Nafissatou Thiam could very possibly complete the set of major heptathlon titles for the second time in her career at the Munich 2022 European Athletics Championships from 15-21 August, part of the wider multi-sport European Championships from 11-21 August.
After retaining her Olympic heptathlon title in Tokyo last summer, Thiam recaptured her world title at the World Athletics Championships in Oregon last month and the Belgian will be looking to conclude her season in the combined events with a successful defence of her European heptathlon title in Munich.
Since winning her first Olympic heptathlon title in 2016, Thiam has only lost one combined events in the ensuing six years - that sole defeat came at the hands of Katarina Johnson-Thompson at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha - but the 27-year-old faced a resolute challenge from Anouk Vetter from the Netherlands for the world title in Oregon.
After throwing a massive 58.29m in the javelin, Vetter went into the concluding 800 metres with the blue bib to denote her position as competition leader adorned to the chest. Thiam responded to the challenge magnificently, producing a near two-second lifetime best of 2:13.00 to win her fourth global title at the age of 27.
Thiam’s winning score of 6947 was the second highest of her career and Vetter’s silver medal-winning total of 6867 points was also significant. Not only was it a Dutch record, it was also the second highest non-winning score in heptathlon history after Sabine John scored silver at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul with 6897 points behind Jackie Joyner-Kersee.
All being well, the heptathlon in Munich looks set to be a near re-run of the World Athletics Championships with six of the top seven from Oregon due to compete - the exception being Anna Hall from the United States who completed the podium in Oregon.
Among those with medal aspirations include the indefitable Pole Adrianna Sulek who has already contested four pentathlon and four heptathlons in 2022. Her season’s highlights so far include silver at the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade and a fourth-place finish in Oregon where she scored 6672 points to surpass the Polish record which had stood since 1985.
But a Benelux shutout of the medals cannot be discounted. World indoor champion Noor Vidts from Belgium and Olympic bronze medallist Emma Oosterwegel from the Netherlands are also doubling back after finishing fifth and seventh respectively in Oregon. The latter also won a surprise bronze in Tokyo behind Thiam and Vetter.
There will also be significant representation from the newer generation of combined eventers, all of whom will be looking to make an impact in Munich. The 2000s generation in action includes Switzerland’s world sixth-placer Annik Kalin; former European U18 and U20 champion Maria Vicente; and 19-year-old Saga Vanninen from Finland who will be making her second championship debut having recently retained her world U20 heptathlon title in Cali.
The championship record still belongs to Jessica Ennis-Hill who scored 6823 points to win this title in Barcelona 2010.
Does a first European title beckon for Mayer?
If everything follows the script, Kevin Mayer will follow his world decathlon title in Oregon by winning his second major title of the season in Munich 2022.
But decathlons seldom follow the script. The clearest example of this was the last European Athletics Championships in Berlin four years ago when Mayer’s title hopes evaporated in a flash after incurring his third successive foul in the long jump.
Another variable is the relatively short turnaround between the two championships with only 23 days in between Oregon and Munich. For an athlete who tends to compete very sparingly in combined events, how will Mayer cope with the rigours of back-to-back championships?
But if the decathlon does follow the script, Mayer should enjoy a relatively safe passage to his first senior European title. The world record-holder scored 8816 points to win gold in Oregon - his highest score since setting the world record of 9126 points in Talence 2018 - and he leads the European season’s list by almost 400 points.
The Germans won this title four years ago courtesy of Arthur Abele which means the home nation will be represented by a quartet of decathletes with reigning champions now receiving a wildcard to compete at the next edition.
Their strongest contender is likely to be Niklas Kaul who won world decathlon gold in Doha 2019 in between Mayer’s triumphs in 2017 and 2022 respectively. Kaul is coming off a sixth-place finish in Oregon where he scored 8434 points and was only beaten by Mayer from a European standpoint.
The home contingent also features the newcomer to the German twam Leo Neugebauer, the 22-year-old who studies economics and trains at the University of Texas. He set his lifetime best of 8362 points at the NCAA Championships earlier this summer.
While Kaul and Neugebauer represent the new generation, Kai Kazmirek and Abele are the two elder statesmen of the German decathlon team at 31 and 36 respectively.
Abele battled back from a plethora of injury and health problems to win an emotionally-charged gold medal four years ago, one of seven gold medals for the host nation in Berlin 2018 and perhaps the most popular of those triumps. Abele will begin as a sentimental favourite with the Munich crowd but he is unlikely to challenge having not completed a decathlon in almost four years.
Like the Germans, the Estonians have a proud heritage in the decathlon and their trio of Maicel Uibo, Janek Oiglane and Karel Tilga. Uibo, who will accrue big points in the high jump and pole vault, finished seventh at the World Athletics Championships and is third on the European season's list with 8425 points.
Like Mayer, Simon Ehammer will be looking to win his second major medal of the summer after a bronze in the long jump in Oregon. The Swiss is yet to unlock his full potential in the decathlon but the 22-year-old, who has the distinction of leaping out to 8.45m in a decathlon long jump, has been focusing specifically on these championships.
The championship record in the decathlon is one of the most enduring records with Daley Thompson’s mark of 8811 points from Stuttgart 1986 still on the books some 36 years later.
The Munich 2022 European Athletics Championships will be streamed live in its entirety through the European Athletics website.