Jessica Ennis wins the 800m to clinch the European title in Barcelona (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News 21 December 2010 – Monte Carlo

2010 End of Year Reviews - Combined Events

Monte CarloStatisticians A. Lennart Julin (SWE) and Mirko Jalava (FIN) begin the first of eight ‘end of season’ event category reviews covering all Athletics disciplines, highlighting the best performances which have taken place across our sport in 2010, with the COMBINED EVENTS.

Mens’ Decathlon -

Although it’s bound to happen on a year with no worldwide championships, this season was still very adequate in terms of men’s Decathlon results. American Bryan Clay, usually reaching for 9000 points, was the world leader with 8483p in late May in Götzis, his only completed Decathlon of the season. To put it to a better perspective, this was the worst world leading mark for 29 years. From 1982 to 2009 the world leading mark was always above 8500 points. In 1981 Rainer Pottel (GDR) was the world leader with 8334p.

There were high hopes for the season with American youngster Ashton Eaton crushing the World indoor record in the Pentathlon with 6499 points at the NCAA indoor Championships. Experts immediately started counting that he should reach 8700 or 8800 points outdoors too. But it’s not that easy. The 22-year-old did come close to Clay’s world leader at the NCAA outdoor championships, but 8457 personal best points weren’t quite at the level of his indoor performance. Losing nine centimetres in the High Jump and a huge 40cm in Pole Vault and the fact that the two long throws in Decathlon aren’t his best events prevented a better score.

Frenchman Romain Barras was the best European in the event this season. An 8453p total score for a personal best in Barcelona was much less than usually needed for the European title, but it was a big reward for a long career for the 30-year-old who also won the IAAF Combined Events Challenge.

Injuries took their toll on many of the former top athletes. 25-year-old Ukrainian Oleksiy Kasyanov has looked like a medal prospect for some time, but he had to call it a day in Barcelona after the first day. Belarussian Andrei Krauchanka wasn’t at his best either winning the bronze medal in Barcelona with 8370p and world record holder Roman Sebrle (CZE) did not finish either of his two Decathlons this season. There was however a welcome fresh entry to the world elite at the European Championships. 23-year-old Dutch athlete Eelco Sintnicolaas surprised with a stellar performance coming very close to the gold medal too with 8436 points for a big personal best. Sintnicolaas set a huge seven personal bests during the competition in Barcelona adding 277 points to his Decathlon best in one competition including a great 5.45m clearance in the Pole Vault.

The United States tops this event with 15 athletes in the world top 100. France has ten for second place and Russia nine for third.

Women’s Heptathlon -

The Heptathlon world has now settled into the post-Klüft era which seems well on its way to turn into the Jessica Ennis era. The latest non-winning Heptathlon for the Briton dates back more than two years and after winning the World title in Berlin with the PB score of 6731 she this year added the European title with yet another world leading PB score of 6823.

The 24-years old Ennis has now reached position No. 14 on the world all-time list and looks poised – barring injuries of course – to advance further up that list in the upcoming years. It appears very unwise to bet against her becoming the fourth ever to surpass the 7000 points benchmark, especially with her home Olympics in London beckoning in 2012.

There are a couple of other athletes that might have similar potential points-wise – Hyleas Fountain and Tatiana Chernova – but what separates Ennis from them is her ability to successfully handle the major championships. Actually she has scored a new PB in every one of her five senior championships: Commonwealth 2006, European 2006, World 2007, World 2009 and European 2010!

The 29-years old Fountain on the other hand has never PB'd in any of her major championship starts so far (although she did get the silver medal in Beijing 2008) and for Chernova – however still just 22 – the outcome is similar: four senior championships and not yet any PB there.

The other two medallists in Barcelona this year – Nataliya Dobrynska and Jennifer Oeser – more resemble Ennis in ability to produce personal top scores when it really matters. Dobrynska's two by far highest scores ever came in taking gold in Beijing 2008 (6733, PB by over 400 points) and silver this year in Barcelona (6778 PB)! And Oeser has improved her previous personal best in the international championship four of the last five years!

Now in Barcelona Oeser added almost 200 points to reach 6683 – which amazingly still was good only for the bronze medal. You have to go all the way back to the 1988 Olympics to find a higher score necessary to reach the podium at an international championship! Oeser's score now would even have got her the gold in six and the silver in eight of the twenty championships (Olympic, World and European) since then!

This extraordinary quality at the top end of the 2010 World list is however not at all reflected further down. Rather the pattern is the complete opposite: Chernova's 6572 for fifth place is followed by Lilli Schwarzkopf in 6386 and Eliska Klucinova in 6268, i.e. there is a gap of over 300 points which is "inhabited " by only Schwarzkopf. And the number over 6000 points has fallen from 47 in 2008 to just 30 in 2010.