Report23 Jul 2023

Kazmirek and Lagger make late charge in Bydgoszcz


German decathlete Kai Kazmirek (© Getty Images)

Germany’s Kai Kazmirek and Austria’s Sarah Lagger came through in the final stages of the decathlon and heptathlon respectively to win at the Wieslawa Czapiewski Memorial – a World Athletics Combined Events Tour Gold meeting – in Bydgoszcz on Sunday (23).

Finley Gaio led for the first eight disciplines in the decathlon, while Britain’s Jade O’Dowda dominated the first day of the heptathlon. O’Dowda was a non-starter on day two, though, while Gaio was overtaken by four opponents in the final two decathlon disciplines, narrowly missing the podium.

Gaio was the only man to break 11 seconds in the 100m, doing so comfortably with 10.68 to take an immediate lead. Kazmirek, meanwhile, was fourth overall with 11.08. Gaio also topped the long jump with 7.59m, giving him a comfortable 181-point lead after just two events from Czechia’s Adam Helcelet and defending champion Ondrej Kopecky.

The margins closed up slightly after the shot put, though, as Gaio’s 13.89m ranked him ninth in that discipline. He held on to his overall lead, but Helcelet (15.10m) consolidated his second place, while Poland’s Pawel Wiesiolek (14.39m) also moved up the leaderboard. Poland’s Rafal Horbowicz was the top performer, throwing a PB of 15.64m, moving him from 10th overall to fifth.

Gaio cleared 1.94m in the high jump, enough to maintain his lead, while Helcelet got over 1.97m to creep a bit closer in the standings. Lithuania’s Edgaras Benkunskas produced the best leap of the day, his 2.03m clearance moving him into third place overall, seven points ahead of Kazmirek, the 2017 world bronze medallist.

A season’s best of 47.80 – easily the fastest of the day in the 400m – gave Gaio an extra points boost to close out the first day with an overall score of 4280 – just 19 points shy of his day-one score from his recent 8022 PB in Gotzis.

Kazmirek was second best in the 400m, clocking 48.69, with Wiesiolek (49.38), Benkunskas (49.73) and Tim Nowak (49.78) all finishing inside 50 seconds.

Helcelet held on to second place overall (4081) with Kazmirek close behind (4067) and Benkunskas fourth (4025).

As expected, Gaio – the fifth-place finisher in the 110m hurdles at last year’s European Championships – extended his lead in the first discipline of day two, clocking 13.84. Kazmirek, meanwhile, clocked a solid 14.58 to remain in contention.

Horbowicz, one of the strongest throwers of the field, was best in the discus (46.82m). Kazmirek threw 42.92m and Gaio managed 37.24m.

The gap between Gaio and Kazmirek narrowed again after the pole vault, with Kazmirek clearing 5.00m – 30 centimetres higher than Gaio’s best.

Gaio finally surrendered the lead after the javelin, throwing just 48.29m. A season’s best of 66.19m from Helcelet propelled the Czech decathlete into the lead with one event to go, but Kazmirek – who threw 60.92m – was just 41 points behind.

Wiesiolek was first to cross the line in the 1500m (4:35.44) with Kazmirek following a few seconds later in 4:39.34, seven seconds ahead of Helcelet. The difference meant that Kazmirek had done just enough to win with 8038, while Helcelet took second place with 8034. Benkunskas was third (7947) and Gaio fourth (7935).

Headwinds hampered performances in the opening event of the heptathlon on Saturday with Hungary’s Rita Nemes being the only athlete to break 14 seconds (13.99). O’Dowda clocked 14.02 to finish close behind with home favourite Adrianna Sulek, the European silver medallist, recording 14.04. Lagger was ninth best overall with 14.28.

O’Dowda then had the competition of her life in the high jump. The Commonwealth bronze medallist went into it with a season’s best of 1.77m and a PB of 1.80m, but she went over both of those heights on her first try. She then cleared 1.83m and 1.86m, eventually retiring after one attempt at 1.89m. Sulek was second best in the high jump with 1.80m, while Lagger cleared a season’s best of 1.74m.

Germany’s Vanessa Grimm moved up the leaderboard after the shot put, where she posted the best mark of the day with 14.53m, while Ukraine’s Yuliya Loban was close behind with 14.45m. Lagger’s 14.21m throw moved her into fifth place overall.

O’Dowda threw 13.22m, while Sulek managed 12.68m. By the end of that event, Dowda had a 57-point lead over Loban with Grimm in third and Sulek a close fourth.

The final discipline of the day, the 200m, was close between the leading contenders. Australia’s Tori West was the quickest with 24.62, but Grimm (24.66), Sulek (24.69) and O’Dowda (24.80) were close behind.

O’Dowda ended the first day in the lead with 3677 points, with Grimm second (3596), Sulek third (3572) and Loban fourth (3570). Lagger, meanwhile, was down in seventh (3480) after recording the slowest time in the 200m (25.63).

But the 2016 world U20 champion’s fortunes started to change on the second day.

Nemes started the second day in the same way she’d started the first – with a winning performance. The Hungarian leaped a PB of 6.30m in the long jump, while Grimm jumped 6.28m. Lagger managed 6.09m and Sulek jumped 6.04m.

With O’Dowda withdrawing from the competition, it meant Grimm moved into the overall lead from Loban and Sulek, with Lagger now in fifth.

Lagger then produced the best mark of the day in the javelin, 47.44m, catapulting her into second place, just 20 points behind Loban, whose 43.29m javelin throw helped move her into the lead.

Nemes rounded out the weekend with victory in the 800m (2:11.47), but Lagger was close behind in 2:13.01, and finished comfortably ahead of Loban (2:18.41). It meant that Lagger took the overall victory with a season’s best of 6089 from Grimm (6058) and Nemes (6049). Loban was fourth with 6033.

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