Eunice Barber of France long jumped a spectacular distance of 6.80m - third on the 2003 world list for that individual event - on the way to a world season's best of 6694 points in the Heptathlon for victory in the Arles Combined Events international - IAAF World Combined Events Challenge 2003 - meet which ended today. Russia's Aleksandr Pogorelov won the men's Decathlon with 8072 points.
The Decathletes, who opened the second day with the 110m hurdles were welcomed by a headwind. The best times were achieved in the first heat, while the wind was less strong (-0.60m/s), by Frenchman Romain Barras in 14.49 (scoring 912 points) ahead of Tunisia's Hamdi Dhouibi in 14.51.
In the second heat (wind –1.60m/s), the clear leader was the Pole Michal Modelski who progressively lost balance after the 6th hurdle and couldn't help but demolish the last obstacle, which cost him a disqualification. The race was thus won by Pogorelov, increasing his overall lead on Olympic champion Erki Nool from 61 to 113 points. Nool was 4th in the race in 14.96.
While the small audience started to awake with the beginning of the women's Long Jump, the men's Discus brought little change in the top of the rankings. Pogorelov stayed in the lead with 44.31m (753 points), 4th performance in the event, while Nool reduced the gap to 93 points thanks to a throw of 45.38m.
The podium was still uncertain as the third place changed for the third time in three events. After Attila Zsivocsky and Romain Barras, it went to 19 year old Chinese Haifeng Qi, who stood 6th until that point, after he almost broke his 48.33m personal best with a 48.30m throw (scoring 835 points for a total of 5717).
The group B of the women's Heptathlon Long Jump was won by South Africa's Janice Joseph with 6.17m (902 points), bringing her to 9 points from the third place held by Ukraine's Nataliya Dobrinska (4398 points).
Eunice Barber then called upon a flash inspiration in group A, and what a jump she found! One attempt was enough for her to establish the third best performance in the world this season, 6.80m (+2.00m/s), adding 1105 points for a total of 4998.
Lyudmila Blonska in second was still on the way to confirm the 6316 points she achieved last month in Kharkov, with 4747 after five events and 6.42m in the Long Jump.
Positions in the Heptathlon remained unchanged after the Javelin. Barber had to content with 46.92m (her series: 46.92, fouled, 43.25m) and stood with 4998 points before the 800m.
The athlete who benefited most from the event was Svetlana Kazanina of Kazakhstan who moved from 8th to 4th, thanks to a throw of 48.26m, while Joseph dropped from 4th to 11th.
The Decathlon's rankings were dramatically affected by the results of the Pole Vault, which left Nool out of contention for the podium after he had three no-heights at 5.01m, his first bar. The new top three was made up of Pogorelov who achieved 4.91m, his best performance outdoor, Qi Haifeng (4.71m) and Romain Barras (4.61m). Frenchman Sebastien Levicq had the highest score in the event with 5.21m (976 points).
Kazanina made herself a place on the Heptathlon podium when she won the 800m in 2:12.68. Barber (2:14.84) followed the leader most of the race before being taken by Ukraine's Lyudmila Blonska (2:13.29), and Lyudmila Kovalova (2:13.68) in the finishing straight.
The final medal podium was made up by Barber, 6694 points, a new world leading mark this season, Lyudmila Blonska, 6418 points, a new PB by 102 points, and Svetlana Kazanina, 5996 points. Only two athletes were at the level of the IAAF 'A' entry standards for the World Championships.
"I needed to send a signal to Carolina Kluft. Here it is," commented Barber at the end of the competition.
"I'm happy for sure. But the result doesn't satisfy me completely. On another hand, I couldn't prepare like I wanted, so what am I complaining about ? The Hurdles, the 200m and the Javelin weren't in accordance with our expectations. But now, we know where I am and have a basis to work on toward the World Championships. My result in the Long Jump? Magnificent. It's a long time since I wanted to compete at both events in a major championships. I hope I'll be able to make it in Paris."
The men's Javelin marked the second stage of Sébastien Levicq's return to the top of the rankings as he moved from 8th to 4th with a 66.86m victory. Levicq was still 13rd after the Discus.
The final positions remained uncertain before the last event, as a gap of only 26 points separated place 2 to 4. Luckily Pogorelov had a lead of 228 points over Qi, as he went through very hard time in the 1500m, finishing last in his race in 4:57.10 (scoring 577 points). John Heanley of Great-Britain achieved the best result in the event with 4:22.77.
Finally, Aleksandr Pogorelov won the Decathlon with 8072 points ahead of Haifeng Qi, 7996 points and Romain Barras 7966 points.
Pre-favourite for the men's Decathlon Nool commented on his withdrawal after the Pole Vault : " Altogether it went a little bad, though I still came back with a PB in the Discus to comfort myself. After the Long Jump, the emotions went down. In the Pole Vault, I didn't any longer have enough motivation to push myself to clear the bar. My preparation went well but I had too many problems with my hamstring in the last two weeks to do something good. My next big event will be the European Cup next month but I would like also to do some in competition in single events in-between".