If an athlete can be consistently good in all seven heptathlon events, she doesn’t have to be outstanding in any single event. That’s the strategy Ukraine’s Ganna Melnichenko used to capture the heptathlon gold medal at the 2013 World Championships. Melnichenko didn’t lead the field in any one event, but at the end of the second day she’d earned her championship, scoring a personal best 6,586 points. At age 30, Melnichenko was good enough to complete in two previous outdoor World Championships, plus the 2012 Olympics, but hadn’t previously been a gold medal contender in a global championship; her best finish was sixth at the 2009 World Championships. But she put it all together in Moscow.
Canada’s Brianne Theisen-Eaton spent the first two days of the Championships watching her husband, American Ashton Eaton, win the decathlon gold medal. She then entered the fray and took the early lead in the heptathlon by pacing all competitors in the 100-meter hurdles, finishing in 13.17 seconds to earn 1,099 points. Melnichenko was second in 13.29 to score 1,081. Nafissatou Thiam of Belgium led all competitors in the high jump, leaping a personal best 1.92 meters (6 feet, 3½ inches) to gain 1,132 points, while Melnichenko tied for third at a personal best 1.86/6-1¼, to take the overall lead after the morning session with 2,135 points. Theisen-Eaton was second with 2,115, followed by Thiam (2,092), Great Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson (2,068) and Sharon Day of the United States (2,065).
Melnichenko remained on top of the leader board during the afternoon session, throwing the shot 13.85/45-5¼ and finishing fourth overall in the 200 meters, with a time of 23.87 seconds. Germany’s Julia Machtig had the longest throw during the shot put, at 15.48/50-9½. Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands ran 22.84 to lead everyone in the 200. Melnichenko ended the day with 3,912 points. Schippers was second with 3,837 and Day third at 3,836. Theisen-Eaton was fourth (3,810) with the Czech Republic's Eliska Klucinova and Johnson-Thompson tied for fifth (3,739).
Melnichenko opened a 120-point lead over Schippers after the heptathlon’s fifth event by leaping 6.49/21-3½ in the long jump, good for third overall. Germany’s Claudia Rath led all jumpers with a leap measuring 6.67/21-10½. In the sixth event, Theisen-Eaton moved into second place and cut Melnichenko’s lead to 68 points by throwing 45.64/149-9 in the javelin, while Melnichenko managed 41.87/137-4. Sofia Yfantidou of Greece led all throwers at 53.66/176-0. At the morning’s end, Melnichenko had 5,619 points, followed by Theisen-Eaton with 5,551 and Schippers at 5,492.
Theisen-Eaton needed to beat Melnichenko by 4.8 seconds in the final event, the 800 meters, to take the gold. The Canadian’s personal best was is 3.27 seconds better than Melnichenko’s, so a come-from-behind victory seemed possible. But Melnichenko ran closely behind Theisen-Eaton all the way, finishing in a personal best 2:09.85 to clinch the gold medal. Theisen-Eaton posted a time of 2:09.03 and finished with a personal best 6,530 points to hang on to the silver medal. Schippers trimmed about seven seconds from her 800-meter personal best, running 2:08.62 to solidify her hold on third place, with a national record 6,477 points. The next two finishers, Rath (6,462) and Johnson-Thompson (6,449) set personal bests. Day was sixth with 6,407 points and Klucinova seventh with a Czech national record 6,332 points.
2013 World Championships Main Page
Olympic Heptathlon Rules
2012 Olympic Recap: Multi-Events and Race Walk