Damian Warner at the Hypo Meeting in Gotzis (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Götzis, Austria

Warner and Thiam seek successful start to 2017 in Götzis

Olympic heptathlon champion Nafissatou Thiam and world decathlon silver medallist Damian Warner top the bill at the Hypo Meeting in Götzis, the Austrian leg of the IAAF Combined Events Challenge, in the Mosle Stadium on 27-28 May.

Thiam will compete in her first heptathlon since winning the Olympic gold medal in Rio last summer with a Belgian record of 6810. She set five individual PBs within that series, including a 1.98m high jump, which was higher than the winning mark in the individual event. She also set PBs in the 100m hurdles (13.56), long jump (6.58m), javelin (53.13m) and 800m (2:16.54).

The 22-year-old picked up her 2017 season where she left off last year by winning the European indoor pentathlon title in Belgrade, improving her lifetime best to 4870 after setting indoor PBs in the 60m hurdles (8.23) and the high jump (1.96m).

Thiam will be making her fourth appearance in Götzis. She made her debut in 2014, finishing fifth with a PB of 6508. She finished ninth one year later with 6412 and fourth last year with 6491.

She will take on 2015 European indoor champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson, who won in Götzis in 2014 with a lifetime best of 6682. The Briton owns the second-best indoor pentathlon performance in history with the 5000-point tally she scored in Prague two years ago.

After finishing fifth at the 2013 World Championships, Johnson-Thompson placed sixth in Rio after matching Thiam in the high jump at 1.98m, a British record. She finished sixth in Götzis last year in what was her first heptathlon since undergoing knee surgery in the autumn of 2015.

Johnson-Thompson has been training in Montpellier since last winter with Olympic decathlon silver medallist Kevin Mayer and Antoinette Nana Djimou. The latter will be also in the Götzis line-up this year.

The French heptathlete, who owns four continental titles – two indoors and two outdoors – finished third in Götzis in 2011 with 6409, her best performance at the Hypo Meeting.

World bronze medallist and 2012 European silver medallist Laura Ikauniece-Admidina will be a strong contender for a podium position after finishing second at last year’s edition with 6622. The Latvian finished fourth at the Olympic Games in Rio, missing the bronze medal by just 36 points.

Germany will select their heptathletes and decathletes for the IAAF World Championships London 2017 based on the results of the IAAF Combined Events Challenge meetings in Götzis and Ratingen, so naturally they will have a strong presence this weekend.

Carolin Schaefer will be aiming for a third successive PB podium finish in Gotzis, having finished second in 2015 with 6547 and third in 2016 with 6557. The 25-year-old placed fifth in Rio with 6540, which ultimately gave her enough points to win the 2016 Combined Events Challenge title. She warmed up for the Hypo Meeting by setting PBs of 13.11 in the 100m hurdles and 14.79m in the shot put as well as equalling her high jump PB of 1.84m.

The German contingent also features two-time world silver medallist Jennifer Oeser, European 100m hurdles champion Cindy Roleder, and European indoor long jump bronze medallist Claudia Salman-Rath, who this winter improved her PB in her strongest individual discipline to 6.92m.

While Roleder will be expected to run fast in the 100m hurdles, so too will Nadine Visser, who clocked a wind-assisted 12.57 in Clermont last April. The Dutch heptathlete has a wind-legal PB of 12.81, set during the heptathlon at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015. Her heptathlon PB of 6467 was set in Götzis earlier that year.

The traditionally strong Dutch team also includes 2014 world indoor champion Nadine Broersen and European champion Anouk Vetter, who set a national record of 6626 on her way to her continental title last year. Her previous PB of 6458 was set in Götzis in 2015.

The hopes of local fans will be carried by 23-year-old Ivona Dadic, who clinched the European bronze medal last year with a national record of 6408 and followed it by taking European indoor silver in Belgrade last March with a national record of 4767.

Cuba’s 2012 world U20 champion Yorgelis Rodriguez, who set a national record of 6481 to finish seventh in Rio last year, prepared for the Hypo Meeting by setting a long jump PB of 6.41m.

Katerina Cachova, who won the 2007 world U18 title and set a PB of 6328 last year, will be the sole Czech heptathlete in action.

The Hypo Meeting is set to continue its proud tradition in revealing new stars on the international stage. The new generation of combined events will be represented by European youth champion Alina Shukh of Ukraine, world U20 champion Sarah Lagger of Austria, world U18 champion Geraldine Ruckstuhl and European U20 champion Caroline Agnou from Switzerland.

Shukh won the world U18 bronze medal in Cali two years ago with 5896 and the European youth gold medal in Tiblisi last year. Earlier this year the 18-year-old set a world U20 indoor pentathlon record of 4542, adding seven points to the previous mark set by Swedish legend Carolina Kluft.

Warner seeks Hypo-Meeting hat-trick

World silver medallist Damian Warner will be looking to win the decathlon at the Hypo Meeting for the third time after finishing first in 2013 and 2016. A win this weekend would make him the third decathlete to achieve this feat after Guido Kratschmer and Roman Sebrle.

The Canadian scored 8523 and set a meeting record of 10.15 in the 100m at last year’s meeting and capped his impressive season with a bronze medal at the Olympic Games in Rio with a score of 8666, just missing his national record set at the 2015 World Championships by 29 points.

Warner will face a powerful German trio led by Kai Kazmirek, who won in Götzis in 2015 with 8462 and finished fourth at the 2016 Olympic Games with a personal best of 8580.

Other German decathletes with podium potential are world bronze medallist Rico Freimuth and world indoor bronze medallist Mathias Brugger.

Since finishing third at the 2015 World Championships with a PB of 8561, Freimuth – son of two-time Hypo Meeting winner Uwe Freimuth and nephew of 1980 Olympic high jump bronze medallist Jorg Freimuth – hasn’t completed a decathlon, withdrawing from his past four attempts. His most recent effort was in Halle earlier this month where he contested just the first three disciplines.

Cuba’s two-time Olympic bronze medallist Leonel Suarez will make his fifth appearance in Götzis. After undergoing surgery in 2014, the 2009 and 2011 world silver medallist returned to top form last year to finish sixth at the Olympics with 8460.

Domink Distelberger will carry local hopes. The Austrian finished fifth in Götzis last year with a PB of 8175 and more recently he finished fourth at the European Indoor Championships with a lifetime best of 6063.

Eelco Sintnicolaas, the 2013 European indoor champion, will return to the scene of his 8506 PB after a difficult 2016 season. The Dutch contingent also includes European under-23 champion Pieter Braun, who set his PB of 8197 in Götzis in 2015.

The Czech Republic will also be strongly represented in Götzis. European silver medallist Adam Sebastian Helcelet will be joined by 2014 world U20 champion Jiri Sykora, 2015 Kladno winner Marek Lukas and European under-20 champion Jan Dolezal.

Estonia’s two-time NCAA champion and 8356 performer Maicel Uibo, husband of Olympic 400m champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo, will make his first appearance in Götzis.

Brazil’s South American champion Luiz Alberto De Araujo, who finished 10th at the Olympics last summer with a PB of 8315, will make his Hypo Meeting debut, as will Canada’s rising star Pierce LePage, who made a breakthrough last year when he finished third in Talence with 8027.

The impressive line-up is completed by Ukraine’s two-time world indoor silver medallist Oleksiy Kasyanov, Britain’s Commonwealth silver medallist Ashley Bryant, and Poland’s Pawel Wiesolek.

Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF