Andres Raja of Estonia and Natalya Dobrynska of Ukraine are the overnight leaders of the Decastar 2011 meeting in Talence, the the last stage of the IAAF Combined Events Challenge 2011.
Raja tallied 4215 points at the end of day one to carry a 51-point lead over Ukraine's Oleksiy Kasyanov into the second day. Dobrynska, the 2008 Olympic champion, totaled 3867 points, leading World champion Tatyana Chernova, who totaled 3811.
As only athletes that have finished three of the international top meetings that belong to this series will qualify for the final standings the Decastar meeting counts for many athletes for the final standings after this weekend.
The World champion in the Decathlon, Trey Hardee, and runner up, Ashton Eaton, have decided to finish their season. The bronze medal winner of the World championships in Daegu, Cuba’s Leonel Suarez, decided only a few days prior to the meeting to start in the South Western city of Talence –near Bordeaux. After the World championships he was only home for a week and with another trip to Europe he feared it would be to much for him. Nevertheless he decided to start in his fourth Decathlon meeting of the season. Earlier this year in Götzis he was second, and with a victory in Kladno and third position at the World championships he is the actual leader of the Challenge heading into Talence.
Can Sintnicolaas close the gap after day one?
Sixteen athletes were at the start of the Decathlon, but already after the 100m the Serbian athlete Igor Sarcevic, for whom it was the first competition of 2011, had to quit. The winner of this event was Raja in 10.87. Eelco Sintnicolaas (NED) followed in 10.88, while Kasyanov crossed the finish line in 10.89.
After the second event, the Long Jump, the same three athletes topped the ranking. Only Kasyanov took the lead after his winning jump of 7.40m. Raja produced a leap of 7.31m, while the number five at the World Championships, Sintnicolaas, followed with 7.30m. The gap between the three athletes was only 21 points.
In Shot Put five athletes passed the 15-meter mark, with America Ryan Harlan the best with a toss of 16.60m, only one centimetre from his personnel best. He was followed by Pascal Behrenbruch (GER) with 15.97m and Mikk Pahapill (EST) with 15.51m. After three events the top three of the intermediate standings were still the same, with Raja again at the top of the standings with 2562 points followed by Kasyanov five points back.
Local hero, Romain Barras, had to quit the competition after the Long Jump. The 2010 European champion, had given priority to his University sport studies in 2011, which influenced his results in the pre-Olympic year.
Only three athletes cleared 2.00m in the High Jump, with Andrei Krauchanka winning with a 2.06m leap. Harlan was second at 2.03m with Raja in third. His 2.00m leap was enough to take the lead after four events with 3365 points.
The final event of the first day was won by Sintnicolaas. He clocked 48.66 in the 400m race and with this victory gave a signal to the other athletes for the second day, as he is known as the strongest Day two athlete in the field.
Raja maintained the lead when finishing in 49.24. He totalled 4215 points, only 40 points shy in his best Decathlon of the year. Second is Kasyanov and Sintnicolaas third. An outsider for the victory is Mikk Pahapill.
Dobrynska and Chernova the favourites - Heptathlon
In the first event of the day Canadian Jessica Zelinka proved that she was by far the strongest in the 100m hurdles. With 13.07 she was only 0.1 from her personal best. World champion Chernova followed in 13.37, the second best time of her career.
Russian Anna Bogdanova, who had missed the 2009 and 2010 seasons, equalled her personal best in the High Jump with a 1.88m leap. She was followed by Ukrainian Lyudmyla Yosypenko with 1.85. The favourites for the overall victory, Dobrynska Chernova, each cleared 1.82m. These four athletes also topped the intermediate standings after two events, with Bogdanova taking the lead with 2103 points.
Dobrynska took the lead after three events. In her strongest event, the Shot Put, she reached 16.28m, more than two metres ahead of Zelinka. The results in this event were affected by rain showers and most of the athletes performed below their abilities. After three events Dobrynska was leading by 114 points over Bogdanova. The distance with Chernova was 170 points.
In the last event Chernova gained some ground after the winning the last 200m heat in 23.61. Zelinka was second in 23.92. Dobrynska finished in a modest 24,81, which trimmed the gap with Chernova to 56 points. With a total of 3867 points Dobrynska is the overnight leader, only one point less as in Daegu. As Chernova is known as a better second day athlete the decision for the final result is still open.
Hans van Kuijen for the IAAF