French decathlete Kevin Mayer (© Getty Images)
It may not be the last fixture of the 2014 IAAF Combined Events Challenge, but the Decastar meeting in Talence on 20-21 September will be the last opportunity to score points for those in contention of finishing in the top three in the series.
As such, all eyes will be on European silver medallist Kevin Mayer. Not just because he will be competing on home soil, but because if he scores 8138 or higher, he could win the Combined Events Challenge and bag an extra US $30,000 in the process.
At the end of the season, with the Asian Games being the last fixture in the series, the top eight athletes in the standings will be awarded prize money.
Other athletes in Talence who could move up the standings into a top-eight position include Cuba’s former world junior silver medallist Yordani Garcia, Ukraine’s 2012 world indoor silver medallist Oleksiy Kasyanov and 2008 world junior silver medallist Eduard Mikhan of Belarus.
Mayer has competed in Talence just once before, finishing fifth in 2012. But this year he leads the entries in the decathlon after posting a personal best of 8521 at the European Championships.
He won’t have it all his own way, though. Aside from Garcia, Kasyanov and Mikhan, the field also includes European indoor champion Eelco Sintnicolaas of the Netherlands and two-time Decastar winner Hans van Alphen of Belgium.
If Sintnicolaas scores more than 8343 points and finishes 205 points ahead of Mayer, then he too could take the overall challenge title. He will be highly motivated too, after finishing just 20 points shy of a medal position at last month’s European Championships.
Van Alphen will be contesting his first decathlon since winning here two years ago. Since then, the Belgian record-holder has been out of action through injury but is keen to recapture the kind of form that took him to fourth place at the London 2012 Olympics.
Another interesting entrant is European triple jump champion Benjamin Compaore. The Continental Cup winner competed in Talence two years ago, scoring 6704 to finish 10th, so improving on that will be his primary target this weekend.
Nana Djimou looks to regain heptathlon title
Only once before have both contests in Talence been won by French athletes, and that was way back in 1977. But Mayer and compatriot Antoinette Nana Djimou could achieve that feat this weekend.
Nana Djimou will be looking to regain the Decastar heptathlon title she won in 2012, having returned to top form when successfully defending her European title in Zurich with 6551, the second-best score of her career.
World indoor champion Nadine Broersen won’t be in Talence and the Dutch all-rounder already has a near-unassailable lead in the Combined Events Challenge. But a second-place finish in the standings is a realistic goal for Nana Djimou, who would need to score 6210 or more to achieve that.
Germany’s Carolin Schafer could also make an impact in the final standings if she performs as well in Talence as she has been all season.
World champion Hanna Melnychenko will be defending the Decastar title she won last year, although the Ukrainian hasn’t been at her best this year and is yet to score higher than 6000 points.
Others in the field include Cuba’s former world junior champion Yorgelis Rodriguez, 2012 world junior silver medallist Xenia Krizsan of Hungary, European indoor silver medallist Yana Maksimava of Belarus and Poland’s Karolina Tyminska.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF