Chari Hawkins in the heptathlon 200m in Arona (© JJ Vico)
Markus Rooth returns to defend his decathlon title, while Taliyah Brooks and Chari Hawkins are among those on the hunt for heptathlon success at the GardaStars by Multistars – the first World Athletics Combined Events Tour Gold event of 2023 – this weekend (29-30).
The 36th edition of the major Italian combined events meeting returns to the Tre Stelle athletics track in Desenzano del Garda on the shores of Lake Garda after moving to Florence, Lana and Grosseto in the past decade.
The heptathlon field features USA's Brooks and Hawkins, who hold PBs of 6252 and 6243 points, respectively.
Brooks won the NCAA indoor pentathlon title in 2018 with a score of 4572 points and holds PBs of 12.61 in the 100m hurdles and 6.78m in the long jump.
Hawkins won the US indoor pentathlon title with 4492 points in Spokane in 2022 and finished first in the Combined Events Tour Gold meeting in Arona with a heptathlon PB of 6243 points later that year.
Sarah Lagger from Austria will make her second appearance at the Multistars, two years after finishing fifth with 6111. Lagger is a two-time world U20 heptathlon medallist, who won gold in Bydgoszcz in 2016 with 5960 points and silver in Tampere in 2018 with a national U20 record of 6225 points.
Jade O’Dowda will be looking to continue the strong British tradition at the Multistars. O’Dowda won bronze at the Commonwealth Games on home soil in Birmingham with 6212 points and placed seventh at the European Championships in Munich with 6187 last August.
Italian hopes are carried by national indoor pentathlon record-holder Sveva Gerevini, who will be aiming to improve her PB of 6028 set last year at the European Championships in Munich and possibly come close to the national heptathlon record of 6185 set by Gertrud Bacher at the Multistars in 1999. Gerevini placed second at last year’s Multistars with 6011 and finished eighth at the European Indoor Championships in Istanbul in the pentathlon last March with 4363.
Other contenders include Alysbeth Felix Boyer from Puerto Rico (national record 6124), Myke Van de Wiel from the Netherlands (PB 6012), Edyla Bielska from Poland (PB 5945) and Jodie Smith from Great Britain (PB 5929).
In the decathlon, Norway’s Rooth will return with the aim of repeating his win at last year’s edition. Rooth set a national record of 8307 points when winning in Grosseto in 2022, beating his compatriot Sander Skotheim. Athletes from Norway have won the decathlon at four of the past six editions of the Multistars through Lars Rise (2016), Martin Roe in 2018 and 2021, and Rooth last year, and the 21-year-old will hope to continue this proud tradition.
The line-up also features two athletes with PBs over 8400 points: Karel Tilga from Estonia and Thomas Van der Plaetsen from Belgium. Tilga won the NCAA indoor heptathlon title in 2021 with 6264 points and the NCAA decathlon title in Eugene in 2021 with 8261 points, while he set his PB of 8484 points in Athens, Georgia, in 2021.
Van der Plaetsen won European gold in Amsterdam in 2016 with 8218 points and placed eighth at the Olympic Games in Rio with 8332. The Belgian athlete then finished third in Gotzis in 2021 with his PB of 8430.
The other leading contenders are three 8300-point-plus performers: USA’s Devon Williams (PB 8345), Poland’s Pawel Wiesiolek (PB 8333) and Brazil’s Felipe dos Santos (PB 8364).
Willams, brother of heptathlon specialist Kendell Williams, won the US decathlon title in 2019 with 8295 points and the NCAA indoor heptathlon title in 2017 with 6177 points.
Wiesiolek won the Multistars in Florence in 2015 and finished third in the heptathlon with 6133 points at the European Indoor Championships in Torun in 2021. The Polish athlete set a decathlon PB of 8333 points in Warsaw in 2021.
Dos Santos set his PB of 8364 in Sao Paulo in 2020 and finished second at the 2021 South American Championships in Guayaquil.
Two other top European decathletes in the field are Germany’s Tim Nowak, who set his PB of 8229 in 2018 and won two bronze medals at the 2013 European U20 Championships and the 2014 World U20 Championships, and Sweden’s Fredrik Samuelsson, who placed fourth at the European Indoor Championships in 2019 and set his decathlon PB of 8172 in Gotzis in 2017.
The hopes of Italian fans are carried by national indoor heptathlon champion Lorenzo Naidon and 2021 national decathlon champion Lorenzo Modugno.
Olympic 100m champion Marcell Jacobs will be the special guest on Saturday. Jacobs grew up in Desenzano and started his athletics career under the guidance of Gianni Lombardi, the Multistars meeting director.
Diego Sampaolo for World Athletics