Hyleas Fountain, the Day 1 leader in Eugene (Getty Images) © Copyright
"I definitely want to get on the podium," she said. "I’ve been there before, so I know what it takes to get there."
At the U.S. Olympic Trials, Fountain seized a 151-point lead with a Day 1 score of 3948. There is a duel for second among Sharon Day (3797), Chantae McMillan (3762), young Barbara Nwaba (3736) and Bettie Wade (3680).
The Decathlon and Heptathlon at the U.S. trials are part of the IAAF Combined Events Challenge.
Day, with a score of 6337 on 3 April at Santa Barbara, California, is the only American who has achieved the Olympic "A" standard of 6150. However, it appears such a score might be needed to be in the top three anyway.
Cramps and a neck injury hindered Fountain’s 2011 season. Except for a wind-aided 6735 score at the 2010 U.S. championships, she has not approached her 6667 from Beijing.
She said a new coach, Rana Reider, and new environment have renewed her enthusiasm. Fountain’s training group in Daytona Beach, Florida, includes Triple Jump world champion Christian Taylor, hurdler Danielle Carruthers and sprinter Tianna Madison.
Fountain, 31, said her training calls for her to peak in London, not Eugene.
"I’m just happy to be competing for me now," Fountain said. "I felt before that I was competing for others. I’m definitely competing for myself now and focusing in on me and what I need to do."
Day, 27, is the defending national champion. She is trying to make an Olympic team in the multi-events after doing so in the High Jump in 2008. She has a best of 1.95m but did not get out of the qualifying at Beijing.
McMillan, 24, was third at the national championships last year but did not have the requisite score for Daegu. She ruptured a patellar tendon 13 August at the Thorpe Cup, had surgery 13 days later and didn’t resume regular training until March.
Asked if she is as good as she was before, she responded: "I’m better."
Nwaba, 23, was second to Canada’s Brianne Theisen in the U.S. collegiate championships (NCAA) with a 5927 total. But Nwaba exceeded those Day 1 marks in every event and is 140 points ahead of that pace.
"I was a lot more relaxed than at NCAAs," she said.
Her parents are from Nigeria, so she could have represented that nation internationally. She decided to try for the U.S. team instead.
An event-by-event summary:
Yvette Lewis edged Fountain, 12.84 to 12.86, but scored so poorly in the High Jump and Shot Put that she ended Day 1 in eighth place. Although Fountain’s time was not a personal best, she was close to the 12.78 she recorded en route to Beijing silver.
Day managed only 13.71, putting her 126 points behind Fountain and accounting for nearly the entire margin between the two. McMillan’s 13.36 was a PB, and Nwaba’s 13.68 was her best ever in a Heptathlon.
Fountain, Day and Nwaba all jumped 1.87m, which was a PB for Nwaba. Wade climbed back into contention by jumping 1.81m.
McMillan gained on the field by winning with a distance of 15.02m, and Wade kept climbing with a 13.62m. Day (13.40m) and Fountain (13.17m) were separated by just 15 points.
Abbie Stechschulte, 27, in what might be her final Heptathlon, was third with 13.45m. The Indiana University assistant coach said she and her husband are ready to start a family. Twenty-eight family members, most of them from Stechschulte’s hometown of Columbus Grove, Ohio, are in Eugene to cheer her.
"I have no regrets," said Stechstulte, who is seventh with 3547 points. "Whatever happens this week, it’s been a great ride."
Lewis (23.70) and Chelsea Carrier-Eades (23.80) were marginally ahead of Fountain (23.84). But Fountain gained 40 points on Day (24.26) and ended the first four events easily within reach of the "A" standard.
David Woods for the IAAF
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