It will be party time this weekend, with the celebration of the 25th anniversary edition of the Götzis Hypomeeting, this great little Austrian "temple" to the combined events, which has played host to the greatest practitioners of these disciplines and their many ardent supporters from around the world.
The importance of Götzis for the decathlon and heptathlon is evidenced by the great talents who have appeared here: Daley Thompson to Jacky Joyner Kersee, Guido Kratschmer to Anke Behmer and Eduard Hämäläinen to Sabine Braun, to name but a few of the most famous, have all written their pages of glory and fatigue here over the years.
The meeting is now a cardinal point of the IAAF World Combined Events Challenge, which was launched last year and is rapidly achieving recognition and attention.
Three weeks after the Multistars Meeting in Desenzano del Garda (ITA), which provided the early standings for the IAAF World Combined Events Challenge 1999, it is now the turn of the Hypomeeting. We will doubtless have some major upturns in the rankings on Sunday evening.
The entry lists provided by Ing. Konrad Lerch, past Austrian champion in the 110m hurdles and the inventor and soul of this meeting, held in a charming little town a few miles from the Swiss and German borders, confirm that there will be a world class field once again this year.
It had looked as though this year’s meeting would have been especially marked by the return to competition of Syria’s Ghada Shouaa, the winner of the 1995 and 1996 editions and the Olympic champion in Atlanta’96, who had been sidelined through injury for nearly two years, with severe back problems. Unfortunately, Shouaa, who now lives and trains in Germany, has had to withdraw due to a strained leg muscle and the same fate has befallen Great Britain’s Denise Lewis, the undisputed star of the 1998 season, who was seen as favourite this weekend. Lewis had to withdraw from Götzis last year too, with health problems. In the following months, the athlete from West Bromwich, found her past form and went on to win the European Championships in Budapest and the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, with the two best performances of 1998.
Lewis will be missed, but LeShundra "DeDee" Nathan (USA), bolstered by her victory in the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Maebashi last March will be in Götzis, as will Germany’s Sabine Braun, who also has a chestful of titles to her credit, including four victories in the Hypomeeting (1990-91-92-94) and world championship titles in ’91 and ’97; the evergreen Urszula Wlodarczyk and Russia’s Irina Belova, who won last year’s edition.
The field for the Decathlon is just as star-studded, with 1998’s number one, Estonia’s Erki Nool, who is followed around by his colourful and voluble fan club, reminiscent of the golden days of France’s Christian Plaziat and his team of supporters.
Nool has won twice in the Hypomeeting, in 1995 and 1998. Last year, other than in the Goodwill Games, where he came fourth, Nool dominated everything, with an exceptional average: 8672 points in Götzis, 8667 in the European Championships, 8628 in Tallinn during the European Cup: in other words, an average of 8655 for the three competitions and an overwhelming victory in the IAAF World Combined Events Challenge 1998. The extrovert Estonian started the new season with a second place in Maebashi, twelve points behind the Polish colossus Sebastian Chmara, who will not compete in Götzis due to a problem with his Achilles’ tendon.
Nool will be meeting some of his adversaries from last season, like the sturdy Icelander Jon Arnar Magnusson, Czech Republic’s Thomas Dvorak, world champion in Athens 97, where he flirted with the world record mark for the event, Dvorak’s compatriot Roman Sebrle, Russia’s Lev Lobodin, Germany’s Klaus Isenkenmeier and the two Uzbeks, Ramil Ganyev and Oleg Veretelnikov – the latter of whom was Asian champion in Tokyo last year.
The winner of Multistars in Desenzano, Ukrainian Aleksandr Yurkov (8215 point three weeks ago), will once again compete in Götzis, while from the United States come Trafton Rogers and the huge Brian Brophy, who is great in the throws, but inconsistent in the other events.
A youngster to watch, will be Finland’s Aki Heikkinen, world junior champion in Annecy last year.
The meeting’s 25th anniversary will also be celebrated off the field, with an historical gathering, which Lerch has named: "Stars of Yesterday". Some of the all-time greats of the combined events, such as Daley Thompson (who set one of his world records of 8732 points in Götzis back in 1982), Sigi Wentz, Guido Kratschmer, Uwe Freimuth, Jane Frederick and Anke Behmer will be there.
Preview by Ottavio Castellini IAAF Statistics and Documentation Manager