Tokyo 2020 Preview: Heptathlon/Decathlon – Who is the ultimate athlete?

Decathlon athlete Cedric Dubler
Is Australia's Cedric Dubler the ultimate athlete? Photo: World Athletics - Website

In a demanding two-day contest, men and women compete in the decathlon and heptathlon to find the ultimate athlete. For all your Olympic coverage, stay tuned to The Inner Sanctum’s Olympic hub and the Olympics Central.

The desire to find the greatest all-around athlete has its origins in the Olympic games back in Ancient Greece. This event had five disciplines – long jump, discus, javelin, sprinting, and wrestling, some of which remain part of the modern decathlon and heptathlon.

Men compete in the ten-event decathlon, while the women have the seven-event heptathlon which involves a range of track and field disciplines across two days. Athletes earn points for their performances in each discipline, with whoever accumulates the most, winning gold.

Like every human, athletes in combined events have their strengths, and weaknesses, therefore, making it extremely difficult to sweep each discipline. It is just as much a test of athleticism as it is a test of strategy and mental strength.

Some athletes do decide to maintain a high performance across each discipline, while others focus on, and seek to capitalize in their stronger areas to balance it out.

The final event is the longest track race, the 1500m for the decathlon, and the 800m for the heptathlon. This is designed to test the athletes’ mentally and physically, putting the most gruelling discipline which can sway results at the very end.

These events epitomise the Olympic spirit, as their shared experiences over the two days unite, and creates a bond deeper than Olympic glory. Many athletes are seen embracing each other as they cross the finish line in the final events in a display of camaraderie.

On August 4 and 5, 24 men will compete in the decathlon, and 24 women will compete in the heptathlon at the Olympics Stadium.

Decathlon

Schedule:

DayDisciplineTime (AEST)
August 4100m10:00 am
Long jump10:55 am
Shot put12:10 pm
High jump8:05 pm
400m11:30 pm
August 5110m hurdles 10:00 am
Discus throw10:50 am
Pole vault1:30 pm
Javelin throw8:15 pm
1500m10:40 pm

Reflecting on Rio:

Not only did Ashton Eaton (USA) secure gold in Rio 2016, but he also managed to match an Olympic Record, set by Roman Šebrle (CZE) in Athens 2004. He accumulated 8893 points across the 10 events, finishing first in the Long Jump (7.94m) and 400 metres (46.07 seconds). He also finished second in 100 metres, running it in 10.46 seconds.

Bronze medalist Damian Warner also set a new Olympic decathlon best in 100 metres, finishing in 10.30 seconds.

Medal favourites

With Eaton out of the running due to retirement, Tokyo is the perfect opportunity for Rio’s silver and bronze medalists Kevin Mayer and Damian Warner to go for gold.

Kevin Mayer 
Mayer currently holds the world record (9126 points) in the decathlon and secured the Silver medal at the Rio Olympics in 2016. The Frenchmen is firming as the favourite to take out Gold in the men’s decathlon event and go one better from 2016.

Damian Warner
Currently ranked first in the world, it would be strange for his name not to be in the discussion for Olympic gold. Finishing with a bronze medal in Rio 2016, like Mayer, he will be looking to rise up the ranks. In the recent Hypo-Meeting in Austria, he finished first, so there is nothing to suggest he won’t take home gold.

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Heptathlon

Schedule: 

DayDisciplineTime (AEST)
August 4100m hurdles10:35 am
High jump11:35 am
Shot put8:05 pm
200m9:30 pm
August 5Long jump10:40 pm
Javelin throw1:35 pm
800m10:40 pm

Reflecting on Rio:

Britain’s Jessica Ennis-Hill came into Rio hoping to defend her London 2012 gold, however, she came away with silver. Instead, it was Belgium’s Nafissatou Thiam who bravely fought through an elbow injury to win the high jump, shot put, and long jump disciplines and accumulate 6810 points to secure Olympic gold.

Canadian Brianne Theisen-Eaton came away with bronze.

Medal favourites

With Ennis-Hill and Theisen-Eaton retiring, there are new openings on the podium, with plenty of athletes primed to take their places.

Katarina Johnson-Thompson
In Rio 2016, Johnson-Thompson came in sixth despite winning the high jump and 200-metre disciplines. However, this year she is looking at a podium finish after doing plenty of work over the past four years to herself in prime medal contending form.

Ranked first in the world, the Englishwoman beat Rio’s gold medalist in the 2019 World Championships, meaning, if she can do it then, then there is no reason she can’t do it again.

Nafissatou Thiam
It isn’t a matter of if Thiam will place – it’s a matter of where. The Rio gold medalist will look to defend her medal against some serious competitors.

It’s unlikely she will slip off the podium as she is ranked second in the world and finished second in the most recent World Championships.

Thiam also holds the third-highest score of all-time in the heptathlon event, acquired in the 2017 World Championships.

The Aussies

Decathlon

Cedric Dubler
This is Dubler’s second Olympics after competing in the 2016 Olympic games in Rio. He also competed at the 2018 Commonwealth games on the Gold Coast which saw him come home with a Bronze medal with a score of 7983. In the Olympic qualifiers, Dubler scored a personal best of 8367 that saw him take the second spot to Tokyo.

Ash Moloney 
At the age of 21, Moloney will be attending his first Olympics. In 2018 Moloney secured the World Under 2020 national title in Finland, scoring 8190 points which is the second-highest score in Junior history. During Olympic qualifiers, Moloney recorded a personal best of 8492 points to secure one of two spots to Tokyo.

No Australian women qualified for the Heptathlon.

NameEventExperience
Cedric DublerDecathlon2nd (Rio 2016)
Ash MoloneyDecathlonDebut

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