Talence, FranceThe 29th edition of the Décastar Combined Events meeting which takes place at the Thouars sporting complex this weekend (17-18 September), will welcome both the male and female silver medallists from last month’s Helsinki World Championships.
Roman Sebrle (CZE) and Eunice Barber (FRA) are looking for high scores so that they can clinch first places respectively in the Decathlon and Heptathlon standings in the IAAF World Combined Events Challenge 2005, Talence being the last leg of the competition this year, and each athlete's third qualifying meeting.
To go pass current leader Bryan Clay (USA), Sebrle needs only 8144 points, while Barber has to score 6687 points to prevent a third consecutive Challenge win by Carolina Klüft.
Talence is the 13th and last competition of Combined Events Challenge 2005, after Salo, Tunis (African Champs), Götzis, San Juan (NACAC Champs), Arles, USA Nationals, Ratingen, European Cup, World Championships and the Asian Championships.
The standings are established from the combined total of points taken from an athlete’s three best Decathlons (men) or Heptathlons (women) among these meetings.
DECATHLON - World record holder Sebrle to defend 2004 win
The absence of 2005 Challenge leader and World champion Bryan Clay (USA) won’t make it an easy weekend for Sebrle, since 9 out of the other 10 top finishers in Helsinki have announced their participation in Talence. Bronze medallist Attlia Zsivoczky (HUN), 5th placer Aleksandr Pogorelov (RUS), and 8526pts performer Kristjan Rahnu (EST) are the main challengers.
No less than 12 athletes show personal bests over 8000 points, including former World record holder Tomas Dvorak (CZE).
But note, after the World Championships, Sebrle competed in his usual post-major championships 100-minutes Decathlon amassing 7510 points, far from his 7842 score last year, before his 8217p victory in Talence.
HEPTATHLON - Barber returns to Talence after long break
Unlike Sebrle, Eunice Barber would seem to be unchallenged in Talence. Holding the leading mark in the world for 2005 (6889pts) which she set in Arles, the 1999 World champion has broken several personal best this year (Heptathlon, 100m Hurdles wind-aided, Javelin throw) and seems to have left her health problems behind her. Indeed, this season has been mostly injury-free and Barber can at last take part in Talence for the first time since 1999, when she won with 6514pts.
Since her Heptathlon silver medal (and bronze at Long Jump) in Helsinki, Barber has taken part in two individual meeting competitions, with contrasting results: an impressive 12.89 at 100m Hurdles followed by disappointing 1.80m (HJ) and 6.51m (LJ) in the jumps.
Her ambition has never changed over the years, that of breaking through the 7000pts barrier and getting as close as possible to the World record (7291pts) held by her USA coach’s wife, Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Talence may be the occasion to offer to her public a second national record after her 6889pts in Arles.
2004 Olympic bronze medallist and defending Talence champion, Kelly Sotherton (GBR) will want to erase her Helsinki 5th place disappointment when she was let down by her Long Jump and Javelin Throw. Now one of the best 800m runners among the heptathletes, Sotherton may push Barber to her best in the last race.
6th placer in Helsinki, Marie Collonvillé (FRA), who established the first female Decathlon World record last year in Talence, will set out on a serious attempt at her Heptathlon personal best (6350p), and will likely be pushed by Ukraine’s Natalya Dobrynska who possesses a similar PB (6386p).
P-J Vazel for the IAAF
Forecast announced similar weather as last year, with showers and sun on Saturday and light clouds on Sunday.