Kevin Mayer wins the decathlon at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 (© Getty Images)
He may have broken the world record and earned Olympic silver in recent years, but Kevin Mayer has also had his fair share of bad luck.
The French decathlete bowed out of the 2018 European Championships after failing to record a valid mark in the long jump. Little more than a year later, he was forced to withdraw from the World Championships in Doha when an injury prevented him from competing in the pole vault.
But in retaining his decathlon title at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22, Mayer showed that he is still a major force in the combined events world.
The 30-year-old navigated his way up the overall standings as the competition progressed. He was sixth at the end of day one, then moved up to fifth after the 110m hurdles on Sunday, fourth after the discus, and third after the pole vault before finally moving into first after throwing 70.31m in the javelin, overtaking Canada's Pierce LePage.
He went on to win with 8816, his best score since setting his world record of 9146 four years ago. LePage took silver with a PB of 8701 and USA’s Zach Ziemek achieved his first major podium finish by earning bronze with a PB of 8676.
The contest was blown wide open when Olympic champion and pre-event favourite Damian Warner pulled up injured in the 400m at the end of the first day, having been in the leading position in the overall standings up until that point.
It meant that Puerto Rico’s Ayden Owens-Delerme found himself as the surprising day-one leader with 4606, having put together a superb series which included a stunning 45.07 run in the 400m.
Before his 400m catastrophe, Warner had been in good form. The Canadian posted the fastest time of the day in the 100m, 10.27, and then followed it with the best long jump of the day, 7.87m. He then produced season’s bests of 14.99m in the shot and 2.05m in the high jump, giving him a lead of 62 points over USA’s Zach Ziemek at that point in the competition.
Ziemek, a top-seven finisher at the past two Olympics, enjoyed one of his best ever starts to a decathlon. He placed in the top five in the first four disciplines and was close to his PBs in the 100m (10.57) and long jump (7.70m), then set a PB of 15.37m in the shot, ending the day in third place.
Mayer, by contrast, placed outside of the top five in all of the disciplines on day one, but was nevertheless pleased with his 10.62 run in the 100m, 7.54m leap in the long jump, 14.98m throw in the shot put, 2.05m clearance in the high jump and 49.40 clocking in the 400m. He also knew he had some of his best events yet to come.
Defending champion Niklas Kaul was down in 16th place at the end of Saturday’s action, but his 4147 tally was not far off his day-one score from Doha three years ago when he won the world title with 8691. Season’s bests of 2.05m in the high jump and 48.39 in the 400m helped the German’s campaign.
Owens-Delerme, however, enjoyed the series of his life. His 10.52 clocking in the 100m was a quarter of a second shy of his PB, but he followed it with a lifetime best of 7.64m in the long jump, a 14.97m throw in the shot put and a 2.02m outdoor PB in the high jump before ending his day with his blinding 45.07 run in the 400m.
Not only was it the second-fastest 400m ever recorded within a decathlon, it also broke the Puerto Rican record.
While Warner’s dreams of winning his first outdoor world title were dashed, LePage kept Canadian medal hopes alive at the start of day two by speeding to the fastest 110m hurdles clocking of 13.78. Owens-Delerme and Mayer were just a fraction behind with 13.88 and 13.92 respectively, while Ziemek ran 14.47.
Australia’s Olympic bronze medallist Ashley Moloney was a non-starter for the discus, but it nevertheless proved to be a high-quality competition as Jiri Sykora set a championship decathlon best of 54.39m. Lindon Victor’s 53.92m was also in excess of the previous record, moving the Grenadian up to fifth.
LePage set a PB of 53.26m, moving him into the overall lead, while Mayer’s 49.4mm moved him up to fourth.
Mayer and Ziemek moved up another place in the standings after they both cleared 5.40m in the pole vault. LePage cleared 5.00m, which was enough to stay in the lead, but the gap between the top three reduced to 86 points. Owens-Delerme (4.50m) and Kaul (4.80m) were some way off their bests in the pole vault, which proved costly in their hunt for medals.
Mayer produced the best throw of the day in the javelin, sending his spear out to 70.31m. With LePage managing 57.52m, it meant Mayer moved into the lead with a 107-point margin going into the 1500m.
LePage dropped to second place and Ziemek moved to third, throwing 62.18m. A 50.98m effort from Owens-Delerme essentially ended the Puerto Rican’s medal ambitions, but he was still determined to give his all in the 1500m as it’s one of his best events.
Owens-Delerme led from the outset in the final discipline. Kaul made up ground in the closing stages, but the Puerto Rican held on to cross the line first in 4:13.02, 0.79 ahead of Kaul.
But the real action was happening further behind. Mayer got around in 4:41.44, securing the title with 8816. LePage ensured he stayed ahead of Ziemek (4:42.77 to 4:44.97) to land the silver medal with 8701. ZIemek held on to third place overall with 8676.
Owens-Delerme may have missed out on a medal, but he was rewarded with another national record, scoring 8532 to finish comfortably ahead of Victor (8474), Kaul (8434) and 2019 world silver medallist Uibo (8425).
Jon Mulkeen for World Athletics
|MEN'S DECATHLON MEDALLISTS|
|1||Kevin Mayer 🇫🇷 FRA||8816 SB|
|2||Pierce LePage 🇨🇦 CAN||8701 PB|
|3||Zachery Ziemek 🇺🇸 USA||8676 PB|