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2010 IAAF Combined Events Challenge review – Barras and Chernova take the honours

Tatyana Chernova of Russia during the Pentathlon Long Jump (Getty Images)Tatyana Chernova of Russia during the Pentathlon Long Jump (Getty Images) © Copyright

Frenchman Romain Barras concluded a splendid 2010 season with a victory in the IAAF World Combined Events Challenge.

For the 30-year-old decathlete from Pas de Calais the win in the IAAF Combined Events Challenge was the icing on the cake after a memorable year in which he tallied a total of 25063 points. Barras won the European title in Barcelona with 8453 points and the European Cup of Combined Events in Tallin with 8313 points and finished second in Gotzis with 8297 points on a rainy weekend.

In the overall Decathlon ranking Barras beat Olympic bronze and World silver medallist Leonel Suarez of Cuba (24857 points) and American Jake Arnold (24627 points).

“The first place in the IAAF Challenge is the prize for my consistency during the year. It’s a great joy to win the Combined Event Challenge,” said Barras.

The women’s IAAF Combined Events Challenge title went to former World Junior champion and Beijing Olympic bronze medallist Tatyana Chernova of Russia. Chernova secured the overall first place tallying a total of 19537 points  thanks to  6572 points score for second place in Gotzis, 6512 points for fourth place at the European Championships in Barcelona and 6453 points score which earned a win at the end-of- season Decastar meeting in Talence in France.  Chernova prevailed over World silver and European bronze medallist Jennifer Oeser of Germany (19303 points) and Beijing Olympic champion Natalya Dobrynska (19110 points).

The 2010 IAAF Combined Events Challenge featured five top annual meetings (the Multistars in Desenzano del Garda, the Hypo Meeting in Gotzis, the TNT-Fortuna Combined Events Challenge meeting in Kladno, the Erdgas Mehrkampf meeting in Ratingen and the Decastar meeting in Talence). Valuable scores for the Combined Events Challenge Ranking could be scored at the US Track and Field Championships in Des Moines, at the European Cup Combined Events, at the European Athletics Championships in Barcelona, at the African Championships in Nairobi, at the Commonwealth Games in New Dehli and at the Asian Games in Guangzhou.

Barras became the fourth Frenchman to win a European Decathlon title following in the footsteps of Ignace Heinrich (Brussels 1950), French record holder Christian Plaziat (Split 1990) and Alain Blondel (Helsinki 1994). He built up his reputation as an outstanding second-day performer in both Gotzis and Barcelona.

In the famous Austrian meeting Barras finished the first day in ninth place but caught up positions thanks to a formidable second day and in particular the Pole Vault (5.00 m), the Javelin Throw (61.48 m) and the 1500 metres (4:31.07).

Barras finished runner-up in Gotzis with 8297 points behind Olympic champion Bryan Clay who scored a then season’s best 8483 points. Suarez completed the Hypo-Meeting podium in third place with 8286 points. Clay returned for the Kladno meeting but was forced to withdraw following a groin injury in the 100m, as it turned out he was out for the rest of the season.

“A second place in Gotzis behind Clay is a dream result. The conditions in which the second day was held was like hell. It was not a pleasure to compete in these conditions but thanks to the support of the crowd I found the strength to finish second,” said Barras in Gotzis.

In Barcelona Barras won a hard-fought battle with Dutchman Eeco Sintnicolas, who was beaten by just 17 points. The Frenchman coached by Jean Yves Cochand was ranked sixth after the first five events with 4244 points. During the second day in the Estadio Olimpico de Montjuic held in rainy conditions an outstanding Pole Vault contest proved to be the key in the dramatic fight between Barras and Sintnicolaas. Barras tied his pole vault PB with 5.05 but 2009 European Under-23 champion Sintnicolaas produced a massive PB by vaulting a sensational 5.45m which catapulted him into second place. Barras, fourth after the Pole Vault, narrowly missed his javelin PB with a solid throw to 65.77m and overtook Sintnicolaas by just 5 points before the 1500 metres.

The battle for the European title came down to the wire in the 1500 metres where Sintnicolaas needed to finish ahead of Barras to claim the win but the Frenchman ran an outstanding race prevailing over the Dutchman in 4:28.43 to 4:30.31.

“I cannot associate Romain Barras with the title of European champion. I cannot believe it. This is the result of hard work and a lot of sacrifices during my career,” he was quoted in Barcelona.

Sintnicolaas is the new name in Decathlon and will certainly be one to watch in the future. He finished fourth in the IAAF Challenge with 24613 points (Gotzis 8159, Barcelona 8436, Talence 8018).  

The 2010 World Combined Events Challenge also confirmed Leonel Suarez as one of the top names. Although he did not come close to his career peak achieved during 2009 when he won the silver medal at the IAAF World Championships in Berlin with 8640 points, Suarez produced a solid season in which he won in Talence with 8328 points and collected two second places in Desenzano (8119 points) and Ratingen (8243 points behind his compatriot Yordani Garcia’s 8288 points) and a third place in Gotzis with 8286 points.

Former NCAA champion Jake Arnold kicked off his solid season with a win in the Multistars in Desenzano with 8141 points and kept his form throughout the year by taking a fourth place in Gotzis with 8253 points, a fifth place in Kladno with 8159 points before taking the US title at the end of June in Des Moines with 8215 points.

Tatyana Chernova scored a crucial win over Natalya Dobrynska in the Decastar meeting in Talence with 6453 to 6309 points which enabled her to overtake Jennifer Oeser in the Overall Ranking and win the final prize of 30,000 US dollars. Oeser, first in the Ranking before Talence with 19303 points, did not compete in Talence. The German started her season with 6193 points in Gotzis following a below-par performance in the Shot Put but bounced back successfully with a win on home soil in Ratingen with 6427 points before winning the European bronze medal in Barcelona with a new career best of 6683 points behind Great Britain’s Jessica Ennis (6823 points) and Dobrynska (PB 6778 points).

Jessica Ennis added the European title to her World gold medal from Berlin in 2009 with an impressive win in Barcelona with 6823 points missing Denise Lewis’ British record by just eight points. The 24-year-old British super star, who also won the Pentathlon IAAF World Indoor gold medal in Doha in 2010, competed in two combined events meetings this year and was not eligible for the final ranking as three scores are needed to be ranked for the Challenge. It was a sensible decision by Ennis on the road to the 2012 London Olympic Games where she will be the poster girl of the biggest sport event on the earth in the British capital.

During a very successful 2010 season Ennis won the first Gotzis meeting title of her career cancelling the bad memory of the serious foot injury which sidelined her in 2008. That injury dashed her dream to take part in the Olympic Games in Beijing.

Last May Ennis produced the third best performance of her career with 6689 points. She scored more points only twice at the European Championships in Barcelona (6823 points) and at the World Championships in Berlin in 2009 (6731 points). At the Mosle Stadium the Briton clocked her best ever time in the 100m Hurdles in a Heptathlon with 12.89 (beaten by just 0.02 sec by US Hyleas Fountain), cleared 1.91 in the High Jump. She then set a shot PB with 14.25m and capped the first day clocking 23.31 in the 200m when the rain started falling. Rainy conditions worsened during the second day in which Ennis leapt to 6.13m in the Long Jump. In the javelin Chernova closed the gap to just 77 points and she tried to attack the 800m going to the front but Ennis stayed on her heels and overtook the Russian with 200 metres to go to take the win in 2:11.19. Ennis missed her then-PB by just 42 points. Chernova scored the second best performance of her career with 6572 points. Only at the Olympic Games in Beijing she did better when she won the bronze medal with 6618 points.

The Barcelona European Championships was the best Heptathlon competition of the year. Ennis scored her lifetime best with 6823 points, a world season best in 2010. Her best performances were 12.95 in the 100m Hurdles, 1.89 in the High Jump, a near PB of 23.21 in the 200m ending day one as the overnight leader with 4080 points. In the Long Jump Ennis leapt 6.43, speared the javelin to a new career best of 46.71 and won the 800m in 2:10.18. Ennis broke the European Championships record held by Carolina Kluft with 6740 points set in Gothenburg 2006.

Dobrynska, second behind Ennis at the World Indoor Championships in Doha in March but seventh in Gotzis with 6023 points, improved her lifetime best to 6778 points in Barcelona to finish again runner-up.  Jennifer Oeser made a big improvement taking the bronze medal with her career best of 6683 points in Barcelona. The German improved her event PBs in the 100m Hurdles (13.37), 200m (24.07), Long Jump with a solid winning jump of 6.68 and javelin (49.17 m).

Chernova, daughter of former 4x400 relay Olympic champion Lyudmila Zenina, enjoyed a consistent season in which she also won the bronze medal at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Doha. She deserved the win in the IAAF Challenge thanks to a consistent season in which she scored twice beyond the 6500 barrier in Gotzis and Barcelona and the win in Talence which secured the overall win in the Challenge.

Hyleas Fountain ranked third in the 2010 world season list behind Ennis and Dobrynska with 6735 points, a score which earned her the US title in Des Moines in June thanks to outstanding results such as 12.93 in the 100 metres hurdles, 1.90 in the high jump, 23.28 in the 200 metres and 6.79 in the long jump. However it was the only heptathlon Fountain finished this year as she pulled out of the Gotzis competition before the javelin after holding second place on day one.

Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF

Rankings –
Men -
1. Romain Barras, FRA  25063
2. Leonel Suárez, CUB  24857
3. Jake Arnold, USA  24627
4. Eelco Sintnicolaas, NED  24613
5. Mikk Pahapill, EST  24580
6. Yordani García, CUB  24510
7. Aleksey Drozdov, RUS  24234
8. Hans van Alphen, BEL  24091
9. Andres Raja, EST  24043
10. Brent Newdick, NZL  23925
11. Eduard Mihan, BLR  23740
12. Roland Schwarzl, AUT  23552
13. Kevin Sempers, GBR  22554
14. Scott McLaren, NZL  21326
15. Guillaume Thierry, MRI  20872

Women -
1. Tatyana Chernova, RUS  19537
2. Jennifer Oeser, GER  19303
3. Natallia Dobrynska, UKR  19110
4. Eliška Klucinová, CZE  18608
5. Lyudmyla Yosypenko, UKR  18608
6. Marina Goncharova, RUS  18533
7. Karolina Tyminska, POL  18310
8. Jessica Zelinka, CAN  18266
9. Claudia Rath, GER  18127
10. Hanna Melnychenko, UKR  18094
11. Bettie Wade, USA  17948
12. Yana Maksimava, BLR  17827
13. Marisa De Aniceto, FRA  17656
14. Sofía Ifadídou, GRE  17643
15. Katerina Cachová, CZE  17484