World champion Kevin Mayer broke the decathlon world record* at the Decastar meeting in Talence on Sunday (16), scoring 9126 at the final IAAF Combined Events Challenge fixture of 2018.
Had it not been for his three fouls in the long jump at last month’s European Championships in Berlin, Mayer most likely wouldn’t have competed at the Decastar meeting. But in the aftermath of that setback, the 26-year-old was looking redemption in Talence, a south-western city in the suburb of Bordeaux.
Just as USA’s Dan O’Brien had done in 1992 after famously no-heighting in the pole vault at the US Olympic Trials that year and therefore missing out on the Olympic Games, Mayer gained redemption in the best possible way: by smashing the world record.
In fact, it was the second world record of the day, coming just seven hours after Eliud Kipchoge clocked a stunning 2:01:39 at the Berlin Marathon.
Following a strong first day on Saturday, Mayer started the second day of competition with a tally of 4563 points, 140 behind Ashton Eaton’s first day total when he set his 9045 world record three years ago at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing. But Mayer is notably a strong performer in the five events on the second day of a decathlon.
The world indoor champion continued that momentum throughout the second day. Pushed by European champion Arthur Abele, Mayer won the 110m hurdles in 13.75. Despite the -1.1m/s headwind, Mayer’s time was just 0.04 outside the PB he set in Paris earlier this year.
“It was tough to get going this morning,” said Mayer. “The race seemed longer than usual. And a German, on my right-hand side, was catching up with me. I gave it everything.”
“It was a nice head-to-head,” responded Abele. “This race was very cool.”
Mayer opened the discus with 46.41m before improving that to 48.72m in round two and 50.54m in round three. His throw was almost two metres shy of his lifetime best (52.38m) but was easily his best ever discus mark within a complete decathlon and was the farthest throw of the day.
The world record was looking more and more likely with each event, but first Mayer would have to safely navigate his way through the pole vault, a discipline that has caught out many decathletes over the years.
Thankfully, Mayer needn’t have worried today.
Following his opening clearance at 5.05m, Mayer passed 5.15m and then easily cleared 5.25m. He then carried on to 5.35m and 5.45m, five centimetres better than his best ever vault within a combined events competition.
After one failed attempt at 5.55m, he opted to stop vaulting to save his energy for the two remaining events.
“Now we can start talking about the world record,” said Mayer, having tallied 7503 points after eight events.
The Frenchman recorded his fourth win of the second day courtesy a massive third-round throw of 71.90m in the javelin, more than a metre farther than his previous best.
With one event to go, Mayer had already amassed 8421 – a score that eventually would have been enough to win by 111 points. He needed just a 4:49 clocking in the 1500m to break Eaton’s world record. Mayer’s PB for the distance was some 31 seconds faster than that.
Exhausted and encouraged by a massive crowd, he covered the final event in 4:36.11 to tally 9126 points, improving Eaton’s previous mark by 81 points. It was the biggest single improvement on a decathlon world record since Tomas Dvorak added 103 points to the mark in 1999.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time,” said Mayer after becoming the first Frenchman to hold the decathlon world record. “We live for moments like this that are simply incredible. I couldn’t cry. I don’t have any more tears left because I was crying so much before the 1500m.”
Abele, who finished second with 8310, some 816 points behind Mayer, overtook Norwegian Martin Roe in the IAAF Combined Events Challenge standings to clinch his first series title.
That was an incredible display of ability! I’m super happy for @mayer_decathlon & even more for the future of the decathlon. Important thing to me has always been to keep pushing the limit and inspiring others to do the same. The more 9k can become commonplace the better. Alle!— Ashton Eaton (@AshtonJEaton) September 16, 2018
Third challenge win for Schäfer
World silver medallist Carolin Schäfer held a 17-point lead after the first day of the heptathlon, but was temporarily overtaken after the first event of the second day.
Katerina Cachova of the Czech Republic leapt to 6.28m to post the second best long jump mark of the day behind Ukraine’s Daryna Sloboda, who reached 6.34m. Schäfer managed just 6.10m, 47 centimetres short of the PB she set last year.
With two events remaining, Cachova held an 18-point lead over Schäfer, but the German is a far superior javelin thrower and she proved as much with a throw of 51.58m to regain the lead.
Cachova stayed in relatively close contact with a season’s best of 46.39m, but she dropped to third overall as Geraldine Ruckstuhl sent her javelin out to 55.11m, the best mark of the competition.
With one event to go, Schäfer had a lead of 82 and 83 points respectively over her Swiss and Czech rivals. In 800m terms, that roughly translated to six seconds.
Schäfer clocked 2:15.10 over 800m to secure her second win in Talence after 2014. Schäfer’s tally of 6457 moved her to the top of the challenge standings for the third year in a row, displacing USA’s Erica Bougard as the leader.
“The Decastar has a really special atmosphere,” said Schäfer. “I really enjoyed this weekend. Competing at this late stage of the season was really hard, and I’m ready for the holidays.”
Ruckstuhl, still only 20, finished second with 6391, adding 34 points to her own national record. Cachova rounded the podium with 6381, just 19 points shy of her PB.
Quentin Guillon for the IAAF
*Subject to the usual ratification procedure