Thiam shows her strength with a heptathlon hat-trick – AW

    Two-time Olympic champion wins third successive European title as Frenchwoman Auriana Lazraq-Khlass enjoys huge breakthrough

    The women’s heptathlon at the European Championships in Rome ended with the triumphant return of a great champion and the emergence of a new contender on the combined events scene.

    Two-time Olympic gold medallist Nafi Thiam, competing for the first time since last year following a serious Achilles injury, recorded the third-best score of her career, accumulating 6848 to break the championships record and secure her third consecutive European title outdoors.

    In second place, meanwhile, French champion Auriana Lazraq-Khlass produced the performance of her life, setting five PBs and equalling another across the two days of competition on her way to a best ever total of 6635 that held off world indoor champion Noor Vidts’ own PB of 6596.

    Thiam had led the competition ever since a supreme performance in the high jump on an opening day that saw the withdrawal of Britain’s world champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson.

    Though the Belgian’s overnight lead over her compatriot Vidts was a narrow 35 points, with Lazraq-Khlass just five further back, victory had looked to be hers for the taking.

    Thiam’s lead grew to 77 points after the long jump on Saturday morning (June 8), when she landed a best jump of 6.59m, with Vidts managing 6.46m and Lazraq-Khlass 6.35m to remain in contention.

    Auriana Lazraq-Khlass (Getty)

    Thiam strengthened her hand in the javelin, throwing furthest overall with 53.00m, but Lazraq-Khlass improved her personal best in the discipline by a remarkable 4.3 metres when she reached out to 48.23m. Vidts’ best effort of 42.12m was also a PB but was 12th furthest overall and left the Frenchwoman 78 points clear in second, 209 behind Thiam.

    Vidts did her level best to claw back the gap and was quickest in the closing event, the 800m, with 2:09.35, but another PB of 2:12.07 gave Lazraq-Khlass silver as Thiam got the job done with her own PB of 2:11.79.

    Britain’s Jade O’Dowda, third-fastest overall with her best ever 800m time of 2:11.30, finished seventh overall as her personal best tally of 6314 that put her sixth on the UK all-time list and effectively secured her spot on the Olympic team for Paris.

    Thiam’s performance marks her out very much as the one to beat in the French capital later this summer but, with a home crowd looking out for a hero to cheer on alongside decathlon superstar Kevin Mayer, Lazraq-Khlass will provide cause for hope.

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