Belgian takes pentathlon gold at European Indoor Champs ahead of Tokyo showdown with Katarina Johnson-Thompson, while Holly Mills impresses in fifth
Two years ago in Glasgow, GB duo Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Niamh Emerson finished one-two in the pentathlon at the European Indoor Championships. This time, in the Polish city of Toruń, Belgian pair Nafi Thiam and Noor Vidts took gold and silver in the same event. If they all turn up in Tokyo fit and healthy, we should be in for a treat.
In the absence of the injured KJT in Toruń, Thiam was relatively untroubled as the Olympic heptathlon champion dominated the five-event contest on Friday (March 5). With a Belgian record of 4904 she beat team-mate Vidts by 113 points with Xenia Krizsan of Hungary third (4644), Ivona Dadic of Austria fourth (4587) and British youngster Holly Mills a fine fifth (4517).
Mills put in a plucky performance. Only 20 and making her senior GB debut, she led the entire field after the first event and in the final event blasted into a lead before fading from first to third on the last lap.
Thiam got off to a slow steady start as she was only fifth best in the 60m hurdles with 8.31 as Mills clocked 8.22. But Thiam began to show her class with 1.89m in the high jump, which was better than any of her competitors despite being below her usual standard. In the shot put Thiam also won the event with 15.16m and held a 157-point lead over Vidts going into the final two events.
Mills (below), meanwhile, fell back to eighth overall after a 1.74m high jump PB and 13.22m shot put.
The long jump saw Nadine Broersen of the Netherlands and Maria Vicente of Spain both bomb out after failing their first three efforts. But Thiam and Vidts jumped 6.60m and 6.47m respectively to cement their positions, while Mills jumped a 6.10m PB.
Gold was a virtual formality for Thiam going into the 800m and the tall Belgian strode around in 2:18.80 to seal the title. But Mills was on a mission and blasted through the first 400m in 64.2 before going on to clock 2:13.59 as Krizsan won the event.
Thiam embraced Vidts as they celebrated but she was the first to admit that Tokyo is her main goal and she didn’t specifically prepare for the European Indoor Championships.
“It was a last-minute decision to compete here,” said Thiam. “And I really felt this in the high jump as I haven’t done much technical work yet.”
On the problems of the pandemic, she added: “Last year was weird with no goal to aim for but now it (the Olympics) seems very real.”
“It was incredible and very intense,” said Mills. “Tokyo is definitely in my sight lines. If you don’t aim for it, you won’t get it.”
No doubt KJT will have been a keen spectator back home as she continues to return from a recent injury.