French decathlete Kevin Mayer (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Tallinn, Estonia

Close battles expected at European Cup – PREVIEW – IAAF Combined Events Challenge

The IAAF Combined Events Challenge will this weekend (29-30) be integrated into the European Cup Combined Events and exciting contests are in store in all three divisions.

The Super League will be hosted in Tallinn, Estonia, as always seems to be the case every three years as it was previously held here in 2010, 2007 and 2004. The host nation have fielded a strong men’s team, led by 2009 European indoor champion Mikk Pahapill.

The 29-year-old won this contest back in 2005 and finished second when Tallinn played host in 2010. Pahapill recently competed in a three-discipline combined events contest in Salzburg and appears to be in form to break 8000 points, though his PB of 8398 might be safe this weekend.

He is joined on the Estonian team by Andres Raja, the defending champion, who came within five points of his PB when winning with 8114 at the last edition of this competition in 2011.

The favourite, however, could be European indoor silver medallist Kevin Mayer of France. The 2010 World junior and 2009 World youth champion competed in Gotzis last month but was one of the many athletes who did not finish in the bad weather.

It might be a big ask for the 21-year-old to break his legal PB of 8415 from last year, but based on this year’s form indoors, where he made big advances in the Shot and Hurdles, Mayer should be capable of surpassing 8000 points.

Ukraine’s Oleksiy Kasyanov is another threat. The World indoor and European silver medallist boasts a PB of 8479 and is always strong on day one.

Other contenders include Russia’s World indoor bronze medallist Artem Lukyenenko, fresh from setting a PB of 8085, and Belarusian Eduard Mikhan, who finished fourth behind Pahapill and Raja when this competition was last held in Tallin.

Olympic champion Jessica Ennis-Hill was due to contest her first Heptathlon of the season in Tallinn, but a persistent ankle injury means the Briton will not participate this weekend.

In her absence, there looks set to be a rematch of the recent TNT Fortuna Meeting in Kladno, where Ukraine’s Hanna Melnychenko won ahead of Poland’s Karolina Tyminska. On that occasion, Melnychenko won with 6416 to beat Tyminska by 56 points, but the latter has the better PB with 6544.

The best PB of the field, however, belongs to Antoinette Nana Djimou, European champion indoors and out. The French athlete struggled last month in Gotzis and score just 6058 – more than 500 points behind her 6579 PB – so she will be keen to put down a good marker ahead of this year’s IAAF World Championships.

Also in the field is Belarusian Yana Maksimava, the European indoor silver medallist. Russia, who won both the men’s and women’s team titles at the last edition in 2011, will be represented in the Heptathlon by former national indoor champion Aleksandra Butvina and 2006 World junior silver medallist Yana Panteleyeva.

European indoor champion Eelco Sintnicolaas is the favourite at the First Division competition in Nottwil, Switzerland. The Dutch record-holder also competed in Gotzis last month but withdrew before the final event. He showed improved form recently in Salzburg, so will be looking to score more than 8000 points.

Sweden look to have a strong team, led by national record-holder Niklas Wiberg, who has been out of action for much of the past three years and has not completed a Decathlon since finishing seventh at the 2009 World Championships with 8406.

The women’s Heptathlon in Nottwill looks set to be a duel between last year’s Kladno winner Eliska Klucinova and the much-improved Dutchwoman Nadine Broersen, who set a PB of 6345 last month in Gotzis in poor conditions.

The Portuguese municipality of Ribeira Brava will play host to the Second Division. The strongest men’s team there looks to be Norway with the likes of 2004 Olympian Hans Olav Uldal and reigning national champion Lars Vikan Rise.

The Norwegian women’s team is also strong, but so too is the Romanian team, which includes 5973 performer Judith Nagy.

Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF