Kai Kazmirek in the decathlon pole vault (© AFP / Getty Images)
Germany’s Kai Kazmirek and Canada’s Georgia Ellenwood emerged the winners at the Stadtwerke Mehrkampf-Meeting, thanks to strong second-day performances at the World Athletics Challenge – Combined Events meeting in Ratingen on Sunday (20).
With many combined events athletes seeking a last-ditch attempt at boosting their Olympic selection chances, both the decathlon and heptathlon contests were highly competitive. Kazmirek, the 2017 world bronze medallist, lined up against world champion Niklas Kaul and many other talented German decathletes. The heptathlon, meanwhile, featured world bronze medallist Verena Mayr and 2013 world champion Hanna Kasyanova.
Andreas Bechmann took the overall lead after the second event of the decathlon, following a wind-assisted 10.78 clocking in the 100m and a 7.32m leap in the long jump. A 15.38m PB in the shot put meant he extended his overall lead, while Kazmirek – who had long jumped 7.38m before hurling his shot 14.31m – sat in second place, 14 points ahead of Poland’s Pawel Wiesiolek.
Germany’s Tim Nowak was the top performer in the high jump, banking valuable points with his 2.06m clearance and moving into third overall. Bechmann and Kazmirek both cleared 2.03m, meaning their positions remained the same.
Kazmirek made a small dent in Bechmann’s lead in the 400m, clocking 47.26 to the leader’s 47.68, but the latter maintained his overall lead, ending the first day with 4370. A 48.41 run from Wiesiolek moved the Pole up to fourth overall, 42 points shy of third-placed Nowak.
Kaul, as is often the case on the first day of a high-quality decathlon, was further down the standings in eighth, slightly below the pace he set in Götzis last month.
It didn’t take long for Kazmirek to overtake Bechmann on day two. The 0.74 difference between them in the 110m hurdles (14.50 and 15.24) was enough to transpose their positions in the overall standings.
They remained in those positions through the next three events as Kazmirek threw 41.89m in the discus, cleared 5.00m in the pole vault and threw 56.69m in the javelin. Bechmann managed 42.23m in the discus, vaulted 4.80m and launched his spear 53.35m.
Kaul also got off to a strong start on day two, clocking a PB of 14.38 in the 110m hurdles. He then followed it with 44.85m in the discus and 4.90m in the pole vault. But, perhaps sensing at this point that no other German decathlete would produce a big enough mark to affect Kaul’s likely selection for the Olympics, the 23-year-old withdrew from the competition after eight disciplines.
Nowak, who had been sitting in third place after the discus, suffered a snapped pole in the pole vault and sustained a hand injury in the process, so he too was a non-finisher. And Belgium’s Niels Pittomvils, who was in third place before the 1500m, opted against finishing the competition.
It left Kazmirek, Bechmann and Mathias Brugger as the leading contenders going into the final discipline. Brugger uncorked an impressive 4:20.45 to win the 1500m, enough to carry him to 8080 points and ahead of Bechmann on the leader board. But it wasn’t quite enough to catch Kazmirek, whose 4:42.00 run gave him a final winning score of 8184. Bechmann eventually finished third with 7955.
Ellenwood excels on second day
On Saturday, Odile Ahouanwanou enjoyed one of her best ever starts to a heptathlon.
The 30-year-old from Benin set two national records in the first four disciplines, clocking 13.25 in the 100m hurdles and throwing 15.79m in the shot put.
Her series also included a 1.73m leap in the high jump and a 24.45 run in the 200m, giving her a day-one score of 3830 – 52 points ahead of the pace she set en route to her lifetime best of 6210, set when finishing eighth at the World Athletics Championships Doha 2019.
But Finland’s Maria Huntington was within striking distance. The 24-year-old ran a slightly wind-assisted 13.16 (2.2m/s) to win the 100m hurdles, then topped the high jump with 1.82m to maintain her lead. A 12.50m throw in the shot put meant she surrendered her lead to Ahouanwanou, but she ended her day with a 24.70 run in the 200m to bring her overall tally to 3712.
Ellenwood was in contention after the first two events, having clocked 13.40 in the 100m hurdles and cleared 1.76m in the high jump. She dropped to seventh overall after 12.29m in the shot put and maintained that position after the 200m (24.29), ending the first day 204 points behind Ahouanwanou.
Mayr finished the first day one place ahead of Ellenwood, safe in the knowledge that she had some strong events to come on day two.
Huntington closed in on Ahouanwanou at the start of the second day, leaping 6.39m to the African champion’s 6.07m. But a javelin PB of 48.02m kept Ahouanwanou in pole position going into the final event.
Ellenwood, who had achieved 6.20m in the long jump, was the top performer in the javelin, throwing a big PB of 48.57m to move into second place overall. She still trailed Ahouanwanou by 153 points, but also knew that she was a much better 800m runner than the long-time leader.
The 2018 NCAA champion went for it in the final event, winning in a PB of 2:11.45 to end with a lifetime best score of 6314. Ahouanwanou finished 14 seconds adrift and slipped to second place overall, but she was rewarded with a PB of 6274, an improvement on her own national record.
Mayr, as expected, excelled in the final two disciplines, moving from sixth to fifth and then to third, scoring 6254.
Vanessa Grimm came out on top in the battle of the Germans, finishing fourth overall with 6231, comfortably ahead of fifth-placed Anna Maiwald (6069).
Jon Mulkeen for World Athletics