Hanna Melnychenko at the 2013 TNT Express meeting in Kladno (© Jan Kucharcik)
The duel between world heptathlon champion Hanna Kasyanova (nee Melnychenko) and local star Eliska Klucinova could highlight the TNT Express meeting in Kladno, part of the IAAF Combined Events Challenge, on Friday and Saturday (12-13).
The biggest name in decathlon field is 2012 world indoor silver medallist Oleksiy Kasyanov, twice a winner in Kladno and husband of Kasyanova.
The Ukrainian couple, who got married last October, were at Thursday’s press conference at the Sletiste stadium. “This meeting in Kladno is our first step towards preparation for Rio,” said Kasyanova. “It could be the third Olympics for both of us.”
Kasyanova won in Kladno two years ago before going on to take the world title in Moscow later that summer with a PB of 6586.
But last season didn’t go as planned for the 32-year-old. She recorded a season’s best of 5937 at the European Cup Combined Events. She then skipped the European Championships and failed to finish in Talence.
“I feel much better than last year,” said Kasyanova. “My training went well, so I hope I won’t disappoint fans. The women in Gotzis have set the bar very high, but I am looking forward to competing with Eliska.”
Kladno is a place where Klucinova loves to compete. The Czech heptathlete won here in 2010, 2012 and 2014, breaking the national record on each occasion. Her current mark stands at 6460.
The European indoor bronze medallist recently finished 10th in Gotzis with 6349, the second-best score of her career. She competed in Gotzis before each of her previous Kladno victories, but always produces a higher score in the Czech city.
“On paper, I’m not the favourite here,” said the 27-year-old. “But I will fight like a lion for a good result.”
Klucinova is targeting a score of 6500 this season. Compared to last year, she has improved in shot put and feels capable of running faster in the 800m. In Gotzis she felt a little pain in her foot during the high jump, but hopes it won’t bother her in Kladno.
Poland’s Karolina Tyminska also returns to Kladno, having finished second here on four occasions. Her score of 6516 in 2011 would have been enough to win in any other year. Earlier this year she tested her shape with a one-hour heptathlon in Montpellier, scoring 5662.
The field includes four more heptathletes with personal bests in excess of 6000 points: 2005 European under-23 champion Laurien Hoos of the Netherlands, Norwegian record-holder Ida Marcussen, recent Multistars winner Sofia Yfantidou and Nigerian record-holder Uhunoma Osazuwa.
Kasyanov optimistic about title defence
Kasyanov will defend his title in the decathlon. Last year he was the only decathlete to surpass 8000 points in Kladno, scoring 8083. After many injuries, the 2012 European silver medallist is optimistic before his first decathlon of the season.
“I didn’t have any problems in my preparation, so I can expect a good result,” said Kasyanov, who set his PB of 8479 at the 2009 IAAF World Championships in Berlin, where he finished fourth.
Kasyanov will face New Zealand’s Brent Newdick, who will be making his sixth appearance in Kladno. This will also be his sixth decathlon of the year so far.
France’s Romain Martin could be the dark horse of the competition. The 26-year-old has a best of 8104 but has been improving with every season.
Czech fans will be cheering for Marek Lukas, who finished ninth at this year’s European Indoor Championships. His training partner Adam Sebastian Helcelet is recovering from an achilles tendon injury, and last year’s junior world champion Jiri Sykora decided to take a rest and do some training after competing in Gotzis.
Michal Osoba for the IAAF