Belarusian decathlete Andrei Krauchanka (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Florence, Italy

Krauchanka to face former winner Xhonneux at Multistars

The Multistars Trofeo Zerneri Acciai meeting on 2-3 May will kick off the 2013 IAAF Combined Events Challenge series, but for the first time in the meeting’s 26-year history, it will not be held in the traditional venue of Desenzano del Garda.

Instead it will be held in the beautiful Tuscan city of Florence at the Luigi Ridolfi athletics stadium, the venue of two editions of the SPAR European Cup in 2003 and 2005.

Andrei Krauchanka will headline this year’s Multistars meeting. The Belarusian began his international career in Tuscany when he won the World Junior Championships in Grosseto in 2004. But his real breakthrough came when he won the famous Gotzis Hypo Meeting in 2007 when he improved the European under-23 best to 8617, smashing his previous PB by 604 points.

Krauchanka enjoyed an excellent 2008 season in which he won the World Indoor silver medal, the Olympic silver medal in Bejing, the Talence Decastar meeting and capped that year with the IAAF Combined Events Challenge title. In 2011 he won the European indoor Heptathlon title in Paris, setting a PB of 6282 to improve on the bronze medal he won in Birmingham 2007.

The second-best athlete in the field is a former Multistars winner Frederic Xhonneux from Belgium who surprisingly won this meeting in 2008 with a national record of 8142 points after setting five individual PBs.

The one thing both athletes have in common is that they were forced to skip the 2012 summer season. Krauchanka and Xhonneux will doubtless be eager to get back to 8000-point territory ahead of this year’s World Championships in Moscow.

Another athlete returning to the Multistars meeting is Great Britain’s 2011 World University Games fifth-place finisher Ashley Bryant, who was the runner-up last year in Desenzano with 7689, later improving his PB to 7837 in Gotzis. The British contingent is also represented by Commonwealth bronze medallist Martin Brockman.

The international field is completed by Australian pair Stephen Cain (7844 PB) and Jarrod Sims (7706 PB), while domestic hopes are carried by Italian indoor Heptathlon champion Michele Calvi.

6000 points the target for De Souza, Nagy and Proper

The women’s field is led by Romanian champion Judit Nagy, who will be looking to break 6000 points for the first time after coming close to that target last year with her 5973 PB.

But hot on her heels will by World junior bronze medallist Tamara De Sousa from Brazil, who has a PB of 5900 and has already competed in two Heptathlons this spring. The dark horse could be Kelly Proper, the Irish record-holder in the Long Jump, who will be making her Heptathlon debut and could add another national record to her tally if she breaks 5400.

Also in the field are two young Dutch talents – 18-year-old Nadine Visser, winner of the 100m Hurdles at the 2011 European Youth Olympic Festival, and 20-year-old Anouk Vetter, who won national junior titles last year in the Heptathlon (5764) and Javelin (52.95m).

National indoor Pentathlon champion Laura Rendina and 2012 national Heptathlon champion Elisa Trevisan will lead Italian hopes.

The Italian meeting, launched in 1988 by the local Athletics Club Salò at Lake Garda, has been a springboard for future stars. Athletes from 64 countries have competed in the event, which has helped launched the careers of reigning Olympic champion Jessica Ennis, former World record-holder Roman Sebrle, 2000 Olympic champion Denise Lewis, 2004 Olympic bronze medallist Kelly Sotherton, 2005 World bronze medallist Margaret Simpson, and 2004 Olympic bronze medallist Dimitri Karpov.

Ennis’s first appearance at Multistars was in 2003 at the age of 17 when she scored 5116. Just four years later she won the title with 6388, then again in 2009 with a meeting record of 6587 before going on to win further major titles at the World Championships in Berlin 2009, the World Indoor Championships in 2010, the 2010 European Championships and, above all, the Olympic gold medal in London 2012.

The British tradition at Multistars continued last year when another rising star, Katarina Johnson-Thompson, broke Ennis’ British junior record by finishing third with 6007 points, a result she improved twice more during the season in Kladno (6248) and at the London Olympic Games where she finished 15th with 6267.

This year, with the assistance of the organisers of the Florence Marathon, the Florence Multistars meeting will feature a series of invitational events to add extra spice to the two-day meeting. Among the extra events there are a Hammer competition with 2000 Olympic silver medallist and 2010 European silver medallist Nicola Vizzoni, a 4x100m Relay with the best Italian sprinters and a 300m Hurdles race with Yadisleidy Pedroso, an Italian 400m hurdler of Cuban origin who recently set a World 200m Hurdles best of 24.8.

Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF