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Heptathlon vs. Decathlon — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman & Maham Liaqat — Updated on March 19, 2024
Heptathlon consists of seven track and field events over two days, focusing on a broad athletic skill set, while Decathlon involves ten events over three days, challenging athletes with a more extensive range of disciplines.
Heptathlon vs. Decathlon — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Heptathlon and Decathlon


Key Differences

Heptathlon is a multi-event athletic competition consisting of seven track and field events over two days, designed to test an athlete's versatility and endurance. The events include a combination of sprints, hurdles, jumps, and throws. The heptathlon is primarily competed in by women in the Olympics and other international competitions, whereas men compete in the indoor heptathlon during indoor seasons. The scoring system awards points based on performance in each event, with the overall winner having the highest total. On the other hand, the Decathlon is a grueling ten-event track and field competition spread over three days, intended for male athletes. It encompasses a more diverse set of disciplines than the heptathlon, including sprints, middle-distance running, hurdles, jumps, and throws. The decathlon is recognized for its demand on an athlete's versatility, strength, speed, and endurance. Like the heptathlon, points are awarded for performance in each event, aiming to identify the athlete with the greatest all-around track and field ability.
While both competitions require a wide range of skills, the heptathlon is tailored more towards speed and agility, featuring events like the 200 meters and 800 meters. The decathlon, however, leans slightly more towards strength and endurance, including longer events such as the 1500 meters and the 110 meters hurdles. This difference highlights the unique challenges and skills required by each competition.
The training regimen for athletes competing in the heptathlon vs. the decathlon also differs due to the varied nature of the events. Heptathletes may focus more on speed and technique for the shorter, faster events, while decathletes need to incorporate more endurance and strength training to excel across the additional disciplines, especially those requiring greater physical strength.
Despite these differences, both the heptathlon and decathlon athletes share a common trait: the ability to excel across multiple track and field disciplines. This versatility makes them among the most well-rounded athletes in the sport, capable of demonstrating exceptional skill, endurance, and adaptability.

Comparison Chart

Number of Events



2 days
3 days

Gender Participation

Primarily women (Olympics and international)


Outdoor (women), Indoor (men)

Key Skills

Speed, agility, technique
Strength, endurance, versatility

Events Example

200m, 800m, High Jump
1500m, 110m Hurdles, Pole Vault

Scoring System

Points awarded based on performance in each event
Points awarded based on performance in each event

Typical Training Focus

Speed, technique, agility
Strength, endurance, versatility

Compare with Definitions


A track and field combined events contest made up of seven events.
She's been training hard for the heptathlon, focusing on her hurdles and high jump.


A ten-event track and field competition over three days.
The decathlon's final event, the 1500 meters, is a true test of endurance.


An athletic competition that includes sprints, jumps, and throws.
Her best heptathlon event is the javelin throw.


A combination of sprints, middle-distance, hurdles, jumps, and throws.
His strength in the throws significantly boosted his decathlon score.


A multi-event track and field competition.
The heptathlon concludes with the 800 meters, often deciding the winner.


A multi-discipline track and field event.
Training for the decathlon requires a balanced approach to all ten events.


A two-day athletic event for women in the Olympics.
The heptathlon is one of the most challenging events, testing a wide range of athletic skills.


An athletic contest designed for men in outdoor track and field.
He broke the record for the decathlon with an incredible pole vault.


A test of versatility and endurance in athletics.
Winning the heptathlon requires consistent performance across all seven events.


A supreme test of athletic versatility and endurance.
The decathlon champion is often dubbed the world's greatest athlete.


A heptathlon is a track and field combined events contest made up of seven events. The name derives from the Greek επτά (hepta, meaning “seven”) and ἄθλος (áthlos, or ἄθλον, áthlon, meaning "feat").


The decathlon is a combined event in athletics consisting of ten track and field events. The word "decathlon" was formed, in analogy to the word "pentathlon", from Greek δέκα (déka, meaning "ten") and ἄθλος (áthlos, or ἄθλον, áthlon, meaning "contest" or “prize”).


An athletic contest usually limited to women in which each contestant participates in the following seven track and field events
200-meter and 800-meter runs, 100-meter hurdles, shot put, javelin throw, high jump, and long jump.


An athletic contest consisting of ten track and field events
The 100-meter, 400-meter, and 1,500-meter runs.
The 110-meter high hurdles.
The discus and javelin throws.
The shot put.
The pole vault.
The high jump.
And the long jump. Participation in the decathlon is traditionally limited to men.


(athletics) An athletic contest comprising seven events; contested mostly by women, for whom this is an Olympic sport.


An athletic contest consisting of ten events which includes sprinting, hurdling, jumping, and throwing over a span of two days.


A contest in science and math proving skill.


In the modern Olympic Games, a composite contest consisting of a 100-meter run, a broad jump, putting the shot, a running high-jump, a 400-meter run, throwing the discus, a 100-meter hurdle race, pole vaulting, throwing the javelin, and a 1500-meter run.


An athletic contest consisting of ten different events

Common Curiosities

How is the winner determined in these competitions?

Winners are determined by the total points scored across all events, with points awarded based on performance.

Can men compete in the heptathlon?

Yes, men can compete in the heptathlon, but it is typically in indoor championships, while women compete in the heptathlon outdoors.

What is the main difference between a heptathlon and a decathlon?

The main difference is the number of events and duration; the heptathlon includes seven events over two days, primarily for women, while the decathlon consists of ten events over three days, for men.

What are the key skills for a decathlon athlete?

Key skills include strength, endurance, versatility, and the ability to compete in a wide range of track and field events.

Which events are included in the heptathlon?

The heptathlon typically includes 100m hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200m, long jump, javelin throw, and 800m.

Are the scoring systems for heptathlon and decathlon the same?

Both competitions use a points system based on performance, but the tables calculating points are event-specific.

What makes the decathlon challenging?

The decathlon is challenging due to its requirement for athletes to excel in ten diverse events that test speed, strength, and endurance.

How often do these events take place in the Olympics?

Both events take place every four years during the Summer Olympics.

What is the most physically demanding event in the decathlon?

The 1500 meters is often considered the most physically demanding due to its position as the final event and its test of endurance.

Has anyone ever won both the heptathlon and decathlon in the Olympics?

No, due to the gender-specific nature of these events in the Olympics, it's not possible.

Do heptathletes and decathletes train differently?

Yes, due to the different events, heptathletes may focus more on speed and agility, while decathletes train for strength and endurance.

What's the highest score ever recorded in the decathlon?

As of my last update, Kevin Mayer of France holds the record with 9,126 points, set in 2018.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.
Co-written by
Maham Liaqat

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