Nafissatou Thiam in the heptathlon high jump at the Decastar meeting in Talence (Jean-Pierre Durand) © Copyright
Report Talence, France

Thiam and Lepage the overnight leaders in Talence as Mayer saves himself

Nafissatou Thiam produced a strong opening day in the heptathlon at the Decastar in Talence, France, as Kevin Mayer, who returned to the scene of his decathlon world record, stopped the fourth leg of the IAAF Combined Events Challenge meeting after the third event.

Solène Ndama sped to a standout performance in the opening 100m hurdles, clocking 12.91 (0.3m/s), her fastest ever in a heptathlon and 0.14 behind her career best she set at the 2018 European Championships.

“I’m so happy” said Ndama. “The atmosphere is just incredible.”

But all eyes were on world and Olympic champion Nafissatou Thiam, who started her weekend with 13.49, the third-fastest performance of her career.

It was in the high jump, though, where the Belgian excelled. Her clearance of 2.02m – a world heptathlon best – catapulted her into first place overall; a position she didn’t relinquish for the rest of the day.

She cleared all of her heights – 1.93m, 1.96m, 1.99m and 2.02m – on the first attempt and only registered failures at 2.05m. She now sits second on the 2019 world list behind Maria Lasitskene.

“I feel like I’m competing at home,” said Thiam who was making her first appearance in Talence. “I felt very good all through the contest. Actually, I didn’t expect to do so well for my first high jump contest of the year.

“Even if I didn’t manage to clear 2.05m, my three attempts were not so bad. It bodes well for the future.”

Thiam maintained her lead in the shot put, throwing an outdoor PB of 15.41m, just 11 centimetres shy of her indoor best, and wrapped up her first day by recording 24.55 in the 200m into a -2.4m/s headwind, the third-best clocking of her career.

It brought her tally to 4133 for a huge 299-point lead over Odile Ahouanwanou (3834) with Laura Ikauniece in third with 3792.

“It’s a pity about the wind,” said Thiam after producing her best ever first-day tally, 80 points better than her score of 4053 en route to her lifetime best of 7013.

Mayer saves himself for Doha

As the men’s 100m got underway, Pierce Lepage sprinted to a PB of 10.31 (0.7m/s), just 0.02 shy of the meeting record but 0.15 quicker than his previous best. “I feel good,” said the Canadian. “I am very happy to be here.”

Kevin Mayer, almost in his stride, finished second in 10.60, just 0.05 shy of his best he set en route to his 9126 world record that he smashed nine months ago on the same track of Talence.

The same duo took the top places in the long jump. The Canadian, who finished third here in 2016, proved his current shape to leap a wind-assisted 7.87m (+2.5m/s), well in excess of the 7.44m he set when he scored his 8171 lifetime best.

His strong jump (he did 7.75m in regular conditions) allowed him to lead the competition with 2047, 148 points ahead of Mayer, who produced the third longest mark of the day with 7.55m (-0.5), as USA’s Zach Ziemek, the seventh-place finisher at the 2016 Olympics, moved up to third place overall with 7.62m (1.2m/s).

Kevin Mayer won the ‘Louis d’Or’ at the shot put, which rewards all the winners of individual events. He threw his implement to 15.56m, well outside his 16.20m season’s best and the 16.00m throw he did when he broke the world record.

Pierce Lepage reached 14.21m to keep the overall lead after three events, 55 points ahead of Mayer.

But as expected, the 27-year-old Frenchman decided not to take part to the high jump or the 400m. He was credited with 0.00m in the high jump and just put his feet in the starting-blocks in the one-lap sprint so that he could continue the competition tomorrow in the 110m hurdles, the pole vault and the discus.

“I’m in the build-up for the Doha World Championships. It would be stupid to get injured at this moment of the season,” said Mayer, who has been struggling with a painful knee for some months. “The context this year is well different than it was in September last year. I want to win a medal in Doha and my body is not able to support more than one decathlon in a year.”

Ziemek produced the best performance in the high jump with a PB of 2.13m, while Lepage clocked 48.14 in the 400m to end the first day with a tally of 4558, 253 points ahead of Ziemek and 487 ahead of Thomas Van Der Plaetsen.

Quentin Guillon for the IAAF