Austrian heptathlete Verena Mayr (© AFP / Getty Images)
Verena Mayr (AUT)
World bronze medallist, 2017 World University Games champion, 2017 European U23 silver medallist, Austrian record-holder
My interest in combined events started early.
Training at my local club from the age of six or seven, I had a coach who always wanted us to try every discipline. She was not happy for us just do running, or jumping or throwing; she encouraged us to do all events and said it was important for our development.
At first I enjoyed running the most, but over time I grew to love all the events and I had a talent for most of them. Competing as a combined eventer was an attractive option, and I made my heptathlon debut at the Austrian U16 Championships. I had no expectations and I only entered the competition to have a bit of fun, but I ended up winning it.
That kick-started my passion for combined events and for the past 12 years I’ve competed as a heptathlete.
I took a break for about a year or so in 2012 because I had a problem with the foot on my take-off leg, so my coach and I considered competing in the 400m hurdles. Thankfully, my injury issues cleared and I went back to focusing on the heptathlon.
There are a number of reasons why I like combined events. I enjoy the fact that training for one discipline can have a knock-on effect in helping improve other disciplines. For example, when I train for hurdles, I’m not just improving my ability to hurdle but also developing agility, speed and coordination, which can help me in other disciplines too.
Of course, you try to be perfect in every discipline in every training session, but this is not always possible. So I also like the fact that if I’m training across three or four disciplines in one day and one event is not going well, then later in the day when I switch events, things can go much better.
Competing in a heptathlon is special. It is not like a 100m when you are finished after 10 or 11 seconds. We are in the stadium for two whole days, which makes combined events competitions unique. I don’t think just being a sprinter would be enough for me.
I enjoy all the events equally, but if I’m pushed I would say my favourite discipline is the 800m. It is the event I used to run as a young girl, so it comes easy to me.
Combined events has given me so much throughout my career and I would say to any young, aspiring athlete that it is important to try as many events as possible. Even if you don’t become a combined eventer, it will help you develop you as an athlete, but if you did decide to move into heptathlon or decathlon, it is fun to compete across a range of events.
Steve Landells for World Athletics