and 4x100m medals at the latter, Fraser-Pryce had been looking to become the first athlete to win three consecutive Olympic 100m titles, pipping a certain Usain Bolt who is also looking to achieve the feat. But having struggled with injury problems in the lead-up, gold was beyond her grasp, though she made it into the medals with her best performance of the year so far.
Ivory Coast’s Marie-Josee Ta Lou was fourth with a 10.86 PB, while world 200m champ Dafne Schippers of Netherlands was fifth with 10.90 as the top seven went sub-11 seconds.
After 11.08 in her heat, Britain’s Desiree Henry had again come close to her 11.06 PB in the 100m semi-finals as she ran 11.09 for fourth. That wasn’t enough to see her through but was another fine performance by the 20-year-old. Asha Philip also exited at the semi-final stage as she ran 11.33 for eighth in her heat, while Murielle Ahoure and Tianna Bartoletta were also among those to miss out.
» Further coverage of the second day of athletics action, including Mo Farah’s 10,000m gold, can be found here