Winston Churchill once said "When you're going through hell, keep going". We tell the story of five multi-eventers who simply refused to give up.

Nadine Broersen

Nadine Broersen would have been hoping for a better start to her inaugural world championship heptathlon that the one she got in Moscow 2013. In the 100m hurdles, the competition’s opening event, the 23-year-old fell, and although she was still able to cross the line, she clocked the slowest time and was left rock bottom of the 33-woman field.

To her massive credit, Broersen performed well over the remaining six events and managed to finish 10th overall. This spirited recovery would have in no way made up for the disappointment she felt after the opening event, and compounded the heartbreak she suffered at the European indoor champs earlier in the same year. At that champs in Gothenburg, she was disqualified in the 800m – the last event of the competition – sending her from medal contention to second to last place.

Nadine Broersen Moscow 2013 ()

Clattering a hurdle in the Moscow 2013 World Championships left Broersen rock bottom of the standings after the first event

Redemption came six months later at the world indoor championships in Sopot. Broersen established a lead after the second event of the pentathlon (the high jump, where she set a NR 1.93m) and never looked back. Her final 4830 points haul saw her notch another national record, and more importantly win world champs gold.

She told the IAAF afterwards: “I didn’t have any kind of revenge feelings here. I knew I could win a medal but you have to do it. And now I’ve done it. It’s a dream come true for me, this.”

Morgan Lake

After the first day of the heptathlon at the Donetsk 2013 World Youth Championships, Morgan Lake was more than living up to her billing as the latest multi-events starlet to emerge from Great Britain. She led the field by 192 points, having won three out of four events (including a UK U17 record 1.90m clearance in the high jump that would have won her gold in that event).

However, on day two Lake learned just how quickly the wheels can come off in a multi-events competition. In the long jump she opened up with a modest 4.63m before fouling in the subsequent two rounds. A 30.81m javelin throw left her languishing down in sixth, and she dropped out of the final event with her hopes of a medal scuppered.

“I didn’t really get a good night’s sleep, and that let me down on day two,” she told us of that experience. “After each event, I was thinking about the last one rather than the next one.”

At last year’s world junior champs, Lake showed that she had learned from her Ukrainian crisis. On the same Eugene track that Ashton Eaton set his decathlon world record, Lake won gold with a new heptathlon world youth record of 6148pts. She also won high jump gold with 1.93m, which would have been a PB had she not jumped 1.94m in the heptathlon.

Morgan Lake 2014 Oregon SPIKES ()

All's well that ends well. Lake took double gold in Oregon.

Rafer Johnson

In 1955 – in what was only his fourth ever ten-event comp – American Rafer Johnson broke the decathlon world record. That achievement in itself represents a remarkable recovery: as a child, Johnson had one of his feet crushed by a set of rollers while playing on a conveyor belt outside a meet packing factory, resulting in a debilitating infection and a lifetime of pain.

But Johnson’s greatest slice of sporting redemption was still to come. At the Melbourne Olympics in 1956, Johnson was due to compete in both the decathlon and long jump. He was one of the strong favourites in both competitions until he sustained a knee injury in the weeks before the Games. He pulled out of the long jump to focus on the decathlon, where he struggled through to claim silver.

That medal was not the colour he wanted and it came at a cost, and surgery and months of rehab followed. After a gruelling return to fitness, and in 1959, just a year before his chance to claim the Olympic title that he craved, Johnson was involved in a serious car accident that resulted in damage to his spinal cord and lower back.

After another lengthy stint of painful rehab, during which he was unable to even run for seven months, he managed to qualify for the Olympic team that headed to Rome 1960.

The odds might have been stacked against him, but Johnson performed consistently across the first nine events and held a slender lead going into the final event. His UCLA training partner Yang Chuan-Kwang – AKA “The Iron Man of Asia” – trailed him in second, and was in a position to overhaul the deficit if he could run ten seconds faster in the 1500m. This looked likely: Chuan-Kwang’s PB was some 15secs faster than Johnson’s. And yet Johnson was not going to let this opportunity slip; when Chuan-Kwang made his move, Johnson stuck to his shoulder to run a PB, keeping the gap down to 1.2 secs and claiming gold against all odds.

One of the greatest decathlon battles in the history of the sport

Eunice Barber

Eunice Barber went in to the Edmonton 2001 World Championships as the reigning champion in the heptathlon. Two events into the competition, she looked like a shoe-in to retain her title, topping the standings after a 12.78 in the 100m hurdles (fastest by 0.25 secs) and 1.88m in the high jump (joint highest).

However, in the third event, the shot put, she somehow recorded three no throws that dumped her out of the competition without any chance at even a medal. It was a devastating moment for Barber, who was competing for France after escaping the civil war in Sierra Leone, the country of her birth.

Eunice Barber 2001 Shot Put SPIKES ()

"I'll be back"

At the world championships two years later, competing in front of a home crowd in the Stade de France, Paris, Barber was amongst the favourites. This time round it wasn’t no throws that denied her the gold, but a marauding, record breaking Swede called Carolina Klüft, who set PBs in six of the seven events (curiously a feat that Barber herself had managed at the 1995 world championships, although that was only good enough for fourth).

Barber had to settle for silver in heptathlon, but refused to stop there. She entered the long jump, where she claimed gold with a leap of 6.99m, securing one of France's three gold medals at the world championships.

Roman Šebrle

The adversity in Czech athlete Roman Sebrle’s life begins in 1987. Aged 13, he suffered a double leg break after colliding with a goalkeeper while playing football. It resulted in a lengthy period of rehabilitation during which he had to teach himself how to walk again.

After recovering from this, Sebrle began to show his prowess after joining the TJ Dukla Prahaa army sports club while completing his compulsory national service.

Roman Sebrle 2007 Osaka SPIKES ()

That it took him a few attempts to win decathlon world champs gold made Sebrle's victory in Osaka 2007 all the sweeter.

At the Sydney Olympics it looked like he was on course to win decathlon gold after the competition leader Erki Nool was red-flagged three times by the discus judge, leaving Sebrle as the champion elect. However the competition referee overruled the decision and Sebrle was left to settle for silver.

Sebrle was favourite going in to the world championships the following year, having claimed the world indoor crown with a world record points haul earlier in the year, and breaking the decathlon world record in Götzis (a record that stood unbroken until Ashton Eaton’s heroics at Hayward Field in 2012).

A major outdoor championship medal would have made his 2001 season one of the most momentous years in the history of track and field. However, Sebrle sustained a calf injury ahead of the champs that put him out of training for ten days. A messed up hurdles race at the start of day two saw him post the slowest time by almost two seconds, and it resulted in him struggling through to a heartbreaking tenth place finish.

By the time the 2004 Olympics came round, Sebrle was still without a global decathlon championship gold medal. The world record holder was not going to let another opportunity pass him by, and claimed the title ahead of Flyin’ Bryan Clay.

Sebrle was the world record holder and Olympic champion, but he was still without a outdoor world champs gold. In another bizarre turn of fate, he was met with more adversity at the beginning of 2007 when his shoulder was impaled by a javelin thrown by his good friend Sunette Viljoen at a training session in South Africa. It wasn’t an ideal start to a year when he was hunting down that elusive world crown, yet Sebrle proved himself to be the ultimate competitor, and remarkably won in Osaka to complete his medal haul at the ripe old age of 32.