Naide Gomes of Portugal (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Gomes to face an array of past winners in Desenzano

Naide Gomes of Portugal, who won the gold medal in the Pentathlon at the 2004 World Indoor Championships in Budapest is the big name entrant at the 17th edition of the Multistars Combined Events meeting in Desenzano del Garda this weekend(8-9 May), the first leg of this year’s IAAF World Combined Events Challenge.

Gomes produced a big upset in Budapest by scoring an impressive 4759 points national indoor record. In the process she produced some remarkable individual results, such as 1.88 in the High Jump (a national indoor record), 6.45 in the Long Jump and 15.08 in the Shot Put.

The 24-year-old Portuguese athlete, was born in the small island of Sao Tome and Principe off the west coast of Africa (a former Portuguese colony) and became a Portuguese citizen in 2001 after representing her native country at the Sydney Olympic Games.

Return to Desenzano

She returns to Desenzano where she finished fourth with 5928 points in 2002 some weeks after winning the silver medal in the Penthathlon at the European Indoor Championships in Vienna with 4595 points. In Austria, Gomes was beaten by the 2001 World outdoor champion Yelena Prokhorova but finished ahead the rising Swedish star, and now World champion Carolina Klüft.

Desenzano is the first outdoor outing of 2004 for Gomes who will pursue her Heptathlon national record of 6160 points which she scored in Ratingen, Germany in 2002.

Simpson set to defend title 

Gomes’s leading challenger is Margaret Simpson from Ghana, who won the Desenzano Multistars last year with 5952 points. The powerful African athlete, who threw 52.79 in the javelin throw (her strongest event) in Desenzano last year, was a bronze medallist at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, and holds the national record in the Heptathlon with 6120 points (Götzis, 2003).

Other main challengers are Maria Colonville from France, who was the World Indoor bronze medallist in the Pentathlon in Birmingham 2003 with a 4644 score, Tia Hellebaut from Belgium, Svetlana Kazanina from Kazakistan, and the Italian Gertrud Bacher.

Hellebaut was the overnight leader last year in Desenzano with 3516 points before fading in the second day to fourth with a score of 5849 points. Hellebaut, an excellent high jump performer with a PB of 1.94, produced a major impact this winter when she finished fifth with 4526 points at the World Indoors. 

Bacher and Kazanina - former winners return

Italy sets its hopes on the Heptathlon national record holder Gertrud Bacher, who crowned a successful 2003 season with a good sixth place in Paris with a score of 6166, just 19 points off the national record she set in 1999 when she won the Desenzano Multistars. Bacher finished her 2003 season with a fourth place in Talence (France) with 6063, and was ranked sixth in the 2003 IAAF Combined Events Challenge.
 
Svetlana Kazanina from Kazakistan, who won the Desenzano Multistars twice in her career in 2000 and 2001, has a PB of 6228 points and won three Asian Championships titles in 1995, 2000 and 2002.

The line-up also includes the US multi-eventers Tiffany Lott Hogan (PB 6211) and Kim Schiemenz (6209), the Finn Tiia Hautala, a fifth placer at the 1999 World Championships in Seville with 6369 points (PB), who was second in Desenzano last year with 5860.

Another interesting name is the 18-year-old Briton Jessica Ennis, who led after five events at last summer’s World Youth Championships in Sherbrooke but faded to fifth after a disappointing performance in the javelin. Ennis (PB 5194) may be an athlete to watch with two months to go to this summer’s World Junior Championships in Grosseto.

Decathlon
 
The 2003 World University Games champion Romain Barras from France leads the men’s line-up. Barras had a remarkable 2003 season which opened with a second place in Desenzano with 7929 points behind the Paris World Championships bronze medallist Dimitry Karpov from Kazakistan.

After Desenzano the Frenchman contested another five Decathlon competitions in 2003, winning the Combined Events European Cup and the University Games in Daegu (South Korea) with the best scoring of his career of 8196 points, and then finished second in Talence. These results earned him a significant fourth place in the IAAF World Combined Events Challenge.

Jiri Ryba from Czech Republic, the Desenzano meeting record holder with a 8339 points (2000), returns to the Italian combined events meeting after two years plagued by injuries.

Vitaliy Smirnov from Uzbekistan, gold medallist in the Asian Championships in Manila last year, and Claston Bernard from Jamaica, ninth at the World Championships in Paris and a 8094 points performer, USA’s Bevan Hart and Andy Giesler, Poland’s Michal Modelski and the Italian Paolo Casarsa are the other main players.
 
The organisers have invited 27 men and 26 women from 25 nations for this year’s Desenzano meeting.
 
History

The Desenzano meeting has traditionally revealed some future Olympic, World and European medallists.

Last year Dimitry Karpov from Kazakistan won with 8253 and used Desenzano as a springboard for his astonishing bronze medal in Paris which he took with a national record score of 8374, behind Roman Sebrle and Tom Pappas after leading at the end of day one.

The Desenzano meeting has been highlighted by the notable wins of the 1992 Olympic champion Robert Zmelik (who won the Multistars meeting three times in 1991, 1992 and 1996).

The 1991 World Heptathlon silver medallist Liliana Nastase still holds the meeting record with 6565 points she set in 1992 in her third and final victory in the Italian meeting after wins also in 1990 and 1991.

Svetlana Dimitrova, twice European champion in the 100m hurdles (Helsinki 1994 and Budapest 1998) began her career as a Heptathlete and won in Desenzano in 1993 with a solid 6470 points score.