The Ultimate Garden Clash series continues on Sunday 7 June with a trans-continental meeting of combined events titans.
Decathlon world record-holder Kevin Mayer, world champion Niklas Kaul and world silver medallist Maicel Uibo will square off from their training bases in Montpellier, France, Mainz, Germany, and Clermont, Florida, in a unique virtual triathlon that combines strength, speed and stamina to mirror a gruelling combined events competition.
The competition will begin with the pole vault where the athletes will attempt to clear 4.00m as many times as possible during a 10-minute period. They'll then move on to the shot put where the challenge is to send the 7.26kg iron ball beyond a 12-metre line as often as possible, again during a 10-minute period. The triathlon concludes with a shuttle run competition in which two cones are placed 20 metres apart, with the athletes collecting points for each completed back-and-forth shuttle over the course of five minutes. The points scored in each event will be tallied to crown the overall winner.
The hour-long event gets underway at 5pm CEST (weather permitting) and will be broadcast live on the World Athletics YouTube channel, Twitter feed and Facebook page. It follows two hugely popular editions of the Ultimate Garden Clash last month that featured the world's best pole vaulters, the first ending in a tie between Renaud Lavillenie and Armand Duplantis and the second won by Katerina Stefanidi.
“The format will be a little demanding, because we are not used to the [endurance aspect] of it," Mayer said. "We are ‘sprinters’, endurance is harder for us. I don’t know how it is going to be, but I think Niklas will be good at that and we’ll have to fight against him."
Like in a decathlon, Mayer believes that the last event will be the toughest.
“I think the three of us know that the last part will be the hardest. I’ve not done this particular ‘discipline’ in my life, but I know it’s going to be hard. With the marks at 12 metres and 4 metres in the shot put and pole vault, I think these are going to be easier for me.”
Kaul is also looking forward to the challenge.
“It’s really good because it’s something different than just training," said Kaul, who at 21 last year became the youngest world champion in the decathlon. "I’m really looking forward to compete with the other two guys again even if we are not in the same country. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
But he's not buying Mayer's suggestion that he's the favourite.
“I don’t think I am the man to beat. The pole vault is going to be hard, I’ve only had one pole vault session in the last three months, so we’ll see what happens there. I think the last event is going to be hard for all of us, because usually we run a 1500m which is four to five minutes, evenly paced, just running, but this time we have to stop and go again. So I think it will be harder than a 1500m.”
Uibo, who has continued Estonia's strong decathlon tradition in recent years, is also looking forward to a new challenge.
“I guess I’m a bit of an underdog, so I’ll just have to put the target on their backs and chase them down.
“I guess we’re doing something similar to our ‘everyday jobs’ and run, jump and throw, but this has got a bit of a twist, so it’s interesting for all of us trying to get as many reps in in 10 [and 5] minutes as we can and I really think it will be fun. I don’t really know what to expect from it, but just like Niklas, I haven’t really vaulted, I haven’t thrown the shot in the last three months, so it will be really interesting to see.”
After their performances last month, Lavillenie, Duplantis and Stefanidi said they had experienced new levels of pain as the lactic acid rose in their bodies during the innovative competition. That doesn't worry Uibo, though.
“Absolutely not. I think pain and decathlon is kind of synonymous anyhow, so I think we’ll be fine.”
Decathlon greats Ashton Eaton and Daley Thompson will join commentator Rob Walker to provide their insights into the combined-event challenge.
"I'm very excited to watch the upcoming combined-event version of the Ultimate Garden Clash," said Eaton, a two-time world and Olympic champion and former world record-holder in the decathlon.
"The state of the world has shown me and many others how important the competition, inspiration, and fun of sport is. And how much we miss the athletes. I'm proud of the athletes and support teams around the world for finding creative ways to compete and entertain."
World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said he was delighted by the public response to the first two editions of the Ultimate Garden Clash and was eagerly anticipating this weekend’s contest.
“I’m excited to see what our best decathletes bring to the table because the pole vaulters really put on a show. I love how creative our athletes have been in coming up with new competition formats that we can stage safely and broadcast to our fans even while adhering to the many public health restrictions in place around the world.
“We are starting to see some countries taking cautious steps back into competition, while abiding by local social distancing measures, and that gives us hope that we can return to more normal meetings in August, but we are also mindful that different countries are at different stages of the pandemic and athletes in some countries will not be able to compete for some time. Events like the Ultimate Garden Clash show what can be done on a small budget with a little bit of ingenuity. I would like to thank the athletes and our staff for their efforts in making this happen.”