Heptathletes separated by single centimetre as Olympic champ breaks Belgian best for Diamond League victory ahead of Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Ivana Španović
The clash between Nafissatou Thiam and Katarina Johnson-Thompson in Doha in six and a half weeks’ time looks even more mouthwatering after the pair were separated by just a single centimetre in an exciting Müller Grand Prix long jump competition in Birmingham.
They might have been competing in just one event rather than their usual seven, but the head-to-head at the Alexander Stadium whet the appetite ahead of October’s global battle, when Olympic champion Thiam will look to retain her heptathlon title at the IAAF World Championships and Johnson-Thompson will seek outdoor victory to go with her world indoor win.
On a blustery day featuring sunshine and showers, the two heptathletes lined up alongside long jump specialists including world indoor champion Ivana Španović and Brits Abigail Irozuru and Lorraine Ugen, and they more than held their own.
Thiam opened with 6.44m (+0.1m/sec) which placed her third at the end of the first round as Španović leapt into an early lead with 6.70m (+0.2m/sec) and Johnson-Thompson recorded a foul.
The next round saw Thiam soar out to 6.74m (-0.3m/sec), breaking her own Belgian record, but Serbia’s Španović responded by going four centimetres further into a -1.8m/sec headwind. There was a second foul for Johnson-Thompson, but the Briton turned things around with her next jump.
After watching Thiam further improve her national record to 6.86m (+0.9m.sec), Johnson-Thompson launched herself out to 6.74m (-0.9m/sec) while Španović recorded 6.85m which would prove to be the Olympic and world bronze medallist’s best of the competition.
Johnson-Thompson wasn’t done, however, as she saved her best leap until last and soared out to 6.85m (+0.4m/sec) to match Španović’s mark and place third on countback.
The jump was Johnson-Thompson’s best since 2015 when she set her PB of 6.93m indoors and would score 1122 points in a heptathlon, just three points off Thiam’s 1125 for 6.86m.
Just behind her in fourth was Irozuru, who was pleased to have achieved the world championships qualifying mark having been just two centimetres off it at the European Team Championships.
Ugen finished seventh with 6.61m.
“It was a really good competition,” said Thiam, who will celebrate her 25th birthday in Birmingham before returning home on Monday.
“It gives me confidence because of the performance I had.
“Being first or second didn’t matter. Španović was 6.85m, so only one centimetre difference. It was great to be in competition with jumpers and with Kat and we’re always really pushing each other.”
Johnson-Thompson was also pleased with her own performance and said: “I haven’t jumped that far in a long time and I’m really happy with that showing.
“It spurs me on going up against her (Thiam) in an individual format like today.”
The women’s 200m had also been highly anticipated as another world championships warm-up, with a stellar field taking to the track.
Britain’s triple European champion Dina Asher-Smith lined up alongside Olympic 400m champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo, multiple Olympic and world gold medallist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, two-time world champion Dafne Schippers, current world No.2 Blessing Okagbare and US champion Dezerea Bryant.
Asher-Smith got a strong start but Miller-Uibo used her power to pass the British record-holder down the home straight, with the Bahamian clocking 22.24 (+0.4m/sec) ahead of Asher-Smith’s 22.36, as Fraser-Pryce finished third in 22.50, Schippers fourth in 22.81 and Okagbare fifth in 22.83.
“I am really happy to have finished second in that race although having said that, I am a competitor so obviously I want to win every race!” said Asher-Smith.
“To maintain my form and finish strongly against arguably the best 400m runner in the world is good. So, all in all, I am happy with that race.”
Bryant ran 22.84 in sixth, having earlier finished as runner-up in the non-Diamond League 100m in 11.21 (-0.9m/sec) behind Germany’s fast-finishing Tatjana Pinto.
USA’s Teahna Daniels was third in 11.24, while Rachel Miller was the leading Briton in sixth in 11.42, as Kimbely Baptiste ran 11.71 in seventh and Bianca Williams 11.77 in eighth.
Britain’s T38 world record-holder and Paralympic champion Sophie Hahn won the women’s T35-38 100m in 12.67 ahead of world long jump champion Olivia Breen in 13.28.
Over in the Millicent Fawcett mile Konstanze Klosterhalfen broke the oldest women’s meeting record, which was Sonia O’Sullivan’s 4:24.27 recorded in Sheffield in 1992, with a German record of 4:21.11. The race was missing British 1500m record-holder Laura Muir due to a calf injury but her training partners Gabriela DeBues-Stafford and Jemma Reekie were both in action and they respectively clocked 4:22.47 in second and a PB of 4:27.00 in sixth.
Eilish McColgan placed third in a PB of 4:24.71.
Another meeting record fell in the 3000m steeplechase, with world record-holder Beatrice Chepkoech winning in 9:05.55 as Britain’s Elizabeth Bird was 13th in 9:50.97, Rosie Clarke 15th in 9:54.25 and Aimee Pratt 16th in 9:58.68.
World leader Danielle Williams was almost a record-breaker, too, as she equalled the 100m hurdles best with 12.46 (-0.2m/sec) ahead of world record-holder Keni Harrison with 12.66.
Williams (12.53, +2.1m/sec) and Nia Ali (12.81, +0.5m/sec) had earlier been heat winners, with Harrison only placing fourth in her heat but advancing to the final thanks to her time of 12.93.
Britain’s Cindy Ofili, Heather Paton and Alicia Barrett had also raced in the heats, with Ofili clocking 13.15 and Paton 13.25 for sixth and seventh respectively in the marginally windy heat two and Barrett running 13.64 for eighth in heat one.
USA’s Ajee Wilson won the 800m in 2:00.76 as Britain’s Lynsey Sharp finished strongly for second in 2:01.09 and Alex Bell placed fifth in 2:02.41.
In tough conditions for pole vaulting, Olympic champion Katerina Stefanidi secured success with a clearance of 4.75m and called it a day after one attempt at 4.85m.
British record-holder Holly Bradshaw finished sixth with 4.55m and was happy after having decided to use a 10-step approach.
World-leader Yaime Pérez claimed discus victory thanks to her third-round throw of 64.87m. That mark was enough to put her ahead of fellow Cuban and current world No.2 Denia Caballero (64.59m) and Croatia’s Sandra Perković (63.80m), who continues her comeback after injury.
» For news of the men’s events in Birmingham, click here
» Find further coverage in the August 22 issue of AW magazine