Think of Estonian combined events and it will no doubt conjure up images of 2000 Olympic decathlon champion Erki Nool.
But the Baltic nation’s history in the 10-event discipline pre-dates Nool by a long way.
In 1922, Aleks Klumberg set the first official ratified world record in the decathlon with a score of 7485. Two years later, he took the bronze medal at the Olympics.
Fast forward almost 100 years and Hans-Christian Hausenberg is the latest Estonian athlete to add his name to the record books.
Last month, the 16-year-old smashed the world youth best for the indoor heptathlon in Tallinn, the same venue where Ashton Eaton broke the senior record for the event in 2011. Hausenberg’s score of 5873 added 82 points to the previous mark, set by European decathlon champion Andrei Krauchanka.
He set indoor personal bests in all four events on the first day, running 6.97 in the 60m, long jumping 7.52m, throwing 16.02m in the shot and clearing 1.92m in the high jump. He followed that on the second day with 8.11 in the 60m hurdles, 4.65m in the pole vault and a PB of 2:56.46 in the 1000m.
“I wasn’t surprised by my score as the individual results in many events indicated that I was ready for it,” said Hausenberg. “I was actually hoping for a score of about 6000 points. Overall I was pleased with everything, but the 60m hurdles and pole vault could have gone better. The event I was most happy about was the 1000m.”
Hausenberg is somewhat used to breaking records. Aside from his national age-group records in the decathlon, he also owns the Estonian youth records for the 60m hurdles and the long jump, both indoors and out.
He represented Estonia in the long jump at last year’s Youth Olympics in Nanjing, but it ended in disaster. After comfortably qualifying for the final with a leap of 7.33m in qualifying, he recorded three no-jumps in the final, which was won with a mark of 7.54m. Hausenberg had jumped a PB of 7.55m one month before the Games.
“The three no-jumps at the Youth Olympics final definitely gave me motivation for this year,” said Hausenberg. “My performance in Nanjing was strongly influenced by the weather conditions and the absence of my coach.”
Hausenberg is coached by his grandmother, Karin. She was an athlete when she was younger and Hausenberg recalls going to competitions with her when he was four years old.
He began training when he was a little bit older, but his career really began to take off when he took part in a national competition called ‘TV-10 Olympic Starts’.
“It’s a competition with a very long history,” says Hausenberg. “But I won and set a record in the 13-14 boys age group.”
That’s when he knew that he had a future in the sport.
He would have been just two years old when Nool won gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, but Hausenberg still looks up to the Estonian record-holder as well as 2004 Olympic champion former world record-holder Roman Sebrle.
“I hope to make it as a decathlete and go on to achieve big things,” he says.
First up for the teenager is this year’s IAAF World Youth Championships in Cali, Colombia.
Estonia has only ever won one gold medal in the history of the championships, but that was in the combined events, courtesy of 2001 octathlon winner Rene Oruman.
As of this year’s championships, the event has changed from the octathlon to the full decathlon. And as if the 10 individual disciplines aren’t enough, Hausenberg is aiming to challenge for a medal in another event.
“I would like to compete in the decathlon and then do the long jump as an individual event,” said Hausenberg, possibly unaware that both the decathlon and long jump take place on the same days. “I simply hope to get a good score and achieve a high place.”
And while Hausenberg could be the next Estonian combined eventer to make a global impact, his goals for the future are modest.
“For now, I hope this dream of mine will come true and in the future I will have the chance to compete against Ashton Eaton and the rest of the world’s best decathletes,” says Hausenberg. “I have found my calling in the decathlon.”
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF