Kevin Mayer produced a strong opening day in the decathlon at the Decastar in Talence, France, positioning himself for a legitimate assault on the world record at this IAAF Combined Events Challenge meeting.
Mayer won two of the five disciplines to tally 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.
Mayer holds a huge 379-point lead over Germany’s Arthur Abele, who went on to take the European title last month after Mayer, the heavy favourite, crashed out in the long jump.
On the women’s side, Carolin Schafer of Germany holds a 39-point lead heading into the second day of action over Czech Katerina Cachova.
PBs in the 100m and long jump, then relief
Mayer produced strong performances in the two first events. He started his competition by winning his heat of the 100m in 10.55, clipping 0.09 from the career best of 10.64 he set in Berlin last month. Mayer was credited with the same time as Canadian Pierce Lepage.
Abele clocked 10.84, 0.01 shy of his time in Berlin.
“I’ve never been as stressed as today before a competition,” Mayer said after the 100m. “I was asked 20,000 times about the world record.”
In Berlin, he decided to call it a day following three fouls at the long jump. Today, he leapt 7.59 in the first round. His roaring approval after the leap illustrated his deep relief as well as the pressure he was under.
Then, he gave everything. He fouled his second attempt, but in the final round he managed a leap of 7.80m, 15 centimetres better than his previous career best which went back to 2014.
Tim Nowak of Germany jumped 7.56m, the second best jump of the field.
Mayer’s strong day continued with a 16.00m throw in the first round, the farthest of the competition.
Mayer tallied 2824 points after three events, 125 ahead of his French record of 8834 set at the Rio Olympics and just six behind Eaton’s score in Beijing.
In the high jump, the world indoor heptathlon champion nearly lost momentum. But he managed to top 1.99m, 2.02m and then 2.05m, each with his third attempts to go 31 points ahead of Eaton and 135 better than his national record.
Authorised neutral athlete Illya Shkurenev also cleared 2.05m.
Mayer lost ground on the record in the 400m --Eaton clocked an impressive 45.00 during his world record-- but finished third in 48.42. In Rio, he clocked 48.26.
His 4563 first day total is 140 points behind Eaton’s 4703 but traditionally, Mayer’s second day is better than Eaton’s. Part of that strength lies in the pole vault where Mayer improved his personal best to a world class 5.60m his year, albeit outside of decathlon competition.
“The high jump contest was apocalyptic,” said Mayer, who took 12 jumps. “So I didn’t have energy before the 400m. But when I saw my friends running, it stimulated the desire for running. I gave my life to this 400. Tomorrow (Sunday), I want to take the same pleasure as today.”
Abele is second with 4184, 41 points ahead of Nowak.
Schafer eying third straight Challenge title
In the heptathlon, Cachova clocked the fastest time in the 100m hurdles with 13.23, 0.08 ahead of Girt Saideko and 0.11 ahead of Schafer, the world silver medallist.
Cachova and Schafer both cleared 1.80m in the high jump to score 978 points apiece. They were topped by Geraldine Ruckstuhl of Switzerland, who sailed over 1.83m on her third attempt.
Shafer took the lead after a 13.64m second effort in the shot put, five points ahead of Cachova, who reached 13.32m. Xenia Krizsan of Hungary produced the best performance of the day with a 13.91m effort.
Schafer wrapped up the first day by recording the fastest time in the 200m with 24.08. It brought her tally to 3756 for a 39-point lead over Cachova, who clocked 24.44.
Schafer got off to a good start to clinch her second title in Talence and, above all, the IAAF Combined Events Challenge, which would be her third straight.
Quentin Guillon for the IAAF