Rio Heptathlon preview: the battle of the Brits?

11 Aug 2016

There’s a sense of excitement that comes when a nation has a reigning Olympic champion and also a young pretender to that crown. This is what Great Britain has in Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson (KJT) and Britain will be eagerly watching as they kick off their rivalry with the first track event of the Games.

It won’t be a two-horse race for sure. Looking at PBs Ennis-Hill and Brianne Thiesen-Eaton are the top two, with KJT in 4th. Anouk Vetter and Laura Ikauniece-Admidina are behind her with recently set PBs. Jennifer Oeser recorded her best in 2010 and finished back in 10th place in the world championships last year so unlikely to be on the podium this time.

Heptathlon competitor PBs

Toni Minichiello said that Ennis-Hill should be judged by her “PP PB”—that is, post-pregnancy personal best—and not her national record set four years ago in London. Her PP PB then is the 6733 she set in Ratingen in June, which is still better than the rest of the field bar Thiesen-Eaton.

It is Thiesen-Eaton that’s the 2016 world leader after winning Gotzis with 6765, which is better than all PBs apart from Ennis-Hill’s pre-pregnancy PB and this includes KJT’s life-time best. Perhaps the Canadian should be the favourite, but she also won Gotzis last year (6955) only for Ennis-Hill (on her comeback) to take the gold in Beijing. National pride aside, the gold should be a battle between these two again.

Ennis-Hill PB

Thiesen-Eaton PB

Johnson-Thompson PB

But at the same time it’s hard to completely rule out KJT getting the gold. She has the potential to be utterly brilliant, but that comes with a self-destruct button. Her long jump in last year’s world championships—where she failed to record a mark in her strongest event—is a reminder that anything can happen in the multi-events and that favourites can fall. Ikauniece-Admidina capitalised on KJT’s error then and may well be in contention for a medal, as could Vetter if she reproduces her European Championship form.

If recent heptathlons are anything to go by, British athleticos are set for a real emotional rollercoaster watching two of their finest athletes try to run, jump and throw to Olympic glory.

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