Alina Shukh in the heptathlon javelin at the IAAF World Championships London 2017 (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Tampere, Finland

Preview: heptathlon – IAAF World U20 Championships Tampere 2018

Still just 19 years of age, heptathlon favourite Alina Shukh already has considerable international championship experience.

The Ukrainian took bronze at the IAAF World U18 Championships Cali 2015 and gold medals at the 2016 European Youth Championships and 2017 European Junior Championships. Over the past two years she also competed against senior athletes at the 2017 European Indoor Championships, the IAAF World Championships London 2017 and the IAAF World Indoor Championships Birmingham 2018.

Her PB of 6381, set when winning the European junior title last year, puts her sixth on the world U20 all-time list. And in her one heptathlon so far this year, Shukh scored 6177 to finish ninth at the IAAF Combined Events Challenge meeting in Götzis, giving her the best score by an U20 athlete this year.

But despite all of her accolades, she isn’t quite head and shoulders above her opponents heading into Tampere. Defending world U20 champion Sarah Lagger finished just one place and 21 points behind Shukh in Götzis, scoring an Austrian U20 record of 6156.

Shukh and Lagger are closely matched in most of the seven disciplines. While Shukh is stronger in the throws, Lagger is quicker over the hurdles and at 200m.

As if their clash isn’t already exciting enough, two other teenagers with scores in excess of 6000 points will be in Tampere.

Cuba’s Adriana Rodriguez took the silver medal behind Lagger in Bydgoszcz two years ago. The 18-year-old cracked the 6000-point barrier for the first time in her career to finish 14th in Götzis with 6094. Her throws and 800m aren’t as good as the top two contenders, but Rodriguez excels in the long jump, 100m hurdles and 200m. If, as expected, she builds up a big lead after five events, she will be aiming not to surrender too many points in the final two disciplines.

Britain’s Niamh Emerson has already earned one major international medal this year, having finished third at the Commonwealth Games in April with a PB of 6043. The 2016 European youth bronze medallist has since improved in most disciplines, including PBs of 6.41m in the long jump and 43.95m in the javelin at the recent British Championships.

Australia’s Celeste Mucci finished one place behind Emerson at the Commonwealth Games with an Oceanian U20 record of 5915. Some of her recent appearances suggest she hasn’t lost much form at all since the earlier part of the year.

Poland’s Adrianna Sulek and Switzerland’s Annik Kalin have also come close to surpassing 6000 points this year, which is the kind of score that could be required to take a medal.

Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF