Notice a Pattern Here? World-Class Heptathletes Have Brains, Brawn...and Beauty
I admit to a degree of bias. Even so, it is this writer's opinion that the sport of Track and Field boasts some of the most amazing female athletes on the planet. They run faster, leap higher and throw farther (the most basic human athletic endeavors) than their counterparts in any other area of sport.
Let's refine the matter further. The discipline known as women's multi-events (pentathlon, heptathlon) seems to attract an even greater concentration of strength, versatility, smarts...and beauty.
The multi-athletes, because of the grueling requirement of excellence in multiple events, are rightfully referred to as the "world's greatest athletes."
No attempt was made to rank these girls. As for their athletic accomplishments, let the record book speak for itself. As for their aesthetic appeal, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Herein, you will find a mere sampling of Track and Field's rich abundance of great athletes. But beyond the competitive necessities of brains and brawn, enjoy also their beauty—in a G-rated sort of way
Carolina Kluft, Sweden
Perhaps only the legendary Jackie Joyner-Kersee exceeded the dominance of Kluft in the women's heptathlon. A 2004 Olympic gold, three World Championships and two national titles, speak of a career marked with excellence.
Known as a multis virtuoso, Kluft had no weaknesses, usually finishing in the top five in all seven events. Her best score was 7,032 points, as compared to Joyner-Kersee's world record 7,291.
Kluft, a world-class long jumper, in 2008 abandoned the heptathlon to concentrate on the jumps.
Rarely does an athlete arrive in such a complete package as that found in the form of Carolina Kluft.
Nana Djimou, French Cameroon
Antionette "Nana" Djimou Ida is an outlier in the world of elite heptathletes, with no international titles...yet.
She does have four pentathlon (five events) and two heptathlon (seven events) national titles to her credit.
Her personal best score in the heptathlon is a respectable 6,323.
And of course, she is among the world leaders in the "million-dollar smile" category.
Update: Friday, March 4, 2011 - Djimou Ida captured that elusive international title by winning the European Indoor pentathlon (before a partisan Paris crowd) with an impressive total 4723 points.
Hanna Melnychenko, Ukraine
Hard to imagine this striking lady being as tough as nails? Don't be fooled—she's been around the track a few times and knows the ropes.
She's a national outdoor champion (heptathlon, 2003) and national indoor champion (pentathlon, 2006) in the athlete-rich republic of Ukraine. A noteworthy personal-best 6,445 heptathlon nicely pads her resume.
If an elusive and coveted international title continues to evade her, she could certainly find work on the runways of Paris or New York, yes?
Kaie Kand, Estonia
As you might deduce from the photo, Ms. Kand's greatest strengths in the multis are displayed on the track. She is an excellent 800-meter runner (2:10 range) and long jumper.
The 2009 Estonian national champion has represented her country in the 2007 and 2009 World Championships and in the 2008 Olympics.
When teamed with her compatriot (next slide), the only fitting description—from a competitor's standpoint—would have to be "double trouble."
Grit Sadeiko, Estonia
Double trouble, indeed. This is the look of mischief in the making!
Only 21, Sadeiko won the pentathlon at the recent 2011 Euro Athletics Indoor Permit meet in Tallin.
A relative beginner at the elite level, with only a few wins at local meets under her belt until Tallin, Sadeiko is full of promise.
And Grit's 17-year-old sister, Grete is a blossoming heptathlete as well.
Triple trouble, anyone?
Hyleas Fountain, USA
Fountain is the only American heptathlete besides Jackie Joyner-Kersee to medal (silver) at an Olympics.
But on her home soil, she is one of the most decorated female athletes in recent history.
Consider for starters:
~ 2003 NCAA Outdoor heptathlon champion
~ 2004 NCAA Outdoor and Indoor long jump champion.
~ Three-time USA Outdoor heptathlon champion ('05, '07 '10)
~ Personal best 6667 points total in heptathlon
At 30 years old, Fountain will try to avoid injury and finally attain victory on foreign soil in either Deagu, 2011 (Worlds) or London, 2012 (Olympics).
Brianne Theisen, Canada
Sadly for Americans, Theisen is only on loan from Canada as she completes her final year of education at the University of Oregon.
Even though Theisen is a superb athlete in her own right, it's difficult for Oregon track fans to discuss her athletic achievements without kindling fond thoughts of former Duck multis star, Ashton Eaton.
Brianne is tracking almost exactly on Eaton's still-warm success path.
Skimming only the cream off the top of Theisen's accomplishments reveals the following:
~ Canadian national champion, heptathlon
~ Two-time defending champion, NCAA heptathlon
~ Defending champion, NCAA pentathlon
~ NCAA all-time best points total, pentathlon (4507)
~ Six school records
~ Candidate, Bowerman Award...
Just like Eaton.
If it seems there is an almost spirit-like bond between Theisen and Eaton, well...do the math.
Update: March 11, 2011 - Theisen defended her NCAA pentathlon championship with a new collegiate record 4540 points.
Anna Bogdanova, Russia
Because of a former coach who failed to see her potential, Ms. Bogdanova almost gave up on her athletic career. Fortunately for her and the world of Track and Field, she found a coach who believed.
She went on to become a two-time Russian national indoor champion ('08, '09) and outdoor champion ('07), and in 2009, won the European Indoor pentathlon. Her PR total in the heptathlon is 6,465.
Bogdanova is a great leaper and runs the 800-meters in the 2:09 range.
Anna sat out the 2010 season after the birth of her first child, a daughter.
Expect Bogdanova to make her presence known in 2011 - and beyond.
photo credit: LIFE
Jessica Ennis, Great Britain
Jessica Ennis—the premier multi-athlete in the world today.
In my humble opinion, kilogram-for-kilogram, the greatest female athlete on the planet.
Barring injury, Ennis is almost guaranteed to become the gold medal winner and the darling of the London Olympics 2012.
~ Defending champion, European Indoor, pentathlon
~ Defending champion, World Outdoor, heptathlon
~ Defending champion, World Indoor, pentathlon
~ World-class 100-meter hurdler
~ Personal best 6,823 heptathlon
~ Fabulous Caribbean complexion and good looks
Reeth Abraham, India
I couldn't resist including an online acquaintance who exemplifies the graceful maturity of a former athlete who continues to stay in great shape.
Reeth, a former multi-athlete who competed in the Joyner-Kersee era, is an Arjuna Award winner (India's highest athletic award). She held several national records and was national champion in three separate disciplines. Abraham was also a multiple gold medalist in international competition.
Update, July 18, 2011 - Abraham demonstrated her fitness and durability by claiming two silver medals for her country (triple jump, long jump) in her age group at the recent World Masters Championships in Sacramento, CA.
As a founding member of Clean Sports India, she is once again a trailblazer for Indian athletes. CSI advocates for an athletic environment free from drugs, political influence and corruption.
She looks fantastic, doesn't she?
Thank you for taking the tour. Go out and enjoy a track meet or two this year.