Hanna Melnychenko at the 2013 Decastar meeting in Talence (© Iris Hensel)
Belarus’s Andrei Krauchanka was the surprise winner of the decathlon in the 16th edition of the season-long 2013 IAAF Combined Events Challenge while Ukraine’s Hanna Melnychenko took the heptathlon victory.
Both athletes received the USD$30,000 as a first prize for being the best, and most consistent, combined events athletes during 2013.
No less than 16 meetings counted for the Combined Events Challenge but even elite athletes find it difficult to complete three competitions and, by the end of the year, only 10 male and 16 female athletes had finished the requisite three meetings to qualify for the final standings.
In fact, during 2011 and 2012, Krauchanka himself could complete only one decathlon and, after suffering so many injuries since 2009, it was slightly surprising that he opened the 2013 season with a winning total of 8390 points at the Multistars meeting in Firenze, Italy, over the weekend of 2-3 May.
Five weeks later, in the Czech city of Kladno, he was again the best, and was just 10 points shy of his Firenze total.
Although he finished 11th at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow, his score of 8324 points brought his overall total to 25,084 and this was good enough for his to repeat his overall Challenge victory from 2008.
In his absence, and with Krauchanka’s tally as the target at the final Challenge meeting in the French town of Talence, the participants came up short of the Belarusian.
Canada’s Damian Warner took second place in the Challenge with 24,980 points while Germany’s 2012 European champion Pascal Behrenbruch was third with 24,768.
The prolific Melnychenko, who finished five heptathlons this year, opened her account with a below-par score of 6169 points at the famous Götzis meeting in Austria but she bounced back with 6416 points and a win in Kladno.
The Ukrainian went on to record victories at the IAAF World Championships, with 6586 points, and in Talence, with 6308 points, to take her overall tally to 19,310.
This was enough to finish 152 points ahead of Canada’s 2013 IAAF World Championships silver medallist and Götzis winner Brianne Theisen-Eaton.
Third place in the Challenge went to Germany’s Claudia Rath with 19,014 just 19 points ahead Poland’s Karolina Tyminska.
Krauchanka gets flying start in Firenze
The 2013 Challenge kicked off with the Multistars meeting. For the first time in the 26-year history of this event the meeting was not held in Desenzano, but in the Tuscan city of Firenze.
At the Luigi Ridolfi stadium, the 2008 Olympic Games silver medallist Krauchanka surprised himself with his win. “I am pleased with my competition after undergoing surgery in Finland in July 2012. I and my coach have no big plans for this season, but we expect to be in top shape next year,” he said at the time, offering a warning to his rivals for 2014.
In the heptathlon, The Netherlands’ 20-year-old Anoek Vetter won with 5872 points.
Next stop was Götzis where, traditionally, the top combined events athletes gather on the last weekend of May. Sadly, this year the weather conditions were awful. During the two days of competition the temperature did not exceed eight degrees Celsius.
Under these conditions it was impossible to achieve top scores and in the decathlon, only four athletes passed 8000 points mark, as Warner won with 8307 points. Brazil’s Carlos Chinin and the USA’s Gunnar Nixon finished second and third with, despite the elements, good personal best performances of 8182 and 8136 points respectively, although both men improved further later in the summer.
Amazingly, considering the awful conditions, 10 women passed 6000 points in the heptathlon. Brianne Theisen, at this stage without the double-barrelled surname, provided a double the success for Canada by winning with 6376 points.
The rest of the podium was filled by two Dutch athletes. Nadine Broersen was second in a personal best of 6345 points while the 2010 World junior champion, Dafne Schippers, followed with 6287 points.
Krauchanka and Melnychenko made an important contribution to their eventual Challenge victories by winning the TNT-meeting in Kladno.
Qualifications for the IAAF World Championships were scheduled for the German athletes in Ratingen and for the US athletes in Des Moines and these meetings in the middle of June also counted towards the Challenge.
In Ratingen, Behrenbruch was the winner of the decathlon with 8514 points and Julia Mächtig took the heptathlon victory in a personal best of 6430 points with Rath second with 6317 points.
Eaton eases his way to Moscow
At the USA trials in Des Moines, the 2011 World champion, Trey Hardee, and London 2012 Olympic Games champion and World record holder, Ashton Eaton competed but their priority was not big scores.
For Hardee, the meeting was over after the third event, but as the reigning World champion his ticket to Moscow was secure. Eaton’s the only goal was to qualify for the World Championships and he did so with the modest, for him, total of 8291 points. Nixon, only 20, improved his best to 8198 points in second place.
Sharon Day won the heptathlon in Des Moines with 6550 points.
In the Estonian capital of Tallinn, the eight best European countries met for the European Cup Super League on 29-30 June. For the first time, the scores of the men and women were added together provide the Cup winners and it was France who came out on top.
The individual victories went to France’s Kevin Mayer and Poland’s Karolina Tyminska with 8390 and 6347 points respectively.
There were also some impressive tallies in the European Cup First League in Nottwill, Switzerland, with The Netherlands providing both individual winners: Eelco Sintnicolaas and Nadine Broersen scoring 8322 and 6238 points.
At the World University Games in the Russian city of Kazan, the last international competition prior to the World Championships, home star and 2011 World champion and London 2012 Olympic Games bronze medallist Tatyana Chernova proved to be in good shape and won the gold medal with 6623 points, which was to prove to be the highest score of 2013.
Unfortunately, Chernova’s competitive year came to an end when she got injured during the Russian national championships
With the absence of the top four from the previous summer’s Olympic Games the heptathlon became an open competition and Melnychenko, only 10th in London, took her chance to shine with the now married Theisen-Eaton and Schippers taking the silver and bronze medals.
In the decathlon, Ashton Eaton put together a score of 8809 points for his second global title after his Olympic success. Germany’s Michael Schrader improved his personal best to 8670 points for the silver medal, after three terrible years of injuries, while Warner got the bronze.
Hans van Kuijen for the IAAF