American Bryan Clay and Sweden’s Carolina Klüft, reigning World champions and leaders of their events in the IAAF World Rankings, have lived up to their roles as pre-event favourites taking the overnight lead of the Hypo IAAF Combined Events Challenge meeting in the Götzis Mösle stadium, the “Mecca” of combined events.
Clay ended day one with 4521 points, but Dimitriy Karpov’s 47.72 in the 400 metres moved the specialist from Kazakhstan within 48 points behind the star from Azusa in the overall standings, making the battle for the win very exciting on day two.
Klüft recovered from a minor hamstring problem after the 100 metre Hurdles to move into the lead after producing a shot put personal best of 15.05m. The outgoing Swedish star leads by 150 points over Canadian Jessica Zelinka (3781 points) after the first four events. Third is German Karin Ertl with 3759 points.
Decathlon – Fast start for Clay
Clay, who claimed the World title in Helsinki last year after his silver medal performance in the Olympic Games in Athens, opened his competition at the Mösle Stadium with an impressive 10.42 in the 100 metres for 994 points, just four hundredths of a second off the meeting record set by his compatriot Chris Huffins in 2000. The next fastest was Francois Gourmet from Belgium who clocked 10.79. This year’s Commonwealth Games silver medallist Maurice Smith from Jamaica and Olympic bronze medallist Dimitry Karpov showed good form running 10.83 and 10.84 respectively.
Clay increased his lead after leaping to 7.67 (977 points) despite a -1.0 m/s headwind in the Long Jump. His second best leap to 7.58 would have also been enough to earn Clay the individual Long Jump win ahead of Estonia’s Mikk Pahapill who produced his best jump of 7.41 on his third attempt. Karpov climbed to second place in the overall standing after jumping 7.30 (886 points).
Smith produced an impressive 17.06 best Shot Put - the second all-time best performance in the event in Götzis for 917 - which helped him climb into third place overall, just two points behind Karpov who is making a successful comeback this season after being sidelined by injury problems in 2005. Clay’s best – a 15.56 effort - kept him in the lead by 132 points over Karpov, who was second in the Shot Put contest with a 16.47 throw.
Ailing Sebrle out after three events
World record holder and reigning Olympic champion Roman Sebrle from Czech Republic, who is hampered by a hamstring injury which slowed his preparation during a training stint in Spain, did not run faster than 11.27 in the 100 metres. After a disappointing 4.18 in the Long Jump and 15.34 in the Shot Put, the injury-plagued Czech star decided to call it a day before the High Jump.
Karpov reduced his gap behind Clay to 104 points after finishing second in the high jump with a 2.09 clearance, three centimetres higher than Clay. Smith lost valuable points on Karpov in the fight for runner-up position after clearing just 1.97. Andrei Krauchanka from Belarus, the reigning World and European junior champion, cleared a notable 2.12 to move up to seventh place. Krauchanka who tallied a personal best 8126 last year, failed his three attempts at 2.15.
Karpov took the victory in the final event of the day running a solid 47.72 in the 400 for 923 points, posing a challenge to Clay who crossed the finish line in 48.87. The battle on day two is wide open, with Clay leading Karpov by just 48 points. The American’s first day tally was just six points shy of his first day total in Helsinki.
“It was a solid day,” Clay said. “The final score is not too bad for the first competition of the year. The Long Jump was good but the problem was the headwind which was very strong. Tomorrow I want to continue to be consistent. The Decathlon is about consistency and this is my big goal for this season.:”
Heptathlon – After a rough start, Klüft bounces back
Klüft began her two-day campaign with a 13.63 clocking in the 100m Hurdles for 1031 points, but just the seventh best performance of the day, an unspectacular result to her usual standards. American Virginia Miller Johnson ran an outstanding 13.12 (1106 points), producing the fastest time of the first event.
In the High Jump Klüft squared off against Belgium’s Tia Hellebaut, an Olympic and World Championships finalist in this event in 2004 and 2005, as well as at the World Indoor Championships last winter.
1.97 leap for Hellebaut, best ever in a Heptathlon
Hellebaut, who opened with a 14.15 in hurdles, equalled her PB at 1.97 (1198 points) after producing an impressive clear sheet by clearing all her heights until 1.97 on her first attempt. The Belgian set a new World best in the high jump for a Heptathlon event, and improved Klüft’s meeting record by three centimetres to take the overall lead with 2155 points, 44 points ahead of Klüft. For her part, the Swede cleared 1.88 on her third attempt (1080 points) before going out at 1.91. Hellebaut, who jumped 1.97 indoors and had a previous seasonal outdoor best of 1.93 from Doha earlier this months, also had a pair of decent attempts at two metres.
Ertl, a former European indoor Pentathlon champion, was in third after running 13.45 in hurdles and clearing 1.79 in the High Jump.
Klüft moved into the lead after a 14.35 on her first attempt in the Shot Put which she later increased to 15.05 (864 points), setting a new PB by three centimetres. The overall ranking underwent some significant changes in the leading positions after the Shot Put. Reigning World indoor champion Lyudmila Blonska, fifth after the High Jump, climbed into the runner-up position after a 14.33 throw (816 points) while Hellebaut, who only reached 12.14, faded into fourth behind Karin Ertl who defended her third place by scoring 802 points thanks to her 14.12 release.
Klüft ended day one in the lead with 3931 points after finishing third in the final 200 metres heat in 24.26, behind Johnson (24.18) and Zelinka (24.22) in a sprint race considerably slowed by a strong headwind (-2.1 m/s). Desenzano Combined Events meeting winner Karolina Tyminska ran the fastest overall 200 metres time with 24.01 (headwind -0.1 m/s) in the penultimate heat. Zelinka moved up to second place with 3781 points, 22 more than Karin Ertl who ran the half-lap race in 24.50.
“The shot put PB was not a surprise for me because I made some progress in this discipline during the winter,” Klüft said. “Today I felt pain in my hamstring after the 100 metre Hurdles but the feeling is good. The first competition of the year was ok but I have not peaked my form at this time of the year. I have trained well the whole winter but I decided to skip the indoor season in order not to aggravate a hamstring cramp.
"The European Championships on home soil in Gothenburg are very special for me," she continued. "It’s the only big championship in Sweden and I want to be in good shape in August. I don’t want to focus too much on the final score tomorrow but think at one event at a time.”
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF