Previews09 May 2024

Vidts kicks off outdoor season in Arona


Verena Preiner (right) and Noor Vidts in the heptathlon 100m hurdles at the IAAF Combined Events Challenge meeting in Arona (© JJ Vico)

Two-time world indoor champion Noor Vidts will be the marquee athlete at the International Meeting of Arona – the second Gold leg of the World Athletics Combined Events Tour – on the Canary Islands this weekend (11-12).

Vidts, who retained her world indoor title earlier this year in Glasgow, will start as the overwhelming favourite in the heptathlon. The 27-year-old Belgian has finished in the top six at the past three global championships, starting with the Olympic Games in 2021 where she finished fourth with a PB of 6571.

She came close to that at the 2022 World Championships in Oregon, placing fifth with 6559, and she followed that with a sixth-place finish at last year’s World Championships in Budapest with 6450.

Vidts has competed in Arona on seven previous occasions. She won the U20 contest in 2014 and 2015 but is yet to win the main senior event.

Marijke Esselink of the Netherlands should be Vidts’ toughest challenger. The 24-year-old will be making her third appearance in Arona, having finished third in 2021 with a PB of 6087, which she improved to 6222 last year in Götzis.

Ireland’s Kate O’Connor will also be in the mix for a podium place. The 2019 European U20 silver medallist, who holds the national record at 6297, finished second at the opening World Athletics Combined Events Tour Gold meeting in Brescia two weeks ago with 6104.

Watch out too for USA’s Ashtin Zamzow-Mahler, who will be contesting her first heptathlon in almost two years. The 27-year-old finished 11th at the 2022 World Championships and has a 6291 PB from 2021. She’ll be joined by compatriot Shaina Burns, a 6130-point heptathlete aiming to improve on her 14th-place finish in Brescia.

Ondrej Kopecky appears to be the pre-event favourite in the decathlon. The 25-year-old from the Czech Republic has a PB of 8310 from 2022, and more recently he finished ninth at the World Indoor Championships, having set an indoor PB of 6035 in the heptathlon in February.

A solid all-rounder, Kopecky excels in the vertical jumps and has PBs of 2.01m for the high jump and 5.20m in the pole vault.

Marcus Nilsson, winner in Arona in 2022 with a score of 8115, returns to the Canary Islands. The 32-year-old Swede enjoyed a fantastic campaign that year, placing fourth at the European Championships with a huge PB of 8327.

Because of injuries, Nilsson hasn’t completed a decathlon since September 2022, but an indoor heptathlon score of 5706 earlier this year shows the 2010 world U20 bronze medallist is returning to good form.

Germany’s 2017 world bronze medallist Kai Kazmirek, one of the most consistent decathletes over the past decade, will also be in Arona. The 33-year-old only completed one decathlon last year, scoring 8038, and will be contesting his first combined events competition of the year this weekend.

He will be joined by his fellow German Malik Diakite, who surpassed the 8000-point barrier last year with a PB of 8051.

Local hopes rest on defending champion Andreu Boix. The 21-year-old Spaniard produced a lifetime best of 7961 in Arona last year when he set PBs in six of the 10 disciplines.

Mild temperatures – with a high of 25C – are expected throughout a sunny weekend in Arona.

Emeterio Valiente for World Athletics

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