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General News Berkeley, CA (USA)

O’Brien aborts Decathlon attempt as Pappas takes first-day lead

O’Brien aborts Decathlon attempt as Pappas takes first-day lead
Ed Gordon for the IAAF
19 June 2002 - Berkeley, CA (USA) -The date of 19 June had long been circled on former Olympic decathlon champion Dan O’Brien’s calendar for his return to serious decathlon competition at the US Multi-events Championships in Berkeley. 

Today, the date came and went, as did O’Brien (36yrs), still apparently hampered by the same plantar faciatis, which has prevented him from completing any ten-eventers since his win at the 1998 Goodwill Games.

Problems today began in the decathlon’s second event, the long jump.  “On my last jump, I hammered the board pretty hard, and it really inflamed my left foot,” O’Brien remarked at the end of his day, which came somewhat prematurely after running only a few steps of the 400 metres and then leaving the track.  Up until that moment, his four-event total had been a third-place 3336.

His reason for coming to the starting line in the 400 metres was his uncertainty about whether a no-show in the event would disqualify him from further competition on the second day.

“I want to come back tomorrow and get some work in,” the former world-record holder continued.  “My foot still hurts on the curves, so I didn’t run the 400 because of the risk of a complete plantar tear.”

In March, O’Brien came to the same stadium in Berkeley for a piecemeal multi-event competition, in which he competed in a few select events.  At the time, he declared that he wouldn’t be back in June for the championships “unless I am capable of scoring 8600 or 8700 points.” 

Always the optimist, O’Brien quickly put a positive spin on today’s experience, saying that “more than anything, I wanted to see where I was and to evaluate my training.  This tells me I have a long way to go, but I’m going to keep training.”

O’Brien’s participation eroded some of the attention deserved by Tom Pappas, who led after the first day with 4400 points. 

The sandy-haired Tennessee resident finished second to current world-record holder Roman Sebrle in the Götzis competition three weeks ago, and by comparison logged a first-day total of 4480 in the Austrian Voralpen enroute to a personal-best 8583.

Today, Pappas exceeded his Götzis marks in only two of the five events.  “I can’t be too disappointed,” he rationalized.  “I was expecting to go higher in the high jump [2.13 vs. 2.18 in Götzis], but everything else is OK.  I’m still hopeful of a PB when it’s all over tomorrow.”

Behind Pappas on the first day were Bryan Clay--third in the 2001 championships--at 4239 and Stephen Moore--sixth last year--with 4212.  No other competitors were within 158 points of the top three.

Götzis heptathlon winner Shelia Burrell was finding the US championships a bigger challenge than the Austrian competition as she clung to a tenuous eleven-point lead over defending champion DeDee Nathan at the close of the first day.

The bronze medallist from Edmonton tallied 3628, which was 90 points under her four-event total three weeks ago.  This allowed Nathanan opportunity to keep the competition close with a 3617 first-day aggregate.

The 30-year-old Burrell, looking for her first US title since winning in 1999, admitted being fatigued.  “A few weeks ago, I went to Götzis and competed, and then I came back with the feeling I’m going to get it done at the nationals.  But, man am I tired,” she laughed. 

“Competing here is a lot different from international competitions [and their large fields].  Here, it all goes by so fast.  That works for some people, but for me, I need a little rest.”

Kim Schiemenz, at 3559, and Virginia Mille, with 3553, were staging their own close battle for third following the two front-runners.  No other competitor was within 161 of the lead quartet.

Wednesday’s programme also saw the conclusion of both junior multievent competitions.

Donovan Kilmartin won the decathlon competition with 7440, a 748-point margin over the second-place total of Robert Bates (6692). 

The 18-year-old Idaho high school student had the best performance in four of the ten events, and tied for the best in a fifth. 

Only Kilmartin has met the qualifying mark for the IAAF World Junior Championships in Kingston, and he will be the sole US entrant there next month. 

In the heptathlon, twin sisters Julie and Diana Pickler were so identical that they had twin scores of 4538 to lead the competition going into the final event of the two days.  Last year’s champion Diana yielded to Julie’s wire-to-wire win in the 800 metres, however, as they claimed the top two places, Julie with 5338 and Diana at 5281.