Episode 30: Athletico Agony Aunt and The Case of Two World Records

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Dear Patient Athleticos.

Trackcastic is back after a bit of break to bring you an ‘intimate’ account of Kevin Meyer’s fantastic world record as witnessed in person by our very own @SmokyMozzarella

Another of our jet setting crew, @ChrisBrownSport, fills us in on what really went down in the stadium at the Asian games

@Fan_Athletics gives us his thoughts on the Kipchoge’s Marathon Madness.

ANNNNNNNNDDD Back by popular demand, Athletico Agony Aunt @DrDanOConnor is here to solve the (athletics) world’s problems.


Diamond League Part 1: Cheese, alphabet soup and Christian’s flowers

By Amanda @MandJ666

In the 19th century, young ladies used to partake in a European tour of culture. Following in these footsteps in 2018 I embarked on my own Diamond League tour of triple jump, street meets and all things athletics. This is a whistle stop overview of my thoughts on the meets I have attended, some of the highlights at each and other odd ramblings of an athletics fan.

There were originally 3 stops on my tour Lausanne, Monaco and Brussels, but as you will see in Part 2, a 4th meet was added after a chance conversation in Monaco. So why those 3? Well I had already visited each of these in previous years and enjoyed them, but more importantly all three meets include the men’s triple jump. (A spoiler here – I am the biggest TJ fan – or more accurately the biggest Christian Taylor fan around) so yes I planned my tour solely on the basis of:

a. is there a men’s TJ event?

b. has CT confirmed that he will be attending?

Once both boxes are ticked then I’m going

So the first leg of the tour this year was Lausanne. Now if you have never visited I can highly recommend. The lake is lovely, the beer reasonable, the Olympic museum a must and most importantly a meet that never fails to impress. This year the men’s PV was held the evening before on the edge of the lake – I do think to make it even more interesting, Mr. Coe, you could have had them vaulting on a floating platform on the lake- that would be a novel concept worthy of the best IAAF brainstorming committee meeting.

However even without the addition of water, this was an incredibly exciting event. You were centimetres away from the action and let’s be honest who amongst us wouldn’t want to be that close to some full on “Sam love” and Zippy action? The atmosphere was great, a real buzz, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, although the large pieces of cheese given as prizes did seem to freak Renaud out!

So onto the main event. The logistics of getting to the stadium are easy and access to the warm up track is also good. It was here that I found out the Tianna Bartoletta was injured. So now one of the few LJ competitions this season would be poorer for her lack of participation. I did invite her to sit with me in the stands to watch but she politely declined (this may have something to do with my full on CT outfit that may make others slightly nervous about being around me!) In a small field it was great to see Queen Cat taking on Spanovic & Lorraine. In the end however Mihambo showed the commitment and form that was to continue into the Euros and beyond to take the win.

Before I move on to the track events (in my reviews field events are always top billing) I of course have to mention the TJ. Now I’m not saying that an English women going completely mad as Laura Muir raced down the back straight put Triple P off but CT took the win by 1 cm so, hey, if that helped I’ll take the credit.

On the track 2 races really stood out for me, firstly the men’s 400H. My first chance to watch this season’s brilliant head to head with Warholm and Samba. I love the way Warholm races; he seems to know no other way than to give it everything from the ‘B’ of the bang and also how elegant and relaxed Samba is. On this occasion as so often Qatar overcame Norway. The last race of the evening was the men’s 200. The field was 3 Americans, 1 Brazilian, 1 Swiss and 3 others. Clearly top billing and this race didn’t disappoint – 19.69 an equal WL and a PB for Noah Lyles with a, now typical, Lyles celebration.

Overall Lausanne I’ll give you 10/10 – the fireworks were spectacular, my flowers were amazing and for the 200m alone I’d say the entrance fee was well spent.

So stop two on the grand tour was Monaco. Again another DL venue I can highly recommend. Clearly it’s not cheap to stay here but at 10€ for a ticket anywhere in the back straight it’s another must for the TJ fans. In previous years I’ve been lucky enough to sit with the coaches but this year I found myself mobbed by young children. I have to confess that I may have lightly ‘encouraged’ a few out of the way in my bid to watch the women PV and even the triple jumpers seemed overwhelmed by their screams.

On a warm July evening this year’s meet was set up to be a cracker and boy oh boy it did not disappoint. There were:

1 World Record, 6 World Leads, 4 Meeting Record and 1 Diamond League Record. so overall not a bad night!

Everywhere you looked there was a highlight, clearly for me the 17.86 in the TJ by one Mr. Taylor, however Lysenko =WL =MR PB of 2.40 in HJ was fabulous and seeing half beard back competing was great. This however was the night that the track outshone the field. For me Semenya in the 800 was a fabulous display of controlled dominance 1:54:60 MR in a field that had 4 PBs, 3 SBs, and 2 NRs the race of the night. But then what about Shaunae Miller-Uibo’s 400 race, 48:97 and an alphabet soup of WL, DLR, MR, NR & PB? My friend Noah continued his great form from Lausanne with 19:65 in the 200m – just a WL, MR, PB triple, not a bad day at the office. The men’s 1500m produced another WL & PB for Timothy Cheruiyot 3:28:41 and the men’s 3000SC gave El Bakkali a WL & PB with 7:58:15.

I have witnessed some amazing nights of athletics and have been in the stadium for previous world records but Chepkoech’s WR 8:44:32 and Frerichs AR/PB 9:00:85 was a master class in running and jumping.

This year Monaco also got in on the act with street meets. The men’s and women shot put took place on the previous evening at the harbour. What a venue, millionaires yachts, the Prince of Monaco, Sandi Morris’s chicken gate security issue and the elite of the Shot Put world. Now previously I’ve loved Dame Val but have to admit that SP would not have figured on my must see events, but my night in Monaco changed that. Now it could be due in part to a new found girl crush on Raven Saunders (19:67 SB) or the fact that Kevin Mayer (14:94) decided to have a go with the big boys or just the fact that the camaraderie between all of the competitors was on par with the PV love I’m not sure, but I’m definitely a convert. Gong won the women’s comp with a huge 20:31 with Dame Val’s 19:31 a SB, whilst Ryan Crouser won the men’s comp with 22:05.

So Monaco its 11/10 for you, the alphabet soup of records and leads make this a meet not to forget.

Le Douleur Exquise

There’s an episode of Sex and The City – bear with me – where Carrie learns that Big is moving to Paris for a year. After an initial hissy fit, Carrie stocks up on French miscellany (mostly a beret and French fries) and decides to accompany Big to Paris, only to find that he is entirely ambivalent as to whether she comes to France or not. She realises that their future will never be, and she describes the pain she feels as “Le Douleur Exquise”.

For those who don’t obtain their cultural references from 90s TV boxsets, “le douleur exquise” is the French expression that describes the heart-wrenching pain of wanting someone you can’t have. And those who have watched Kevin Mayer’s tears in 2018 as he sought to express himself 100% might have thought his pursuit of greatness would lead him to le douleur exquise.

Our reactions to Kevin’s experience at the European Championships in Berlin spanned confusion, frustration and heartbreak. But as I write this, exactly one week after I sat in sunny Talence watching Kevin’s sensational world record unfold in front of me, joy replaces all of those emotions.

To live through a Kevin Mayer decathlon is to live a thousand decathlons.

I learned this week of Kevin’s nickname “Kéké La Braise” and I asked my French-speaking athletico chums what it meant. Twitter pal @Monkeycat57 explained that he is “like an ember” – la braise – bursting into flame and bringing his best in big competitions. And we know that a Mayer decathlon, or indeed heptathlon, is full of fire and emotion and pain and so much drama.

But, the curious thing about Kevin’s performance in Talence is that – relatively speaking – there was very little drama.

    100m, a wee 10.55 PB, no biggie.
    Long Jump, another PB, but this one at 7.80 was a long time coming.
    Shot put, the usual bam out to 16m.
    High jump, a solid 2.05.
    400m, steady 48.42.
    110mH, just outside his 2018 PB with 13.75.
    Discus, quality 50.54
    Pole Vault, Twitter athletico Robyn Brailey put it best: “Over 5 metres first time #phew #nodrama”
    Javelin: nearly 72m and my only individual FFS moment of the weekend (which you can enjoy here).
    1500m: a perfectly acceptable 4:36, when you’ve already scored 8421 from 9 events.

What was so jawdropping about this world record was how it was so…effortless. Not for a minute am I minimising the monumental physical and mental effort that goes into the decathlon, or this performance in particular. But remember Ashton Eaton in Beijing.

Remember Ashton reaching so deep for every one of those 6 points that took him past his previous score, and how utterly shattered he was physically in that 1500m, and emotionally at the end. Remember every rueful grin from Roman Sebrle in 2001 as he heaved himself to his 9026 world record in Gotzis, not quite believing that he was breaking new boundaries. In comparison, Kevin’s performance seemed so easy.

Unremarkable, if it were not so utterly remarkable. And while I’ll leave the stats for another day, he scored exactly 4563 points on each day. EVEN POINTS. Trey Hardee summed it up:

“9126, in what was beyond the most balanced decathlon in history. First time in history there were no flaws”.

No drama, but still so much drama. This moment feels like it has been coming forever. But Kevin is only 26. It’s only been 4 years since he entered this territory, as Hans Van Alphen remembers:

“In 2012 I remember Kevin Mayer shaking like a leaf entering the London Olympic Stadium and not performing well because of this. In 2016 I saw you excel scoring a huge PB, finishing second just after the amazing Ashton Eaton at the Rio Olympics. And look at you now…world record holder with a dazzling 9126 points.”

This record was France’s as much as it was Kevin’s. And while I’m sure it would have come somewhere else if not Talence, what a privilege it was to join the home crowd to watch this extraordinary moment in history unfold. One of the first on the scene to hug Kevin was Nicole Durand, who runs the Decastar event, and his brother made an emotional speech on the infield. Throughout the two days, coach Bertrand Valcin was never far from the track.

The other French decathletes set up the event for Kevin beautifully.  Florian Geffrouais, ever the clown, warmed up the crowd with his antics. Jeremy Lelievre, with his brisk 4:21 1500 PB, stayed a pace or two ahead of Kevin all the way around in the last event, giving him someone to hang onto and roaring him on as he kicked on the final lap. Bastien Auzeil proudly carried Kevin aloft on his shoulders when the effort was over. Teenage girls ran after Kevin, screaming, as he was driven around the track, standing tall through the sunroof of a Renault. And yes, I got a Mayer high-five on his victory lap.

We talked about this moment coming on the Trackcastic podcast, like many others, but never could have imagined that Ashton’s 9045 would recede so far into the sunset, and so soon. As recently as May 2016, I commented that Kevin was really wee for a decathlete, compared to the likes of Karpov, Helcelet and those other decathletes whose shoulders can be seen from the moon. I was quickly put right by Michelle Sammet who, having interviewed Kevin in an ice bath in 2014 in Ratingen, confirmed that he was no weakling.

The exquisite pain that accompanies Kevin Mayer, and those watching him compete, is over for now.  The next challenge, whether that be Olympic Gold in Tokyo or putting that world record out of reach for a decade or more (for, while Kevin expressed himself 100% in Talence, I don’t think that we have yet seen 100% Kevin) will no doubt bring more drama.

I’ll finish with an image taken by James Rhodes, who joined me in Talence after seeing the momentum build on Day 1. This was the exact moment Kevin later described “A ce moment, j’ai su”. At this moment, I knew. An exquisite moment, indeed.

Words: Gabby Pieraccini @smokymozzarella

Pictures: James Rhodes @James_athletics

In Praise of the Shot Put

By Ray Minchew – @rayminchew

It has been a really exciting year for athletics, with new young talent coming to the fore in multiple events – Noah Lyles and Christian Coleman, the entire USC 400m team, Mondo Duplantis and Timur Morgunov, Shelby Houlihan, more than I can remember honestly. The sport is absolutely packed with incredibly talented young people. And a lot of excitement has been focused on the men’s pole vault.

I mean, we’ve spent a LOT of time talking about pole vault, have we not? It seemed like the event to see, with Renauld and Sam’s bromance, Mondo calmly breaking his own U20 record every 47 minutes, what a year for the event, right? Really exciting competitions, the Euro Championships seeing things never done before, it’s almost like a YEAR OF THE POLE VAULT.

And then after Zurich, I was looking at the men’s shot put, because I’ve developed a habit of seeing what the big guys are doing, and saw that Tomas Walsh had thrown a diamond league record that wasn’t even his best throw of the year, to beat Darrell Hill throwing a massive 22.40 SB that wasn’t even his PB, with Ryan Crouser throwing 22.18 for third…and I thought wait a minute. Haven’t they been doing this all year? They’ve been trading 22m throws the whole season. Is that normal?

Let’s find out together.

Men's shot put over 22mI ran the numbers, and in short, no. This is not normal. In fact, we are experiencing the greatest era of shot put dominance in history. Last year we had 17 throws over 22m by 5 guys, this year 16 by 4 guys. Over the last three years we’ve seen a total of 43 throws over 22m by 6 men. The only thing coming even close to this is 1986-1988, when there were 38 throws by 7 men, and that is a lot of syringes being tossed around, my friends (apologies to the great Werner Günthör).

This has gone a bit under the radar as Walsh went berserk this year, but we also have possibly the most consistently great shot putter in history right now in Ryan Crouser – he’s gone over 22m 21 times in these last three years. The only people close to him are Christian Cantwell (who led the only other era of big shots, from 2002-2011, with the Cantwell/Hoffa/Reese/Nelson group), a doped up Ulf Timmerman, and Walsh, with 16, 15, and 13 performances respectively.

22 meters is a rare benchmark, but we are now seeing that it won’t even win you competitions. And there are multiple guys knocking at the door – Darlan Romani (21.94 PB) wants in the club, David Storl, Ryan Whiting and Joe Kovacs want back in…I’m sorry, but how has this gone so under the radar?

Let’s crunch some more numbers and do a comparison, okay?

I used 5.95m as a measurement to compare men’s pole vault – not because it’s a particular benchmark, but because 6m is too small of a dataset, and 5.95 has been done 129 times, similar to the 151 for 22m. Ready for a report out on our big pole vault year? We had five vaults over 5.95, by four different athletes. That’s it. Last year there were 2, both by Sam. This isn’t even in sniffing distance of the best vaulting era, with Bubka being joined by 10 other guys jumping just as high for a 9 year span. We forget he wasn’t just blowing everyone out. It was competitive. We don’t remember most of those other 10 guys, but can you name 10 today that you think capable of going 5.95?

How about a table to express the difference?

  Pole Vault (5.95m) Shot Put (22m)
Avg annual performances 3.91 3.43
2018 performances 5 16
Avg annual performers 1.91 2
2018 performers 4 4

This is pretty stark. Men’s pole vault is absolutely exciting to watch right now – very exciting – but the number of big jumps is just slightly above average. The shot put? It’s filled with 25 year olds absolutely destroying the ring at historic levels, and the competitive balance is as high as any event in the sport. I don’t want to disparage the pole vault because I’m genuinely pumped about the young talent and what they might do, but the throws get such little attention (hi there, hammer throwers!) despite doing some things that have simply never been seen.

And from a human element they’re just as much fun to watch as the vaulters. Want a bromance? Watch these guys brohug after throws. They scream, they’re excited, they’re over the top, and they are the best show in the field right now. I, for one, plan to be a big shot put fan in 2019, because I think we could see six or seven men get over 22m, and I think 23m is in play by multiple throwers. The hardest working agent in athletics agrees with me. Show the shot put some love.

Article: Kat Challenges Nafi (ECh Heptathlon Review)

By Alex Walker @AlexAHW 

It was day three of the 2018 European Championships in Berlin and after the exploits of Arthur Abele the night before, fans of multi-eventing could turn their attention to the women’s side of affairs, with the start of the heptathlon.

The overwhelming favourite to take the title was Nafissatou Thiam of Belgium; the 2016 Olympic champion held the world leading score across the seven events going into the championships, while no other European had cracked the top 3 of heptathlon scores in 2018.

That’s not to say that the event was going to lack suspense, many questions still loomed over the competition: Would Nafi be able to challenge for Jessica Ennis-Hill’s championship record, or even the European record of Carolina Kluft? Would she overcome the teething problems she had experienced with her new javelin run up? And perhaps most importantly, would she be able to fend off Katarina Johnson Thompson and her newfound confidence?

The heptathlon began, as ever, with the 100m hurdles. The fastest time in this event would go to Louisa Grauvogel, the 22 year old German, who crossed the line in 12.97 much to the delight of the Olympiastadion crowd. Cachová of the Czech Republic and 2017 World silver medalist Carolin Schäfer provided the next fastest times over the barriers.

As for the two arguable main contenders, Johnson Thompson clocked a time of 13.34, 0.05 seconds short of her personal best in this event while Thiam’s time of 13.69 was 0.14 seconds slower than the time she had posted in Götzis earlier this year.

There is only so much that can be read into the first event of a multi-event competition, but Katarina Johnson Thompson showed that she was ready to fight for the title when Thiam was still blowing away a few cobwebs. If these two were to continue this way, then multi event fans would be in for a real treat.

Onto the high jump and what is usually the highest scoring event in the heptathlon. Following Nafi’s clearance of 2.01m in May, the crowd were expecting something big from her, and were pondering whether her British rival could respond.

A notable victim to the earlier heights was Carolin Schäfer, who only managed to clear 1.79m, 7cm and 88 points shy of her performance in London the year before. This left her adrift of her main two competitors and took her out of the race for the gold medal for the rest of the competition.

Thiam and Johnson Thompson however, both managed to keep a clean sheet up to and including 1.91m.

On her first attempt at 1.94m, Thiam had an uncharacteristic failure. This was brushed off by many a viewer as little more than a blip in her pursuit of higher heights. Her Liverpudlian rival also had her first failure of the competition at this height, although appeared to have the necessary elevation to clear the bar, with just a few minor adjustments needed.

Despite the crowd’s expectation of impending clearances for both athletes, the Belgian dislodged the bar yet again. Strangely though, instead of the standard sigh of disappointment, the crowd let out an exclamation of intrigue. There was a genuine sense in the stadium that this was Johnson Thompson’s chance to gain an edge over the woman who has been so dominant since the 2016 Olympic heptathlon.

Excitement grew. And with that support for the Brit. She took her run up and… just as before. It was evident that she had the capability to clear the height but she did not quite have the capacity to execute.

On their respective final attempts at the height, both athletes failed to demonstrate a level of belief prior to their jumps, which made their eventual failures all the less surprising.

This outcome pushed Johnson Thompson into first in the overall standings on 2193 points while Thiam sat in second with many of her stronger events still to come.

From a British perspective, it was somewhat frustrating to watch KJT not being able to capitalise when Nafi showed signs of weakness. For a neutral it was perhaps disappointing that neither athlete went higher, with both having achieved far more impressive results in a high jump. Nonetheless, with both the Belgian and Brit scoring the same on the second event, the seeds of an exciting head to head were planted.

The shot put portion of the heptathlon began proceedings on Thursday’s evening session. Being the event which has unravelled so many competitions for Johnson Thompson, the upper hand in the overall heptathlon still belonged to the Belgian due to her much stronger throwing ability.

However, the Briton was not weighed down by historical expectations and instead managed a put of 13.09m, her best ever in a heptathlon. The 733 points produced from this throw kept her firmly in the chase for the medals, with a growing sense of confidence to boot.

Thiam though, never being one to bow to pressure, achieved a new personal best in the shot put, with a throw of 15.35m, which more than made up for the previous two events which were disappointing by the Belgian’s high standards.

This marked the first point in the competition where Thiam had led the overall standings, and her mentality for multi-eventing shone through by not dwelling on what could have been in the previous events. Similarly, Johnson Thompson kept composed and showed signs that her move to Montpellier is working for her. By reducing the usual deficit in points in this event, the Liverpudlian ensured that she would not be entirely written off for the gold medal.

With Nafi at the head of standings, and Kat with the fastest 200m PB of the field, the margin between the two increasingly became the focal point of the competition. Nonetheless, the duo would not face off in the concluding event of the first day of the heptathlon, owing to the Belgian’s comparative weakness in the sprints. She would instead race in the third heat of the 200m, in which she would finish in fifth place with a time of 24.81, two tenths of a second down on her season’s best.

A door was opened for Kat. Going sub-23, as she had done numerous times before, would give her a workable lead over night. The gun sounded in the final heat. Kat gained a superior start over the rest of the field. The only athlete that was able to match her speed during the race was Louisa Grauvogel, the young German, but she wasn’t quite capable of matching the stamina of the Commonwealth champion. Kat stopped the clock in a highly commendable 22.88, while Grauvogel followed in a time of 23.10.

At the end of day one, Katarina Johnson Thompson was left with a workable lead over Thiam, having gained 4017 points to the Belgian’s 3930, third place was occupied by Carolin Schäfer with 3848. The overall winner was looking harder to predict, with each of the frontrunners being only a sub-par result away from handing the crown to the other.

KJT interviewed by The BackstraightBoys After Day  2

The fans returned to the Olympiastadion the following morning, and for the most part, gathered around the long jump pit in order to decipher the ever more intriguing heptathlon competition.

The long jump is the last event in a heptathlon in which Kat and Nafi are evenly matched, and so it is the last chance to see them compete on like for like terms before they each try to stop giving away too many points to their rival in the final two events.

Katarina opened proceedings with a jump of 6.44m, a distance similar to what she produced in the long jump at both the World Indoors and the Commonwealth Games. Well below her potential in the event, but it was a relief that she had a mark on the board, especially after her training partner, Kevin Mayer suffered three fouls in the decathlon long jump just days earlier. Nafi, being the next jumper in the start order managed to go one better than her opponent, quite literally, by jumping 6.45m in the first round.

Both athletes went on to foul in the second round, but managed to go further on their third attempts, with KJT leaping 6.68m, 2cm shy of her season’s best, while Nafi posted a jump of 6.60. The rest of the field were somewhat adrift of the two leaders in the long jump, with the third longest jump belonging to Hanne Maudens of Belgium at a distance of 6.42m.

This left Johnson Thompson 113 points ahead of the favourite after 5 events, and with the uncertainty over the Olympic champion’s form in the javelin, a gold medal did not seem out of reach for the British athlete.

As the women warmed up for the javelin it became clear that this was going to be where the title would be decided; if Thiam could produce a throw close to her personal best, she would be the overwhelming favourite for gold. If she were to throw as she had done in Götzis a few months earlier, she would hand the advantage over to her main competitor.

The Belgian was second to throw in the group. She took to the runway, released the javelin and… 46.36m. The crowd began to murmur. Nafi seemed to be facing the same difficulties she experienced in May. She may have had two attempts left, but her chances of a significant improvement did not look promising.

Another strong javelin thrower, Anouk Vetter, followed Thiam, and just like the Belgian threw well below her potential. Geraldine Ruckstuhl, on the other hand, launched the spear 55.66m down the field, indicating that the relatively poor throws from some of the athletes could not be attributed to the conditions.

Hopes were beginning to rise among the British fans as Johnson Thompson prepared for her opening throw. She obviously wasn’t going to throw further than her main rival, but she was still capable of producing something that was special by her own standards.

And perform she did.  With a throw of 42.16m, she surpassed her personal best dating back to 2015, while also keeping a applying a significant amount of pressure on Thiam.

If the javelin portion of the competition had ended at this point, Kat would have led Nafi in the overall standings by 32 points and the gold medal would have belonged to the Briton in all but writing, but Nafi has a mentality that is so well suited to multi-eventing; she doesn’t dwell on her disappointments and instead focuses on remedying the situation at hand, which is exactly what she did in Berlin.

On her second throw, the Belgian recorded a distance of 53.55m, comfortably a season’s best albeit someway short of the mindboggling marks she set in 2017. Her new mark would give her a cushion of approximately 7 seconds going into the 800m, a gap that could feasibly be overcome by Johnson Thompson over two laps, but one that still kept Nafi’s chances of gold alive.

As for the other competitors in the second round, Vetter improved to a distance of 50.08m while Ruckstuhl earned herself a new national U23 record in the javelin with an effort of 56.31m. Carolin Schäfer of Germany declined to take her two final throws of the competition after throwing a new personal best of 53.73m in the opening round.

Johnson Thompson’s second throw didn’t surpass her first round effort, but British fans were still feeling confident. The scores seemed to suggest a real tussle for the title in the final event, with both of the main contenders having to strain every sinew so as not to allow their opponent to finish with a higher total score. At least it looked that way until the Belgian’s final throw.

57.91m. That is what it took to clear away the doubts over Nafi’s form in the javelin. With just one, final throw, she had all but clinched the gold medal away from her rivals and made herself the heir apparent to the continental heptathlon throne.

The trend of improving with each attempt was also followed by Vetter, who increased her mark out to 51.25m, however Johnson Thompson was unable to improve on her new personal best, although she did succeed in sending the javelin beyond 41 metres on all three attempts for the first time in her career, showing considerable progress made in the throws since moving to Montpellier.

Johnson Thompson’s chances looked slim. Not only did she have to find a 14 second gap over Thiam, but she would have to do so alone, with other fast competitors over 800 metres absent from this race (Kriszán of Hungary was placed in the penultimate heat while Salman-Rath was absent from Berlin altogether, due to a knee operation undertaken in late 2017). Yet despite all of this, the Commonwealth champion looked unfazed when she stood at the start of the final event and this translated to her race. She confidently took the lead after the first bend and worked hard to build up a lead over the rest of the field.

Nafi, meanwhile, showed her confidence differently and took to the track at her comparatively slower pace, knowing that she only had to keep the Briton in her sights in order to secure the title.

At points of the race it looked as though Kat would do it, she opened a sizeable gap over the other competitors, yet despite clocking a highly respectable 2:09.84 over two laps, it wasn’t enough as the points leader was less than 10 seconds behind Kat, registering a time of 2:19.35, giving her an overall total of 6816, 6 points more than her Olympic winning score, but 7 points short of the championship record. Carolin Schäfer rounded out her series of events with a solid 800m that left her with the bronze medal and 50 points ahead of Ivona Dadic who scored a new national record over the seven events to finish fourth.

KJT interviewed by The Backstraight Boys After Day 2

It didn’t turn out to be the record breaking heptathlon that we might have hoped for, but it was one that hung in the balance until the final round of the penultimate event with the leader in the standings changing after almost every event.

Nafi took the title as expected, but she didn’t look as convincing as she has done in previous competitions, and certainly didn’t look unbeatable. Of course there was no real need for her to push herself in the 800m, but had a few events gone slightly differently, she would have found her dominance under considerable threat.

As for Katarina, she has much to be proud of: A new personal best, a third major medal of the season and another series of events without a disaster. She may have felt disappointed with her results in some events, but she followed up these disappointments with strong performances. Her progress in the throwing events should also fuel her confidence going forward while still allowing herself room to improve.

So what of the future? Thiam still seems to be the most likely candidate to take the European record in the heptathlon, but due to Johnson Thompson’s increasing consistency she will not be alone in the chase to surpass 7032 points. As for major medals, both have positioned themselves nicely with just two years before the Tokyo Olympics, but they will need to fight for position in the global top three, with Erica Bougard and Yorgelis Rodriguez being capable of posting scores in the same league as those produced in Berlin.

The heptathlon in Berlin showed a lot of promise for multi-event fans in the years to come. Whether we end up with astronomical scores or fierce fights for the medals, we certainly have something to look forward to.