The reigning World gold and silver medallists respectively Roman Sebrle of the Czech Republic and Maurice Smith of Jamaica top the Decathlon start list for this weekend’s 35th edition of the Hypo Meeting in Götzis in the austrian region of Voralberg, the second leg of the IAAF World Combined Events Challenge (30 / 31 May).
A world-class field in the women’s Heptathlon is led by Beijing Olympic champion Nataliya Dobrynska from the Ukraine and Olympic bronze medallist and last year’s Hypo Meeting winner Tatyana Chernova from Russia.
Sebrle, the 2004 Clympic champion in Athens, made decathlon history in the famous Mösle Stadium in 2001 when he score the current world record of 9026 points. Sebrle, who was forced to miss the Hypo Meeting last year due to injury problems, will be looking to win the Götzis meeting for the sixth time in his legendary career in what will be his twelfth participation in the Austrian meeting.
Sebrle returned to good form this winter after a 2008 season ruined by injury problems with a bronze medal at the European Indoor Championships in Turin. During a warm-up competition one week before travelling to Götzis Sebrle ran 14.29 in the 110m Hurdles, leapt to 7.68m in the Long Jump, put 15.10m in the Shot Put and threw 49.68m in the Discus during a Czech Club League meeting showing encouraging form ahead of the big Götzis meeting.
Maurice Smith enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2007, the year of his world silver medal in Osaka with a national record of 8644 points and finished runner-up in the World Combined Events Challenge. The Jamaican will be looking to return to his best form ahead of this summer’s World Championships in Berlin after his ninth place in Beijing.
Oleksiy Kasyanov from Ukraine, seventh at the Bejing Olympic Games, will look to continue his solid season which began with a silver medal at the European Indoor Championships in Turin whn he set a new Heptathlon national record of 6205 points.
Notably Götzis will be a crucial test for combined events specialists from the powerhouses of Germany and Russia who will be aiming at three spots at stake in their national teams for the IAAF World Championships in Berlin.
The German Athletics Federation will use Götzis as the first of two selection competitions for the World Championships on home turf. The second meeting where the German team will be announced will be Ratingen on 21-22 June. Except the injured André Nicklaus (2006 World Indoor champion), the best German combined events specialists will make the trip to Götzis. Their squad will be made up of last year’s revelation Michael Schrader (10th at the Olympic Games in Bejing), 2007 European Under 23 silver medallist Pascal Behrenbruch, Norman Müller (PB 8255 points) and Jacob Minah (PB 8099 points).
The Russian team will be led by Aleksey Drozdov, 2006 European bronze medallist in Gothenburg and fourth at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, and by Arkady Vasilyev, 2006 World Junior champion and 2007 European Under 23 bronze medallist.
Despite the absence of Olympic champion and 2006 Götzis winner Bryan Clay, the US team will still be represented strongly by 2005 NCAA champion Trey Hardee (PB 8534 points) and Jake Arnold, the winner of the first leg of the IAAF Challenge in Desenzano del Garda.
Two other interesting names to look out for this weekend come from Cuba, Yordani Garcia (2006 world junior silver medallist and eighth at the World Championships in Osaka) and Yunior Diaz (PB 8057 points).
The depth of the Götzis field is shown by the fact that twenty athletes with a PB over 8000 points will compete this weekend in the Mösle Stadium.
The women’s field will be no less impressive with 21 athletes with a career best over 6000 points. The competition features as a fight between Olympic champion Nataliya Dobrynska from Ukraine and Olympic bronze medallist Tatyana Chernova of Russia.
Chernova returns to Götzis, the meeting she won last year with 6618 points, her career best. The “Wonder Girl” from Russia, as she is called in her country, won the bronze in Beijing with 6591 points and capped her great season with a second place in the World Combined Events Challenge behind US olympic silver Hyleas Fountain.
Dobrynska started her 2008 olympic season slowly with a eighth place in Götzis (6268 points) but peaked her form to perfection with her win in Bejing with 6733 points, a new career best and following a second place in Talence with 6429 points she finished third overall in the IAAF Challenge.
This winter’s European Indoor gold medallist Anna Bogdanova is absent but the other two medallists from Turin will be in the top-class field. They are silver medal Jolanda Keizer from the Netherlands, who improved the national Pentathlon record with 4644 points, and Antoinette Nana Djimou from France, who improved her Pentathlon PB to 4618 points in Turin.
German heptathletes will fight for the three team spots for Berlin in Götzis. The top contenders should be Lilli Schwarzkopf who has a PB 6536 points and was the 2006 European Championships bronze medallist and 2007 World Championships fifth placer, and Jennifer Oeser who has a PB of 6436 points and was seventh in Osaka.
As well as Chernova, the strong Russian squad will also feature Olga Kurban who has a PB of 6559 points and was fourth at the 2009 European Indoor Championships, and Marina Goncharova (PB 6318 points).
Also in the field there are some other top european specialists like Karolina Tyminska from Poland (fifth at the 2009 European Indoor Championships; PB 6428 points), Hanna Melnychenko (PB 6306 points and this year’s runner-up in Desenzano), Ida Marcussen from Norway (2006 World Junior silver medallist in Beijing).
Diego Sampaolo from the IAAF