Tatyana Chernova of Russia competes in the Women's Heptathlon Javelin Throw on Day 8 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 4, 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview 13 September 2012 – Talence, France

Van Alphen and Chernova the favourites in Talence – IAAF Combined Events Challenge

Talence, FranceTraditionally the Decastar meeting in Talence is the last combined events invitation meeting of the year. The meeting, which was first organized in 1976, will be the last stage of the IAAF Combined Events Challenge competition this year.

This weekend's (15-16) meeting in Talence, a town in the South East of France in the Bordeaux region, is known as an athlete friendly competition and also the spectators in the stadium are treated well and informed by the best experts and well-prepared announcers. The small "stade de Thouars" hosts more than 5000 spectators per day. During the Pole Vault competition on the second day, spectators are allowed to sit next to the runway, which gives an extra dimension to the meeting. The spectators really feel as though they can touch the athletes.

Van Alphen the favourite - Decathlon

The medal winners from the Olympic Games – Ashton Eaton, Trey Hardee and Leonel Suarez – have finished their season. Especially for Eaton, a modest performance in Talence would be enough to take the victory in the IAAF Combined Events Challenge. However the USA athlete decided to not take any unnecessary risks at the end of a heavy season in which he broke both the World records in the Decathlon and indoor Heptathlon and to enjoy a well deserved holiday together with his fiancée, heptathlete Brianne Theisen.

With the absence of the three medal winners, Belgian Hans van Alphen will now start as the hevy favorite in the Decathlon. Last year he was a surprise winner in Talence with 8,200 points, but meanwhile he has improved his personal best to 8519 points, a total he achieved earlier this year as the winner in the Austrian city of Götzis.

His main opponents this weekend will be Eelco Sintnicolaas (NED) and Oleksey Kasyanov (UKR). Especially his training partner in the combined Dutch/Belgium trainings group will be eager to improve on a disappointing Olympic Decathlon. As both athletes are known as strong second day athletes the outcome might not be clear before the finish of the 1500m race.

The French home crowd will be especially interested in World and European junior champion Kevin Mayer. This year he competes for the first time and surprised already with a wind-aided 8447 points score. He will be accompanied by his countrymen Rudy Bourguignon and Jeremy Lelievre. A surprise name is Benjamin Compaoré, who will make his debut in the Decathlon. Last month, the 2006 World junior champion in Triple Jump finished sixth in that event at the Olympic Games.

Further from Europe at the start will by Universiade champion Vasily Kharlamov (RUS) and the two athletes who passed the 8000 points barrier this season for the first time, 20-year-old Adam Sebastian Helcelet from Czech Republic and 21-year-old German Kai Kazmirek. The start list will be completed with Brent Newdick from New Zealand.

Chernova tops the list in the Heptathlon

Only eight women will be at the start of the Heptathlon, but except for Olympic champion Jessica Ennis, the top six from London have confirmed their attendance in the French wine region.

The small field is headed by Tatyana Chernova, the Russian 2011 World champion. A tough competition, however, is to be expected with the Olympic silver and bronze medalists Lilli Schwarzkopf (GER) and Lyudmyla Yosypenko (UKR) to secure the victory in Talence. At the Olympic Games these three athletes finished within 31 points of each other.

Also 33-year-old Austra Skujyte (LTU) is a dangerous outsider for the title. After her come back in Heptathlon last year - she stopped after the Olympic Games in Beijing - Skujyte improved again and again and in London she scored for the first time in her career above 6500 points – 6599 points to be exact. This weekend she can produce her 30th Heptathlon above 6000 points.

France is represented by 2012 European champion Antoinette Nana Djimou Ida, who passed in London also for the first time the 6500-point barrier, making the Olympic final the first in history in which six athletes passed that mark. The second French athlete will be Marisa de Aniceto.

The most remarkable athlete at the start of the Decastar will be Barbora Spotakova. The double Olympic champion in the Javelin will return to her first love after ten years. Her last appearance in a Heptathlon was in 2002 after a promising fourth place finish at the 2000 World Junior Championships.

IAAF Combined Events Challenge

In the Decathlon the actual leader in the IAAF Combined Events Challenge is Pascal Behrenbruch with 25,117 points, but van Alphen is an important contender. The Belgian has totaled 16,966 points in two competitions and needs 8152 this weekend to pass the German to secure the 2012 Challenge for him. Kasyanov and Sintnicolaas will fight for the third position.

In the Heptathlon Yosypenko is the actual leader, but is chased by Chernova, who needs 6105 points to pass her. The struggle for positions two through five is completely open. No one can predict who of the four, Yosypenko, Nana Djimou, Skujyte and Schwarzkopf will be the strongest at the end.

The IAAF Combined Events Challenge was first held in 1998. The scores of three international top meetings are counted together to measure the standings for these series. This year the meetings counting for the Challenge includes the Decathlon and Heptathlon of the Olympic Games in London, the continental championships for Africa, Europe and NACAC and the USA Olympic trials. Furthermore the results of high class invitation meetings as Desenzano, Götzis, Kladno, Ratingen are included in the 2012 series.

Hans van Kuijen for the IAAF

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