The combined events season will draw to a close on Saturday and Sunday (17-18) with the 40th edition of the Decastar meeting in the French city of Talence.
Kevin Mayer, who set a French record of 8834 to take silver at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, leads the names for what is the final act of the 2016 IAAF Combined Events Challenge.
In the wake of his historic achievement, the 24-year-old has spoken of his unique chance to “sell the decathlon to the French people,” and his trip to Talence, a small town on the outskirts of Bordeaux, is part of that pitch.
Mayer is currently ranked eighth overall in the Combined Events Challenge standings, second best of those entered for Talence. But if he scores 7942 or higher, he would surpass current challenge leader Kai Kazmirek and take the US$30,000 overall prize.
Adam Sebastian Helcelet of the Czech Republic is currently third in the overall standings. If Mayer achieves his goal, Helcelet would slip to fourth overall.
Pan-American Games silver medallist Kurt Felix returns to Talence on the back of a personal best of 8323 in Rio. The Grenadian should be competitive over the weekend but with a near 1000-point gap between him and Helcelet cannot expect to challenge for the overall 2016 crown.
Also in the field is Willem Coertzen. The 33-year-old South African record-holder won last year’s event after a late surge to overtake Ukraine’s Oleksiy Kasyanov, who also returns.
Nana Djimou looks to regain title
The French crowd will have another prominent home athlete to cheer as Antoinette Nana Djimou Ida looks to regain the title she won in 2012.
The two-time European heptathlon champion is too far behind current challenge leader Carolin Schafer – who is absent from Talence – but a score of 6323 in Talence would be enough to elevate Nana Djimou into third place overall.
Of those competing, Yorgelis Rodriguez is Nana Djimou’s nearest challenger for the overall crown. Cuba’s Pan-American Games champion is in terrific shape, having posted a PB of 6481 to finish seventh in Rio (ahead of Nana Djimou). A score in the region of 6300 would move Rodriguez into the top five in the overall challenge standings.
Elsewhere in the field, 2015 Talence winner Gyorgyi Zsivoczky-Farkas returns to defend her title. The Hungarian will hope to carry through the form that saw her produce a PB of 6442 to finish eighth in Rio.
US pair Sharon Day-Monroe and Chantae McMillan also feature. Both missed out on Rio qualification despite setting personal bests (6385 and 6326 respectively) at the US Olympic Trials. McMillan looks to improve on a fifth-place finish last year while Day–Monroe returns for the first time since 2012.
Germany’s Claudia Rath, who has placed in the top five at the past two World Championships, will also figure. She will hope to recover from her below-par 6270 in Rio. Hungary’s Xenia Krizsan, the European under-23 champion, will also feature in what promises to be a lively conclusion to the outdoor athletics season.
Thomas Byrne for the IAAF