Chari Hawkins in the heptathlon 200m in Arona (© JJ Vico)
USA's Chari Hawkins and Sweden's Marcus Nilsson captured respective victories at the Meeting Internacional Arona Pruebas Combinadas Tenerife, the Spanish leg of the World Athletics Combined Events Tour Gold, held this weekend (4-5 June).
Hawkins’ overnight lead became even more significant after her close rival Naimh Emerson withdrew following the long jump, and she went on to win with a PB of 6243. Nilsson, meanwhile, cemented his win after an expected strong second day, scoring 8115.
The heptathlon kicked off with a clash in the 100m hurdles between Solene Ndama of France and USA's Hawkins, with the former prevailing – 13.24 to 13.30. Hawkins' compatriot Ashtin Zamzow-Mahler finished a distant third in 13.52.
Still rounding into form, Emerson managed a season's best of 14.23 for sixth but the 23-year-old proved to be the strongest in one of her favourite events, the high jump, sailing over 1.85m after a perfect card from 1.73m to 1.82m.
Hawkins, after a scare at 1.76m that saw her clear the bar at the third time of asking, managed a 1.85m PB to move into the overall lead ahead of Emerson and Claudia Conte of Spain.
The 2018 world U20 champion Emerson also took the shot put, opening with a 13.38m effort before improving her lifetime best by 17 centimetres to 13.82m. Hawkins was a close third courtesy of a 13.67m heave to comfortably maintain her lead, with Marijke Esselink of the Netherlands sandwiched between them (13.72m).
Hawkins strengthened her lead with a victory in the closing 200m, recording 24.69 clearly ahead of Emerson's 25.06, although Esselink took the previous heat in 24.79. At the end of day one Hawkins was a comfortable leader, 158 points ahead of Emerson, herself four points clear of Esselink.
In Sunday's first event, Conte overcame a foul and a botched attempt to land at 6.18m in the last round of the long jump. Hawkins and Emerson had to be satisfied with respective leaps of 5.98m and 5.93m, the Briton being narrowly surpassed by the Dutch Esserlink and threatened by Conte in the overall rankings.
A flare-up of a hamstring problem meant that Emerson withdrew from the competition before the javelin. Hawkins managed 42.88m, which was enough to maintain a comfortable 142-point lead over Conte, who threw 44.70m. Uzbekistan’s Ekaterina Voronina moved up the standings thank to her 50.45m release.
Conte went out hard in the 800m, passing through the first lap in 1:02.70, but faded to second in 2:11.58. Hawkins was further back in 2:16.66, ending the competition with a winning score of 6243.
Conte finished second with 6174, while Esselink (6087) and Voronina (6072) were third and fourth respectively.
“I’ve loved it,” Hawkins told DecathletesOfEurope. “There’s something special about the weather, the environment, the music, the people – it was really electric. I came in so focused and I was really glad I was able to do what I needed to do today.”
Nilsson bounces back
In the decathlon, Brazil’s Felipe Dos Santos confirmed his role as the strongest athlete in the opening events with victories in the 100m (10.64) and the long jump (7.33m).
Germany's Jannis Wolf took the runner-up place in the 100m (10.83), while Italy's Dario Dester came third in 10.93. Nilsson, meanwhile, was further down the standings in 13th overall with 11.43.
Dester climbed into second place overall after long jumping 7.29m, but Nilsson dropped further with a best of just 6.83m, almost half a metre down on his PB.
A 15.37m heave in the shot put from Nilsson put the Swede back in the frame, moving him up to ninth overall. He was still almost 200 points shy of leader Dos Santos, though, who managed 13.60m. Dester held on to second place after throwing 13.58m.
Dos Santos maintained the lead after clearing 1.98m in the high jump. Venezuela’s Gerson Izaguirre matched that height and overtook Dester to move into second. Nilsson, meanwhile, also cleared 1.98m and climbed up to sixth place overall.
Dos Santos finally surrendered his lead in the final discipline of the day as Dester cruised to a lifetime best of 47.70 in the 400m, elevating the Italian up to first place overall with 4144 points at the half-way stage. Dos Santos and Izaguirre also surpassed 4000 points at the end of day one, while Nilsson held on to sixth place with 3931.
Izaguirre achieved his first individual discipline win in the opening event of the second day. The Venezuelan topped the 110m hurdles in 14.21, just 0.01 ahead of Dos Santos with Dester in third (14.43), just enough to hold on to the lead. Nilsson was further back in 14.73.
The Swede, just as he had done in the shot put on day one, clawed back even more points in the discus with his 47.61m heave being almost four metres farther than the next-best athlete in that event. Dos Santos reclaimed the lead after throwing 40.33m, but Dester, Izaguirre and Nilsson were all within 100 points of the Brazilian.
Nilsson, very much a ‘second day’ performer, excelled in the pole vault and equalled his PB of 5.10m, taking the overall lead from Dos Santos, who managed 4.70m. Dester (4.80m) and Izaguirre (4.90m) also remained in contention with just 41 points separating the quartet going into the last two disciplines.
Confirming his status as the strongest all-round thrower in the field, Nilsson took the javelin with 59.28m to extend his lead. Dester (56.61m) and Dos Santos (56.02m) were relatively close behind, while Izaguirre managed 53.65m.
By this point, Nilsson – the 2010 world U20 bronze medallist – knew he had a good chance of winning as he was the strongest 1500m runner of the field. His target became improving on his PB of 8120, for which he would need a 4:19.32 clocking in the 1500m.
He went out hard and fell agonisingly short, but his 4:19.83 run was still enough to win with a score of 8115.
Dester finished in 4:39.70, giving him a score of 7903 for second place, while Izaguirre took third place with 7812.
Emeterio Valiente for World Athletics