Nafissatou Thiam laid down a big marker ahead of the defence of her Olympic heptathlon title this summer as she earned her second European indoor pentathlon title in Torun without ever appearing to be under pressure.
The 26-year-old Belgian broke Tia Hellebaut’s long-standing national record of 4877 points, totalling 4904 after coming home in the concluding 800m in an indoor personal best of 2:18.80.
It fully validated her decision to compete on the boards with Great Britain’s reigning champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson, who beat her to the world title in 2019, absent due to an Achilles injury.
Thiam’s Belgian teammate Noor Vidts confirmed silver for herself in finishing second in the 800m in a personal best of 2:12.59 to total a personal best of 4791.
Hungary’s Xenia Krizsan, winner of the concluding race in 2:12.49, took bronze in 4644 ahead of Austria’s world indoor silver medallist Ivona Dadic.
Thiam, who won this title in 2017 after taking silver in 2015, had resumed competition in the evening session after establishing the lead with 3024 points after 8.31 in the 60m hurdles, the high jump, which she won with 1.89m, and the shot put, which she won with 15.16m.
Vidts was second on 2867 and Krizsan third on 2835.
Given that Thiam holds both the outdoor and indoor Belgian records in the long jump – at 6.86m and 6.79m respectively – she could afford to look forward to the fourth element of this competition with confidence.
And after a first attempt failure allowed Vidts, who registered a personal best of 6.47m, to take an “as they stand” lead, normal service was swiftly resumed. The Olympic champion cleared 6.60m on her second attempt to earn 1040 points that re-established her in the lead on 4064, 200 points clear.
“I am really happy to be already that good,” said Thiam. “I miss some technical work and regularity. Especially in the high jump. But 1.89m is pretty good. The other four events went really, really well. I surprised myself in the shot put and the long jump.
“Last year I trained a lot and worked really hard. That is what made the difference today. I am really happy with the national record because I never prepare specifically for the indoor season.
“I am also very happy for Noor. She deserves it and exploded her personal best. It is good for the combined events in Belgium to have two girls on the podium.”
The only obvious question now is whether the elbow problem that inhibited her during the World Athletics Championships in Doha is fully healed.
“It was a dream day,” said Vidts. “Perfect. It can always be better, but here it was really really good.”
Krizsan commented: “It is a dream come true! I had a little problem with my leg so the hardest event for me today was the high jump. But I am happy now.
“My best events today were hurdles and, of course, the 800m. The atmosphere was really good and the track is really good. I am looking forward to the Olympic Games.”
Great Britain’s 20-year-old Holly Mills, making her international debut, ran boldly over 800m to finish third and take fifth place overall with 4517. It was a strong finish to bookend her strong opening when she topped the 60m hurdles with a personal best-equalling 8.22.
Markovc pounces to win surprise European indoor 3000m gold
Great Britain’s US-based Amy-Eloise Markovc held the inside line to win the 3000m title in her first senior international championship, ensuring the title would remain in British hands after Laura Muir's double triumph in 2017 and 2019.
She clocked 8:46.43 after withstanding pressure from teammate Verity Ockenden, who had to settle for bronze in 8:46.60. France’s Alice Finot came through in the final strides to take silver in 8:46.54.
“I'm really thrilled with this win. Going into my first senior championship, I was nervous but our team captain gave us a great inspirational talk and that helped. It was close in the end but I never relax until I reach the finish line,” said Markovc. “My first plan for the summer is to get the Olympic 5000 standard, which I missed by just over a second in 2019.”
All three medallists and eight of the top nine finishers produced personal bests.
Pavel Maslak’s ambition of earning a record fourth consecutive 400m title at these championships ended in the semifinals.
Despite taking an early lead he slipped back to fourth in a race won by Dutch athlete Tony Van Diepen in 46.06. This was his first defeat at a major indoor championships since 2012, having won three world and European indoor titles since then.
The Dutch blitzed the semifinals, winning two other races through Liemarvin Bonevacia (46.75) and Jochem Dobber (46.56).
Ireland’s Phil Healy, a natural 200m runner but an increasingly strong 400m runner, built on running the fastest time in the heats, 52.00, by winning her semi-final in 52.41.
Poland’s European champion Justyna Święty-Ersetic shrieked with delight after winning the second semifinal in a national record 51.34 with Lieke Klaver of the Netherlands just holding on for second in 52.09.
But Femke Bol, who leads the European 2021 list with 50.64, set that in context with an apparently effortless win in 51.17, with Great Britain’s team captain Jodie Williams earning the second place with a personal best of 52.09.