Dmitry Karpov prevails in rainy Kladno (© Jan Kucharcik)
Last year´s winners Andrei Krauchanka and Hanna Melnychenko are missing in the start lists due to injuries, but former winners Dmitry Karpov and Oleksiy Kasyanov will duel in a bid to repeat their previous successes at the 8th edition of TNT Express meeting, part of the 2014 IAAF Combined Events Challenge, in the Czech town of Kladno this weekend (14-15).
In addition, there are some well-known faces from past editions, including local favorites Adam Sebastian Helcelet and Eliska Klucinova, London 2012 Olympic Games long jump medalist Janay DeLoach Soukup making her heptathlon debut, and decathlon world record holder Ashton Eaton making an appearance as a special guest at the Sletiste stadium.
Kazakhstan’s Karpov will carry the highest starting number referring to his personal best of 8725 points; the 32-year-old bronze medalist from Athens 2004 Olympics already competed five times in Kladno and won here in 2012.
Ukraine’s Kasyanov, the 2012 European Athletics Championships decathlon silver medallist, is coming back to Kladno after four years.
He had some health problems and was not able to compete in Gotzis, so he will make his outdoor debut in Kladno after finishing fifth in the heptathlon at the 2014 IAAF World Indoor Championships.
“I had to spend one week in hospital, but now I feel ok and ready to compete,” said Kasyanov, 2010 Kladno meeting winner.
Estonia's Mikk Pahapill, 2009 European Indoor Athletics Championship heptathlon winner, also opens his decathlon season in Kladno.
Czech fans will be cheering for the talented 22-year-old Adam Sebastian Helcelet, the latest in a long line of outstanding Czech decathletes.
Despite having ankle problems, Helcelet just managed to get over the 8000 mark by one point in Gotzis two weeks ago and now he is hoping for an improvement.
“My ankle is now 95 per cent ok and I feel I can do better in every event than in Gotzis,” said Helcelet, who has a personal best of 8252 points from last year´s European Athletics U23 Championships, where he finished third.
There are three more competitors with personal bests over 8000 points: Eduard Mikhan from Belarus, Andres Raja from Estonia and New Zealander Brent Newdick.
Apart from these athletes, the decathlete with highest personal best ever will be present in Kladno.
World record holder Ashton Eaton is having a year off from the decathlon but will be watching in Kladno before heading north to Ostrava, where he will run 400m hurdles on Tuesday at the IAAF World Challenge meeting there.
Local favorite Klucinova heads heptathlon field
Heptathlon favourite is the meeting ‘poster girl’ Eliska Klucinova, who once equaled and once bettered the national record in Kladno.
Her current national best is 6332 points from 2013 IAAF World Championships, where she finished seventh.
Now she feels ready to improve. “I am in shape and I would like to attack the Czech record,” promised Klucinova, who used to train in Kladno, on Friday.
Klucinova managed to win here in 2010 and 2012. “Of course I would like to win again, let´s see in what shape are Ida Marcussen and Janay DeLoach-Soukup. My main goal is to finish healthy,” added Klucinova, who achieved 6195 points in Gotzis two weeks ago.
Norway’s Marcussen finished only 24th in Gotzis with 5785 points and in Kladno she would like to come much closer to her personal best of 6226 points.
DeLoach Soukup competed in the long jump at the IAAF Diamond League meeting on Wednesday and has now she has decided to try something new.
“I have no idea how I will do, but I am looking forward to enjoying the competition and learning something new. In the future, I would definitely like to do more heptathlons,” said the multi-talented American, who was third in the 2011 US Indoor Championships pentathlon.
DeLoach Soukup has a long jump best of 7.03m and is also fast 100m hurdler with a best of 12.97. “I am not afraid of any event, but it will be learning experience for me,” she added.
Also in the field, and among the favourites, is Dmitri Karpov´s wife Irina Karpova and Brazil’s Vanessa Chefer Spinola. Both women have bests over 6000 points.
Michal Osoba for the IAAF