European gold and silver medallists in the decathlon, Romain Barras and Eelco Sintnicolaas (Getty Images) © Copyright

European champs rematches on tap in Talence – Preview – IAAF World Combined Events Challenge

Talence, FranceA reunion of the top five finishers in the Decathlon from the European Championships and Nataliya Dobrinska’s quest for a record third title are on tap at this weekend’s (18-19) Decastar meeting in Talence, France.

The Decastar meeting is one of the major invitational meetings of the IAAF World Combined Events Challenge. First appearing in 1976, the meeting became an annual fixture by the mid 1980s and will be celebrating its 30th edition this weekend. Talence is the traditionally the final European stop on the Challenge schedule. The Open Oceania Championships, Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games later this year will complete this season’s Challenge.

Decathlon – Rematch of European Championships?

With Romain Barras (FRA), Eelco Sintnicolaas (NED), Andrei Krauchanka (BLR), Mikk Pahapill (EST) and Hans van Alphen (BEL), the top five finishers from July’s European championships will be lining up. Factoring in Cuba’s Leonel Suarez, the 2009 World silver medallist, and his compatriot Yordani Garcia, the start list includes seven of this season’s top-nine performers.

The home crowd will especially be interested in Barras, the newly crowned European champion. Making his ninth appearance in Talence, he was already the favourite for the French crowd, but his continental title has made the athlete from the north of France even more popular in the Acquitaine region.  They’ll be encouraging him to claim the first French victory since Laurent Hernu’s triumph in 2003.   

The surprise silver medallist in Barcelona, the young Dutchman Sintnicolaas, can be seen as one of the toughest opponents. At the European championships the gap after the final event was only 17 points. Very interesting for the audience will be that both athletes have a strong second day. Suarez as well is known as a strong second day athlete opening up the possibility that the competition truly won’t be decided until the very last moment’s of the closing 1500m.

Additionally, with Oleksey Kasyanov (UKR), Aleksey Drozdov (RUS), Maurice Smith (JAM), Brent Newdick (NZL), Pascal Behrenbruch (GER), Roland Schwarzl (AUT) and Andres Raja (EST) no less than 14 athletes in the field have tallied 8000 points or better this season.

Apart from the individual Decastar victory the athletes will also keenly watch the overall Challenge standings. The current leader is Barras with 25,063 points in three finished meetings, followed by Suarez with 24,641 points. For Sintnicolaas, this will be his third Decathlon of the season. He is an important outsider for a top three finish in the Challenge, along with Andrei Krauchanka of Belarus.

Heptathlon – Dobrynska versus Chernova

The women’s field is headed by Ukrain’s Olympic champion Nataliya Dobrynska. In Barcelona, the 28-year old showed that she is at her best this season, improving her personal best to an impressive 6778 points, up from 6733 from Beijing two years ago. She especially surprised with three personal bests in the Catalan capital – 200m, Javelin Throw and 800m – and equalling her PB in the High Jump. She thus vividly illustrated that her Olympic title was not a one-time performance.

Dobrynska has already collected victories in Talence in 2006 and 2009. Another this weekend will make her the first ever three-time Heptathlon winner here.

Her main opponent is Russia’s former World junior champion Tatyana Chernova. After her runner-up performance in Götzis earlier this year she disappointed in Barcelona by missing the podium at the European championships.

Further athletes in the field are Dobrynska’s compatriots, Hanna Melnychenko and Lyudmila Yosypenko. The strong Ukrainian troika impressed last year, but the two other Ukrainian athletes could not maintain their 2009 level thus far.

Other 6000+ athletes in the field are: Eliska Klucinova (CZE), Karolina Tyminska (POL), Marina Goncharova (RUS), Jessica Samuelsson (SWE), Sara Aerts (BEL), Marisa de Aniceto (FRA) and Bettie Wade (USA). 

After having given birth to her daughter, Anika, Canada’s Jessica Zelinka will be making her comeback on the international Heptathlon scene.

With numerous obligations, European champion and 2010 world leader, Briton Jessica Ennis, has decided to conclude her season. Skipping Talence and next month’s Commonwealth Games, Ennis will thus not qualify for the 2010 Challenge as she has only competed in two competitions this year.

The actual leader in the standings of the Challenge is Germany’s Jennifer Oeser with 19,303 points, followed by Lyudmyla Yosypenko with 18.608 points. Her main rivals for the overall title are Chernova and Dobrynska, who have competed twice thus far this season. The main contender to take over the lead is Chernova, who with a score of 6220 will overtake Oeser in the overall standings. That will of course be the Russian’s goal as she aims to bounce back from her disappointing fourth place showing at the European championships.

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Hans van Kuijen for the IAAF