A new generation of heptathletes has emerged in recent years.
No longer are the sprints, hurdles and long jump the main disciplines in which to bank points, so it seems. Instead, many up-and-coming combined eventers are excelling in the throws.
The template was set by Nafi Thiam, an outstanding junior who last year came of age to win the Olympic title, having scored valuable points in the shot and javelin. It continued at the IAAF World Youth Championships Cali 2015, where eventual winner Geraldine Ruckstuhl and bronze medallist Alina Shukh produced outstanding marks in the throwing events.
The pattern looks set to continue in Nairobi.
Germany’s Johanna Siebler leads the list of entrants, having scored 5756 last month. Within that series, she produced a 14.96m heave in the shot and a 48.67m throw in the javelin. She then went on to improve her shot put PB to 15.26m.
Germany has a strong combined events tradition at all age groups. German heptathletes have won nine medals, two of them gold, from the past nine editions of the World U18 Championships. Siebler will be aiming to become her country’s third world U18 heptathlon champion.
Lithuanian duo Beatrice Juskeviciute and Urte Bacianskaite are also good throwers. Earlier this summer, Juskeviciute set a national youth record of 5514 in Florida, helped by a 45.04m javelin throw. On the same weekend, but competing 5000 miles away in Rakvere, compatriot Bacianskaite won the Baltic youth title with 5469, thanks in part to a 15.98m effort in the shot.
Spain has never had a heptathlon medallist at the World U18 Championships, but Maria Vicente could break that trend. The 16-year-old will be one of the youngest in the field and, unlike her opponents, fares better in the hurdles and jumps. Her personal best of 5522 makes her second best among the heptathlon entrants, but her PBs of 13.21m in the triple jump and 13.38 in the 100m hurdles would have also made her medal contenders in those events, had she chosen to enter them.
Germany’s Marshella Foreshaw, another good shot putter, and Czech Republic’s Anna Kerbachova, who recently scored 5527 in a senior heptathlon, will also be close to the medals.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF