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Götzis and Talence, ‘touch the sky’ - IAAF Combined Events Challenge

Roman Sebrle of the Czech Republic celebrates jumping 2.11m in the men's Decathlon High Jump (Getty Images)Roman Sebrle of the Czech Republic celebrates jumping 2.11m in the men's Decathlon High Jump (Getty Images) © Copyright

The meetings of Götzis (AUT) and Talence (FRA) have been part of the IAAF Combined Events Challenge since the birth of this global circuit in 1998, with the Austrian meeting holding the distinction of possessing the current World record set by Czech Roman Sebrle at the Challenge meeting in 2001.

In the decades before the Challenge was born, Götzis’ reputation as the mecca of the combined events world had been established via the two World records of Britain’s Daley Thompson, while Talence celebrated a World record thanks to the brilliant exploits of USA’s Dan O’Brien at its meeting in 1992.

Thompson’s epic German duels

During his career Daley Thompson set two World records in the legendary Mösle Stadium in Götzis, the first of which in 1980 when he scored 8622 points improving the previous record held by USA’s Bruce Jenner by just four points. Jenner had set this record in the process of winning the Olympic title in Montreal 1976.

In 1980, the year of the Olympic boycott by many Western countries of the Moscow Olympic Games, the Götzis meeting acted as a true “replacement” for many athletes who could not compete in the former Soviet capital later in the summer. The Austrian meeting reunited both Western and Eastern athletes.

Thompson beat Western Germans Guido Kratschmer and Jürgen Hingsen scoring 8622 points (10.55sec in the 100 metres, 7.72m in the Long Jump, 14.46m in the Shot Put, 2.11m in the High Jump, 48.04sec in the 400 metres, 14.37sec in the 110 metres Hurdles, 42.98m in the Discus Throw, 4.90m in the Pole Vault, 65.38m in the Javelin Throw and 4:25.49 in the 1500 metres).

While this World record did not last long, as one month later Kratschmer broke it with with 8649 points in Bernhausen, later in the summer Thompson went on to win the first of his Olympic gold medals in Moscow with 8495 points.

Two years later Thompson returned to the Mösle Stadium to take the World record back. With 8704 points Thompson, who in 1983 would become the inaugural World Champion, set the second of what would be a total of four World records of his career.

He established a fabulous overnight score of 4632 points thanks to 10.50sec in the 100 metres, a hugely impressive 7.95m leap in the Long Jump, 15.31m in the Shot Put, 2.08m in the High Jump, and ending the day with 46.86sec in the 400 metres. It was the best ever first-day score at that time, and despite the wind and the rain Thompson managed to score many PBs in the single events.

During the second day Thompson scored 14.31sec in the 110 metres Hurdles, 44.34m in the Discus Throw, 4.90m in the Pole Vault, 60.52m in the Javelin Throw and, as ever, an agonising 4:30.55 in the 1500 metres.

In the wake of Thompson’s record Hingsen produced the best score of his career so far with 8529 points.

The 1982 season was remarkable for Decathlon with two more World records. Hingsen improved Thompson’s World record to 8723 three months later in Ulm with the Briton breaking it again with 8743 points at the 1982 European Championships in Athens.

New tables

Hingsen and Thompson were the two dominant forces in the Decathlon in the two following seasons. Hingsen set the World record twice improving to 8779 points in 1983 and to 8798 points in 1984, but exactly two months later Thompson produced the best Decathlon of his career at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles with 8798 points, equalling Hingsen’s record.

In 1985 new scoring tables had come into force which made Hingsen’s marks worth 8832 points and Thompson’s marks worth 8847 points. Thompson thus became the sole record holder.

O’Brien makes-up for missing Barcelona

Thompson’s World record remained unbeaten until September 1992 when USA’s Dan O’Brien improved it by 44 points to 8891 points in Talence.

O’Brien, the IAAF World champion in Tokyo 1991, who would go onto win the next two titles in Stuttgart 1993 and Gothenburg 1995 and finally the Olympic gold in Atlanta 1996, had taken on the World record assault in Talence in an attempt to make-up for the disappointment for failing to make the US team for the Olympic Games in Barcelona 1992.  During the US Olympic Trials in New Orleans he had failed his three attempts at the opening height in the Pole Vault, and as a result one of the seemingly sure-fire favourities of the entire Olympic Games never even made it to the starting line.

In Talence, O’Brien started impressively during the first day with 10.43sec in the 100 metres, 8.08m in the Long Jump, 16.69m in the Shot Put, 2.07m in the High Jump and 48.51 in the 400 metres, and during the second day produced 13.98sec in the 110 metres Hurdles, 48.56m in the Discus Throw, 5.00 metres in the Pole Vault, 62.58m in the Javelin Throw, and 4:42.10 in the 1500 metres.

Sebrle brings back the record to Götzis

In Prague in 1999, O’Brien’s record was broken by Czech Tomas Dvorak who missed the magic 9000 points barrier by just 6 points when he set the world record with 8994 points.

The first man to go beyond the milestone barrier was Dvorak’s compatriot Roman Sebrle who broke the World record at the 2001 edition of the Götzis meeting with 9026 points in front of about 5000 enthusiastic fans.

“Sebrle touched the sky”, printed the Czech newspaper Sport to celebrate Sebrle’s achievement at the Mösle Stadium on 27 May 2001.

Sebrle started with 10.64 in the 100 metres, then leapt to an impressive 8.11m in the Long Jump, produced 15.33m in the Shot Put, cleared 2.12m in the High Jump and clocked 47.79sec in the 400 metres. During the second day he ran 13.92 in the 110 metres Hurdles, threw 47.92m in the Discus Throw, cleared 4.80m in the Pole Vault, speared a remarkable 70.92m in the Javelin Throw and crowned the gruelling 10-event competition with 4:21.98 in the 1500 metres. He set three PBs in the 100 metres, the Long Jump and the Javelin and won five out of the ten disciplines.

Sebrle or ‘Mister 9000 points’, commented the “spectators were fantastic and helped me a lot to achieve this record.”

He won Götzis five times in a row between 2001 and 2005, and took part in eleven editions of the Hypo Meeting in which he also collected two second places in 2000 and 2007. The World record was the highlight of a very long career in which he won the Olympic title in Athens 2004, the 2007 world outdoor title, two European gold medals in 2002 and 2006, two World indoor titles (2001 and 2004) and three European indoor gold medals (2002, 2005 and 2007).

Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF