Thiam breaks 7000 barrier in Gotzis

Olympic champion Thiam’s gamble turns to gold in pentathlon
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Nafissatou Thiam became the fourth athlete in history to surpass the 7000 point-barrier in the Gotzis Hypo-Meeting

Not since Carolina Kluft set the European heptathlon record of 7032 in 2007 has any woman touched the 7000 point-barrier but that gap was bridged in Gotzis over the weekend by Belgium’s Olympic champion Nafissatou Thiam in one of the greatest heptathlon competitions of all-time.

Thiam triumphed at the prestigious Hypo-Meeting with 7013 as three heptathletes surpassed the 6800 barrier for just the second time in the same competition. Germany’s Carolin Schafer, was second with 6836 with Laura Ikauniece-Admidina improving her Latvian record to 6815 to finish third. Great Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson, the overnight leader, finished fourth with a lifetime best of 6691.

"It is unbelievable," said Thiam, who added nearly 200 points to her lifetime best of 6810 set when winning the Olympic gold medal in Rio de Janeiro last summer.

"I came here to see where my form was and it was a really enjoyable weekend. Last year was incredible and I thought 'maybe that's my best'. But I just tried to do even better today."

In the beautiful and spectacular setting of the track surrounded by the Austrian mountains, conditions were perfect as Thiam became only the fourth woman to break the 7000 point-barrier. The Belgian moved to third on the world all-time lists behind American Jackie Joyner-Kersee (7291) and Sweden’s Kluft (7032) but ahead of Russia’s Larisa Turchinskaya (7007) as she broke the Gotzis meeting record held by Germany’s Sabine Braun with 6985.

And for Johnson-Thompson: no woman has recorded such a high score for fourth in any heptathlon ever. Such was the standard, the top five all broke their personal bests, with Germany’s Claudia Salman-Rath, the European indoor long jump bronze medallist, fifth with 6580.

The landmarks went on. World U18 champion Geraldine Ruckstuhl, 19, broke a 32-year-old Swiss record with 6291 in 12th; inaugural European U18 champion Alina Shukh from Ukraine, 18, improved her lifetime best to 6106 in 16th; and world U20 champion Sarah Lagger, 17, broke the 6000-barrier with 6012 to finish 19th on home soil.

One fact is for sure. Thiam showed she is ready for more gold at the IAAF World Championships in London after setting or equalled five individual heptathlon personal bests en route in Gotzis: 13.34 for the 100m hurdles, 1.98m for the high jump (equalling her heptathlon world best achieved in Rio and breaking the meeting record) 24.40 for the 200m, a stunning 59.32m for the javelin (another meeting best and a national record) and then 2:15.24 for the 800m.

Such was the quality that Schafer also produced six lifetime bests as she showed the strength of the heptathlon on the European stage. On the opening day, she set PBs in every event: 100m hurdles (13.09), high jump (1.86m), shot put (14.76m) and 200m (23.36) to finish the first day just six points off Johnson-Thompson’s lead.

After two no-jumps, Schafer averted disaster by reaching out to her fifth lifetime best of the competition with 6.57m in the long jump followed by 49.80m in the javelin before finishing with her sixth lifetime best with 2:14.10 in the 800m. Her score of 6836 represented a lifetime best by nearly 300 points and was the best score by a German multi-eventer since Braun achieved the now-beaten meeting record in 1992.

Johnson-Thompson led overnight with 4059 from Thiam (4056) and Schafer (4053) but those overall positions changed in the first event with Thiam and Schafer outperforming the Brit in in the long jump.

In the javelin, Ruckstuhl had a fantastic moment when she broke the national and meeting record with 58.31m before Thiam took the Gotzis record out to 59.32m - a lifetime best by six metres.

The history books were being rewritten with every blink of the eye. It put Thiam in front with 6124 ahead of the 800m where she ran 2:15.24 - another lifetime best - to smash through the landmark 7000-barrier in a race won by Salman-Rath in 2:05.54.

Ikauniece-Admidina was 200 points behind the top three after the first day but the world bronze medallist is a renowned second day performer. She began her day with a PB in the long jump of 6.64m before going out to 56.17m in the javelin and 2:11.76 in the 800m to add nearly 200 points to her best ever score.

It was also a great weekend for European decathletes. Canada’s Damian Warner retained his title with 8591 points while the Netherlands’ Eelco Sintnicolaas signalled his return from injury by breaking his national record to finish second with 8539.

Germany’s Rico Freimuth, the 2015 world bronze medallist, was third with 8365 while there were PBs for Adam Sebastian Helcelet (8335), Pieter Braun (8334) and Mathias Brugger (8294) in fourth, fifth and sixth respectively.