Bryan Clay, wins the men's Olympic decathlon title with the largest winning margin since 1972 (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Talence, France

Clay and Dobrynska line-up for IAAF World Combined Events Challenge finale in Talence – PREVIEW

The best combined events specialists in the world of this year will gather in the French town of Talence, near Bordeaux, for the annual end-of-season combined events Decastar meeting  which this year celebrates its 32nd edition. It is also the final meeting for this year's IAAF World Combined Events Challenge.

Decathlon - Clay looks for American record

Three weeks after the Olympic Games Decathlon this meeting will be headed by the new Olympic champion from Beijing, Bryan Clay. The USA athlete, who won with a superb score of 8791 points in bad weather conditions especially the first day. At the end he was more than 200 points ahead of his pursuers Andrei Kravchenko (BLR) and the 20 year old Cuban athlete, Leonel Suarez.

Kravchenko will also line up in Talence for a rematch of the medal split at the Olympic games. Under, hopefully, better weather conditions and a time table which is more friendly for the combined events athletes an interesting competition may be expected.

Clay is still chasing for the USA record, which is owned by the former World record holder Dan O’Brien, who achieved  8891 points in Talence in 1992. Clay missed this score this year twice with less than 100 points. He is certainly able to beat this score, especially with normal performances in the first 9 events, however he needs to perform also a decent score in the 1500 m., which he did not in Beijing where he ended this event in a lean 5:06.59  

The 22-year-old, Belarus, athlete, Kravchenko returned after a long injury with an impressive score of 8585 points at the European cup final in Hengelo and almost equaled this score in Beijing.

The impressive Talence line-up is further completed with home favourite, Romain Barras, who finished 5th in Beijing and Aleksandr Pogorelov – Russia – who preceded Barras at the Olympics in 4th place.  Also the world number 2 of Osaka, the Jamaican, Maurice Smith will be present in Talence.

Heptathlon is also a rematch of Beijing

In the women’s field, from the first 7 in Beijing, only number 5, the Canadian Jessica Zelinka, will not start. The field is headed by the surprising winner, Natalia Dobrynska, who improved at the Olympics her best score – from Götzis 2004 - with 350 points. In 5 from 7 events she scored a PB in Beijing.

Dobrynska will be accompanied by the other medal winners of Beijing, Hyleas Fountain – USA - and the young Russian Tatyana Chernova. Both who did not originally receive the correct medal at the victory ceremony in Beijing, due to the later disqualification of Ukrainian athlete, Lyudmila Blonska who was being caught for doping.

Furthermore the field will be completed with the World championships bronze in Osaka 2007, Kelly Sotherton (GBR). Further strong contenders are Anna Bogdanova (RUS) – 6th in Beijing, Virginia Johnson (USA) – 4th at the Olympic trials in Eugene -, and Karolina Tyminska (POL).

The home crowd will be interested in the performances of local hero, Marie Collonvillé. The 34-year-old athlete, can achieve her 30th 6000 score in Talence. Only 4 athletes passed this mark earlier.

IAAF Combined Events Challenge

With the conclusion of this year’s Decastar meeting, also the winners of the the IAAF Combined Events Challenge 2008, will be known. At this moment it is already sure that, as for men and women, new names will be crowned for this prestigious annual award.

Before the meeting in Talence the Cuban athlete, Leonel Suarez, is leading with a score of 25,344 points, before the Dutch athlete Eugene Martineau, with 24,449 points. They have scored already in 3 meetings, which is needed to achieve the maximum number of points. As both athletes will not start in Talence they can not further improve their scores.

Most important candidate to win this 2008 award will be Bryan Clay. With already 17,623 points in 2 meetings, he needs less than 7800 points to pass Suarez. Also Kravchenko is able to pass Suarez. He needs a total of 8208 points.

In the women’s competition, there is a more or less comparable situation. Lilli Schwarzkopf (GER), has the best score before Talence, with 19,231 points, ahead of her compatriot Jennifer Oeser. Both athletes will also not improve their result as they have finished the season already after the heptathlon in Beijing.

The best chances for the Heptathlon award are for Hyleas Fountain, who scored 13,286 points in 2 meetings. She is followed by Tatyana Chernova with an arrear of only 77 points. The third athlete with 2 scores is Olympic champion – Natalya Dobrynska – with 13,001 points. Very likely all these athletes will pass the German athletes.

All elements are available for an interesting closure of the 2008 combined events season.

Hans van Kuijen for the IAAF