Vitali Zhuk of Belarus in the decathlon javelin (© AFP / Getty Images)
Vitaliy Zhuk produced a strong second-day performance at the European Combined Events Team Championships on Sunday (7) to win the decathlon at the IAAF Combined Events Challenge meeting with 8237 while Ukraine’s Daryna Sloboda maintained her overnight lead to win the heptathlon with 6165.
The first league competition concluded in Ribeira Brava on Saturday (6) with the Czech Republic dominating as Jiri Sykora and Jan Dolezal finished 1-2 in the decathlon and Katerina Cachova taking the heptathlon crown.
Belgium was the clear winner of the second league competition with Niels Pittomvils and Noor Vidts winning the decathlon and heptathlon respectively with scores of 7837 and 6027.
After running 10.96 in the 100m, European indoor champion Jorge Urena of Spain moved into the overall lead thanks to a 7.38m leap in the long jump. Estonia’s Kristjan Rosenberg was close behind, having recorded 10.95 in the 100m and a windy 7.34m long jump.
Zhuk, the European bronze medallist, rocketed up the leader board in the shot put. His 15.66m effort moved him from 15th to third place overall behind Urena (13.43m) and Rosenberg (13.27m).
But, just as he has done in Lana and Arona, Rosenberg rose to the occasion in the high jump. He added three centimetres to his outright PB with a clearance of 2.16m, putting him almost 100 points ahead of Urena, who jumped 2.04m. Estonia’s world indoor bronze medallist Maicel Uibo sailed over 2.13m to move into third place.
Zhuk responded with a 48.24 run in the 400m to regain third place. Rosenberg ran 49.06, bringing his day-one score to 4263, and Urena clocked 49.10 to end the first day with 4165 points, 53 ahead of Zhuk. Britain’s John Lane was fourth with 4068, 19 ahead of Uibo.
Urena regained the lead in the opening event of the second day, clocking 13.88 in the 110m hurdles. Rosenberg, who ran 14.91, dropped to second place but was still 100 points ahead of Zhuk.
Zhuk once again excelled in the throws, producing a PB of 48.64m – more than two metres ahead of the rest of the field – to move into pole position. Urena (39.60m) and Rosenberg (40.84m) finished either side of the 40-metre line and were bumped down a place while Uibo (45.27m) remained in fourth.
The pole vault is Uibo’s favoured event and the Estonian equalled his PB of 5.30m to move into the lead. Compatriot Rosenberg moved back into second after clearing 5.00m while Zhuk (4.80m) and Urena (4.60m) dropped to third and fourth respectively.
But Zhuk once again battled back in the javelin. His 64.19m effort was the second-best mark of the day behind Janek Oiglane’s 70.61m and gave him the lead going into the final event. Uibo threw 63.05m to stay in contention, just 14 points – or two seconds in 1500m terms – behind Zhuk.
Urena’s 58.01m and Rosenberg’s 51.70m took them out of contention for victory but kept them on pace for a score in excess of 8000 points.
Knowing that he needed to finish two seconds ahead of his Belarusian rival to win, Uibo appeared to be biding his time for the first kilometre of the 1500m. He picked up the pace on the final lap, but Zhuk kept Uibo in his sights and kicked past him with 150 metres to go, eventually crossing the line in 4:33.54.
With Uibo trailing nearly seven seconds behind, it meant Zhuk had won with 8237, just 53 points shy of his lifetime best. Uibo finished second with 8181 while Urena took third (8073). Overnight leader Rosenberg eventually finished fourth but was rewarded with the first 8000+ score of his career, tallying 8033.
In the heptathlon, Daryna Sloboda moved into the lead after the third event and maintained her position to the end.
Marijke Esselink of the Netherlands sped to a 13.45 win in the 100m hurdles and still held the overall lead after a 1.72m high jump. Sloboda, who opened with 14.05 in the hurdles and 1.78m in the high jump, gained pole position after sending her shot out to 14.03m. Esselink, who managed just 12.02m, dropped to fourth.
The Dutch 20-year-old clocked 24.26 in the 200m to the Ukrainian’s 25.19, but Sloboda had done enough to hold the overnight lead with 3589 points.
Britain’s Katie Stainton jumped into contention – quite literally – in the first event of day two. Her 6.29m leap in the long jump was the best mark of the day and moved her from fourth to second overall. Sloboda managed 6.22m and Esselink 5.94m.
The javelin was relatively close between the top trio with Sloboda extending her advantage with a throw of 42.98m. Esselink regained second place by throwing 41.59m to Staintain’s 38.95m, giving her a 30-point cushion over the Briton going into the final event.
Sloboda’s 2:12.20 run in the 800m gave her a comfortable victory with a PB of 6165. Having clocked 2:13 on four occasions in her career, Stainton finally smashed her PB with 2:09.31 to win the 800m, giving her a lifetime best of 6029. Esselink clocked 2:20.15 to finish third with 5905.
Sykora back to his best
Sykora hadn’t completed a decathlon since winning the 2017 European U23 title. After missing most of 2018 through injury, he returned to action earlier this year and competed at the European Indoor Championships. He sustained an injury in the pole vault and didn’t register a valid height but completed the event nonetheless, finishing 10th.
Thankfully for the 2014 world U20 champion, everything went smoothly in Ribeira Brava and he came within 17 points of his lifetime best to win with 8104, just 21 points ahead of fellow Czech decathlete Jan Dolezal.
Sykora moved into the lead after the second event, having recorded 11.04 in the 100m and 7.50m in the long jump. Dolezal, who opened with 10.99 in the 100m and 7.11m in the long jump, produced the best shot put of the day with 15.03m to close the gap on Sykora, who threw 14.66m, and Sweden’s Fredrik Samuelsson, who was sandwiched between the Czech duo in the overall standings.
A 2.04m clearance in the high jump moved Samuelsson into the overall lead, just three points ahead of Sykora, who cleared 1.98m. Dolezal and Wiesiolek were close behind in third and fourth respectively.
But Sykora regained the lead in the final event of the first day, clocking 49.07 in the 400m to bring his tally to 4199, just 19 points ahead of Samuelsson. Dolezal ended the day with 4099 points and Wiesiolek, the fastest in the 400m with 48.98, tallied 4096.
Sykora extended his lead at the start of day two by winning the 110m hurdles in 14.62 into a -2.3m/s headwind. Samuelsson, Dolezal and Wiesiolek all finished outside 15 seconds, allowing Marek Lukas and Adam Sebastian Helcelet to make up some ground.
The discus was Dolezal’s turn to shine and his 49.56m was the best throw of the day, moving him above Samuelsson, who managed 42.07m. Sykora threw 48.96m to maintain a 157-point lead at the end of the seventh event.
But Dolezal continued to eat into his compatriot’s leading margin, vaulting 4.70m to Sykorva’s 4.60m and throwing 65.02m in the javelin compared to Sykora’s 60.10m. Going into the final event, the two men were separated by just 53 points – which, in 1500m terms, is about eight-and-a-half seconds. Sykora had the fastest PB but Dolezal’s recent performances were superior.
Dolezal was the first of the two men to finish, crossing the line in 4:42.72. Sykora was some way behind but managed to finish within six seconds of his teammate, clocking 4:48.03. It gave him a winning score of 8104 with Dolezal taking second place with 8083. Samuelsson finished third with 7925.
While the decathlon was close throughout, the heptathlon was anything but.
Katerina Cachova dominated the competition from the first event. She was the fastest in the 100m hurdles with a wind-assisted 13.42, then cleared 1.74m in the high jump.
A 12.15m effort in the shot was enough to maintain her lead and she followed it with 25.07 in the 200m, bringing her day-one score to 3516.
Her 6.08m long jump was the second-best mark of the field and she topped the javelin event with 47.36m. The 29-year-old, who didn’t finish the heptathlon in Götzis in May, completed her campaign with 2:19.17 in the 800m to give her a score of 6034. Finland’s Jutta Heikkinen finished second with 5795.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF