Preview Gotzis, Austria

Former winners Hardee, Krauchanka and Theisen-Eaton among the favourites in Gotzis

US decathlete Trey Hardee (Getty Images)US decathlete Trey Hardee (Getty Images) © Copyright

The famous Hypo-Meeting in Gotzis, the Austrian leg of the 2014 IAAF Combined Events Challenge, will celebrate its 40th anniversary between 31 May and 1 June with a gathering of world, Olympic and European medallists at the famous Mosle Stadium.

In the decathlon, USA’s two-time world champion Trey Hardee, the Hypo-Meeting winner in 2011, will clash against world indoor silver medallist and 2007 Hypo-Meeting champion Andrei Krauchanka from Belarus.

The heptathlon will be highlighted by world silver medallist and defending Gotzis champion Brianne Theisen Eaton, world bronze medallist Dafne Schippers, world indoor champion Nadine Broersen, and Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson, the world indoor silver medallist in the long jump.

Hardee looking to get back on top

Hardee will make his fourth appearance at the Hypo-Meeting, five years after his debut in the Austrian town. Later that year he went on to win his first world title in Berlin with 8790 and capped his breakthrough season by winning the IAAF Combined Events Challenge.

He won his first Gotzis title in 2011 with 8689, the second-best score of his career, and successfully defended his world title later that summer. But after taking the Olympic silver medal in London behind his compatriot Ashton Eaton, he has been hampered by injuries and did not finish his two decathlons last year at the US Championships and the World Championships.

Former world junior champion Krauchanka made his big breakthrough in Gotzis seven years ago when he improved his personal best by more than 600 points to win with a score of 8617. Last year he won the IAAF Combined Events Challenge, five years after first winning the overall title, and more recently he took world indoor silver in Sopot with a Belarusian record of 6303.

Another strong contender for the podium is Belgium’s Thomas Van der Plaetsen who set a national indoor heptathlon record of 6259 when taking world indoor bronze earlier this year. The World University Games champion will be looking to improve on his PB of 8255, set at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow.

Also bidding for a podium placing are Brazil’s South American record-holder Carlos Chinin, who finished second in Gotzis last year, and Cuba’s Yordani Garcia, who leads the world season list with 8337.

Germany will send its usual strong team to Gotzis, headed by Pascal Behrenbruch who set a personal best of 8558 when he won the European title in Helsinki two years ago. He has competed in Gotzis every year since 2006 and collected two third-place finishes in 2009 and 2012.

The German team also includes Rico Freimuth, son of Uwe Freimuth, a former two-time Gotzis winner. Freimuth, who has a personal best of 8488, finished sixth at the  Olympic Games in London and fourth in Gotzis in 2012.

Kai Kazmirek is one of the best German hopes for the future. He showed his potential last year when he won the European under-23 title with a PB of 8336, and earlier this year he finished sixth at the World Indoor Championships with a PB of 6173.

The Czech tradition in Gotzis will be carried by Adam Helcelet, fifth at the 2012 World Indoor Championships.

Another young decathlete to follow is USA’s world junior champion Gunnar Nixon, who was voted ‘Rookie of the meeting’ last year when he finished third on his Gotzis debut in Gotzis with 8136.

World Indoors rematch in heptathlon

The heptathlon field features 24 specialists with PBs in excess of 6000 points.

Brianne Theisen Eaton, wife of world record-holder and Olympic champion Ashton Eaton, will defend her Gotzis title. Twelve months ago the Canadian scored 6376 in rainy and cold weather before going on to win the world silver medal with a PB of 6530.

In March she repeated the same placing in the pentathlon at the World Indoor Championships in Sopot with a Canadian record of 4768 to finish behind Nadine Broersen, who won a surprising world indoor title with a Dutch record of 4830, an outstanding performance highlighted by a 1.93m national high jump record.

Broersen and Theisen Eaton will renew their battle at the famous Mosle Stadium and the full podium from the World Indoor Championships will be in Gotzis, completed by Ukraine’s Alina Fodorova, who won the bronze medal in Sopot with 4724.

At last year’s Hypo-Meeting Theisen Eaton finished ahead of Broersen who set a PB of 6345. Another Dutch athlete, Dafne Schippers, finished third on that occasion and repeated that position at the World Championships when she set a national record of 6477 after smashing her 800m PB by seven seconds. An outstanding sprinter, Schippers won the European under-23 100m title last year.

Another outstanding young star bidding for a podium placing is Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson who will make her Hypo-Meeting debut. The 21-year-old won the European under-23 heptathlon title last year, then went on to finish fifth at the World Championships with a career best of 6449 after setting PBs in the final four events.

A talented long jumper, Johnson-Thompson is the world junior long jump champion and earlier this year won the world indoor silver medal in that event with an outright PB of 6.81m. During the indoor season she also broke the British high jump record with 1.96m.

British hopes are also carried by another young star, Morgan Lake, who recently won the IAAF Combined Events Challenge meeting in Florence with a PB of 5896, the best score in the world by a 16-year-old since 1997. Lake, who has since turned 17, earlier this month broke the British junior high jump record with 1.93m.

Belgium will be represented by Nafissatou Thiam who last year won the European junior title with a PB of 6298, breaking the national senior record set by 2008 Olympic high jump champion Tia Hellebaut.

Other rising stars in the heptathlon field for Gotzis include Latvia’s European bronze medallist Laura Ikauniece, Cuba’s world junior champion Yorgelis Rodriguez and Sweden’s European junior silver medallist Sofia Linde.

The strong German contingent features Claudia Rath, who finished fourth at the World Championships with a PB of 6462, last year’s Ratingen winner Julia Machtig, and Olympic silver medallist Lilli Schwarzkopf, who will be making a return to action after missing the whole 2013 season because of an achilles injury.

The German team is rounded out by former world junior champion Carolin Schafer, and sprint hurdles specialist Cindy Roleder, who will be making her heptathlon debut.

Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF