Steven Fauvel Clinch in the decathlon pole vault at the IAAF World U18 Championships Nairobi 2017 (© Getty Images)
Steven Fauvel Clinch ended the decathlon the way he started it: in the lead.
The French teenager led after the opening event and only surrendered his lead after the shot put when Latvia’s Olegs Kozjakovs produced a championship best of 18.07m. That pattern continued on the second day as Fauvel Clinch only slipped from the top spot after Kozjakovs produced a mammoth effort in the discus, but he soon regained his lead and maintained it until the conclusion of the competition.
The second day started with a clear 13.94 victory in the 110m hurdles from Fauvel Clinch, just 0.10 short of his lifetime best and easily the fastest of the day.
Kozjakovs was similarly close to his own PB, clocking 15.46, while Germany’s Leo Neugebauer chopped 0.3 off his lifetime best with 14.86.
The discus proved to be Fauvel Clinch’s biggest weakness and he managed just 34.14m, more than five metres adrift of his PB. Kozjakovs, meanwhile, banked valuable points with his throw of 48.17m, which was enough to take a 68-point lead overall. Neugebauer kept up the pressure with a throw of 45.02m.
But the top performer in the discus was Lithuania’s Tomas Sabasinskas, who broke the championship best with his throw of 48.60m.
Most of the points that Fauvel Clinch lost in the discus were regained in the next event, the pole vault. His clearance of 4.50m added 20 centimetres to his PB and gave him back the lead with two events remaining.
Compatriot Florian Fourre was the last man standing in the pole vault, equalling the championship best of 4.70m to give himself a shot of a medal. Kozjakovs and Neugebauer were just shy of their bests, clearing 3.70m and 4.20m respectively.
Fauvel Clinch, who carried a slight elbow injury going into the championships, wasn’t expecting much in the javelin. But he came within a couple of metres of his PB and his 48.08m throw was enough to maintain the lead going into the final discipline.
Kozjakovs was still putting up a fight, though, and produced PBs with each of his three throws: 47.53m, 51.03m and 55.76m. The Latvian hadn’t quite done enough to challenge for the gold medal, but his efforts put him in a safe silver medal position ahead of the 1500m.
Fourre was also applying the pressure and threw 54.89m. And with Neugebauer nearly nine metres down on his best with 43.47m, it meant the battle for bronze was going to be hotly contested between the pair in the 1500m as Fourre’s PB in that event was 20 seconds quicker than Neugebauer’s.
Perhaps it was the altitude or maybe the medal contenders were simply trying to tactically hold on to their medal positions, but the 1500m set off at a pedestrian pace with no one willing to push for a PB. Fittingly, Fauvel Clinch crossed the line in first place in 4:48.61, holding off the fast-finishing Damian Moretta of Argentina.
It brought Fauvel Clinch’s winning tally to an equal world U18 lead of 7559 as he became the second French boy to win a world U18 combined events title, following in the footsteps of 2009 winner Kevin Mayer, the Olympic silver medallist.
Kozjakovs finished well down the field in 5:12.82, but it was more than enough to retain his silver medal position with a PB of 7377. Neugebauer kept Fourre in his sights for the duration of the race and finished just a few seconds behind to hold on to bronze, scoring 7204.
Fourre finished fourth with 7099, comfortably ahead of China’s Sun Qihao, who scored 6959.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF