Olympic silver medallists Hyleas Fountain and Andrei Krauchanka topped the IAAF Combined Events Challenge standings with averages of 6586.33 and 8482.67 points respectively. But the best result of the year was scored by US champion Bryan Clay who climbed to equal fifth on the all-time world list with 8832 points before also clinching the Olympic title in Beijing.
Decathlete Andrei Krauchanka of Belarus and heptathlete Hyleas Fountain of the USA, both Olympic silver medallists in Beijing, were crowned as the winners of the IAAF Combined Events Challenge.
This year’s Challenge kicked off with the Multistars in Desenzano sul Garda in Italy in May, continued with the Hypo-Meeting in the famous Mösle Stadium in Götzis (Austria), Arles in Southern France, the Mehrkampfmeeting in Ratingen near Düsseldorf in Germany and ended with the French Decastar meeting in Talence near Bordeaux.
Athletes had to complete three combined events meetings to be eligible to take the overall win in the IAAF Challenge. Results from the Olympic Games in Beijing, the US Trials in Eugene and the European Cup were also valid for scoring points for the overall ranking.
Krauchanka lifted the IAAF Combined Events Challenge trophy earning 30,000 dollars thanks to two wins in the European Cup in Hengelo with 8575 points and in the Decastar in Talence with 8312 points and his second place at the Olympic Games in Beijing with 8551 points behind Bryan Clay who won the Olympic gold medal with 8791 points.
Clay enjoyed an outstanding season winning the very tough US Trials in Eugene and the Olympic title in Beijing but he was not eligible to compete for the overall first place in the IAAF Challenge because he lacked a third result. He was invited to compete in the end-of-season Talence meeting but pulled out on the eve of french meeting. At the end of June Clay qualified for Beijing with a spectacular score of 8832 points, the world’s highest result for four years and the second best US result in history behind Dan O’Brien’s national record of 8891 points. To be fit for the very tough battle represented by the US Trials scheduled at the end of June Clay did not take part in the Hypo-Meeting in Götzis in the Austrian region of Voralberg.
“I promise that I will return to Götzis in 2009 as Olympic champion,” said Clay to the Götzis organizers.
In his best ever competition Clay produced spectacular results in the 100 metres (10.39), in the 110 metres Hurdles (13.75), in the Discus Throw (52.74) and the javelin (70.55). In the 1500 metres he needed to run 4:41 to break O’Brien’s US record but clocked 4:50.97 in his weakest event. In Beijing Clay won by an impressive margin of 240 points over Krauchanka thanks to another display of form. He ran 10.44 in torrential rain, jumped 7.78 in the Long Jump, cruised to 13.93 in the 110 metres Hurdles and produced two impressive results in the discus (53.79) and the javelin (70.97). As in Eugene he had O’Brien’s US record within reach but after two days of tough battles he clocked only 5:06.59 in the final 1500 metres to produce the third highest score in his career with 8791 points.
Krauchanka made up for the disappointment at last year’s IAAF World Championships in Osaka, where he was disqualified for a double false start in the 100 metres, with the Olympic silver medal in Beijing. The young athlete from Belarus came close to his best in the 400 metres running 47.30 and thanks to a decisive 4:27.47 in the 1500 metres he managed to prevail over Cuban rising star Lionel Suarez who started with a PB of 4:16.70 but ran in 4:29.17 in Bejing.
Suarez is the new name who emerged during the 2008 season. The 20-year-od Cuban had a PB of 7357 points in 2006 which he improved to 8156 points in 2007. He enjoyed a major breakthrough in Götzis where he improved the Cuban record to 8366 points thanks to two impressive results in the javelin (70.64) and in the 1500 metres (4:16.70). Suarez went on to win the Ratingen Mehrkampf meeting at the end of June. In Ratingen Suarez continued his progress by improving his national record to 8451 points thanks to a 69.96 throw in the javelin and a 2.14 clearance in the High Jump. Suarez rose to the occasion in Beijing by winning the Olympic bronze medal with his third national record of the year of 8527 points. He produced his best result in the javelin where he speared to an impressive lifetime best of 73.98 to win this event. Suarez, who finished his breakthrough season after the Olympic Games, was ranked second in the IAAF Challenge ahead of Russian Alexander Pogorelov, who was third in Götzis (8381 points), fourth in Bejing (8328 points) and fourth in Talence (8095 points).
The Götzis meeting in the Mösle Stadium, well known as the “Mecca” of Combined Events, did not produce any World season bests but featured exciting competitions, which remained undecided until the end. In the men’s Decathlon Dmitry Karpov of Kazakhstan prevailed by just seven points over Russian Aleksey Sysoyev (8504 to 8497 points). The other meetings were won by Belgian surprise Frederic Xhonneux who set a new national record scoring 8147 points in Desenzano thanks to five individual PBs (14.79 in the Shot Put, 1.95 in the High Jump, 45.36 in the Discus Throw, 4.95 in the Pole Vault, 63.56 in the Javelin) and by Frenchman Nadir El Fassi with a wind-assisted 8123 in Arles.
The women’s Heptathlon was looking for a new multi-event queen after the decision of Carolina Klüft to focus on long and triple jump. US multi-event specialist Hyleas Fountain capped her successful season with the IAAF Combined Events title in the women’s Heptathlon. Fountain won the seven-event competition at the US Trials in Eugene with 6667 points. The US athlete got off to a flying start cruising to an impressive 12.65 in the 100 metres Hurdles which broke Jackie Joyner Kersee’s US Hurdles Heptathlon record.
Fountain backed up this performance with 23.31 in the 200 metres, a superb PB of 6.88 in the Long Jump and 48.15 in the javelin. Her 6667 score ranks Fountain third in the US all-time list behind Jackie Joyner Kersee’s World record of 7291 points and Jane Frederick’s 6803 points.
Fountain won the first major global medal of her career taking the Olympic silver in Beijing with 6619 points behind gold medallist Nataliya Dobrynska of Ukraine.
After Beijing Fountain clinched the 30,000 dollars prize for overall first place in the IAAF Combined Events Challenge with her win in Talence where she scored 6473 points. Dobrynska had a slow start to her season finishing ninth in Götzis with 6268 points but bounced back successfully at the Bird’s Nest Stadium taking the Olympic title with a new World season best and PB of 6733 points. In the final ranking of the Challenge Dobrynska was ranked third after finishing third in Talence with 6429 points.
2006 World junior champion Tatyana Chernova won the Götzis Hypo Meeting thanks to a superb second day scoring a new lifetime best of 6618. Chernova, who was ninth after the first day, caught up positions first by climbing to fourth after leaping to 6.78 in the Long Jump and then spearing the javelin to an impressive 53.51. Second before the final 800 metres, Chernova ran a new PB of 2:12.11 in the two-lap event which earned her the win in Götzis. The Russian girl, daughter of 1980 Olympic 4x400 gold medallist Lyudmila, continued the proud family tradition at the Olympic Games taking the bronze medal with 6591 points beating last year’s World bronze medallist Kelly Sotherton of Great Britain (6517 points). Overall 21 women broke the 6000 points barrier at the Beijing Olympic Games.
Chernova finished second in the IAAF Challenge Ranking behind Fountain but ahead of Dobrynska. In Talence, Chernova scored 6366 points.
Kelly Sotherton missed the Götzis meeting and competed in just two meetings in the Olympic Games and in Talence where she finished second with 6439 points. For this reason the briton was not eligible for the Ranking but during the season she notably produced some fine individual results like a new PB of 6.79 in the Long Jump in London and took part in the 4x400 relay at the Olympic Games running her leg in 50.4.
In the other meetings of the Challenge French experienced heptathlete Marie Collonvillé won the Multistars in Desenzano with 6253 points after a consistent second day, a result which she improved to 6302 points in Bejing where she finished twelfth. Another French athlete Blandine Maisonnier won the Arles meeting with a wind-assisted 6157 score. Ratingen, which was also valid as a qualifying meeting for the German team for the Olympic Games, was won by Lilli Schwarzkopf with 6536 points (with a very solid 54.81 in the javelin) ahead of compatriot Jennifer Oeser (6436 points). Schwarzkopf,who was also seventh in Götzis and eighth in Bejing, was on the top of the Ranking before Talence but ended her season after the Olympic Games.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF