Kevin Mayer and Evelis Aguilar capped their 2020 campaigns with victories at the Meeting de la Réunion, the opening competition of the 2021 World Athletics Challenge - Combined Events, on the Indian Ocean island of Réunion on Saturday (19).
Mayer, the world record-holder, tallied 8552 points to take a convincing victory, and more importantly, securing his qualifying mark for next summer's Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Aguilar, the South American record-holder, collected 6055 points to fend off Estonian Mari Klaup's late challenge by 41 points.
Mayer, the overnight leader, was never seriously threatened. The Frenchman started the day strong, clocking 13.54 to win the 110m hurdles, chipping 0.01 from his lifetime best in the process. That upped his lead to 361 points heading into the discus competition where his 50.32m best effort was also the best of the competition, giving him 6262 points and a 471-point advantage over his young compatriot Makenson Gletty.
Playing it safe, he entered the pole vault competition at a modest 4.35m, more than a metre under his outdoor personal best, and sailed clear on his first attempt. He then cleared 4.45m and 4.65m on his first tries before bowing out at 4.75m, for another 804 points.
He threw the javelin 67.76m, also the farthest of the competition, before capping the day with a 4:47.74 clocking in the 1500m, to end this most unusual year as the world leader.
"I'm relieved," Mayer told the AFP. "It takes off a lot of pressure and a burden has been lifted."
Taavi Tsernjavski of Estonia, who was fourth after day one, opened the second with a 14.55 lifetime best in the high hurdles, before moving up to third after a 48.15m discus throw. A 4.75m clearance in the pole vault, worth 834 points, moved him up to second, but he dropped to fourth after a 57.70m effort in the javelin. He closed with a 4:34.94 run in the final event to finish second overall with 8030 points.
Further back, his compatriot Risto Lillemets was third with 7993, with Frenchman Axel Hubert fourth with 7980, just two points clear of Gletty.
In the heptathlon, Aguilar, who began the day in third, took command quickly to snatch the lead for good after a 6.12m leap in the long jump, the longest of the competition and worth 887 points. That put her 46 points clear of overnight leader Cassandre Aguessy Thomas and in the proverbial driver's seat.
Aguilar followed with a solid 47.69m throw in the javelin, the third best of the day before wrapping up the win and her eighth 6000-plus point performance with a 2:21.75 run in the 800m.
Klaup, fifth after the first day and sixth before the two final events, rallied with a 53.07m effort in the javelin, the farthest of the competition, to move into second, 46 points behind the Colombian. But her 2:21.39 run in the 800m left her 41 points short of a victory. Nonetheless, her 6014 tally was the third best of her career, 66 shy of her 6080 personal best set in Tallinn in August.
Austria's Sara Lagger, sixth after the opening day, finished third with 6010 points.
Hanna Kasyanova, the 2013 world champion who was second after the first day, finished a distant fourth with 5782.
Bob Ramsak for World Athletics