Jessica Ennis-Hill in the heptathlon shot put at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015 (Getty Images)


How it works

This is the women’s ultimate all-round test, a seven-event contest covering the whole range of athletics disciplines and spread over two days.

Competitors earn points for their performance in each discipline and the overall winner is the athlete who accrues the most points.

The first day consists of (in order): 100m hurdles, high jump, shot put and 200m. Day two comprises the long jump, javelin and 800m.


Women first competed in the pentathlon – five disciplines – at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo. This format was later replaced by the heptathlon, with the addition of the javelin and 800m. The enlarged event was first contested at the 1983 IAAF World Championships and then the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

Did you know

The 7000-point barrier has only been breeched on 10 occasions, and by just four women. Six of those marks came from the US star Jackie Joyner-Kersee. The heptathlon came on to the programme of major events in 1981, at the likes of the Asian Championships and World Student Games.

Gold standard

Sweden's Carolina Kluft is the most successful heptathlete in IAAF World Championships history, winning consecutive gold medals in 2003, 2005 and 2007. In fact, Kluft was unbeaten in 22 combined events competitions from March 2002 until her international retirement at the end of the 2012 season, a streak which included winning at the 2004 Olympic Games.


Jackie Joyner-Kersee

After taking the silver medal at the 1984 Olympic Games in front of her family and friends in Los Angeles, USA's Jackie Joyner-Kersee enjoyed an unprecedented period of success.

In the heptathlon alone, as she was also a world-class long jumper, she won successive Olympic gold medals in 1988 and 1992, and had victories at the 1987 and 1993 IAAF World Championships.

She has the six best heptathlon marks of all time including the world record of 7291, set when winning her first Olympic title in Seoul. She was inducted into the IAAF Hall of Fame in 2012.

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