Nafissatou Thiam in the heptathlon javelin at the Decastar meeting in Talence (© Jean-Pierre Durand)
Belgium’s Nafissatou Thiam and Canada’s Pierce LePage took the top prizes at the Decastar meeting in Talence on Sunday (23), but the fourth leg of the IAAF Combined Events Challenge was a weekend of ups and downs for Thiam and fellow world champion Kevin Mayer.
Following a strong first day on Saturday, Thiam started the second day of competition with a tally of 4133, her best ever first-day score. She had notably improved her own world heptathlon high jump best with an outstanding 2.02m clearance to move to second on the 2019 world list behind Maria Lasitskene.
The Olympic champion’s momentum continued in this first event as she leaped 6.67m in the long jump to win a third ‘Louis d’Or’, a reward given to the winners of individual events in Talence. Not only did she add five centimetres to her lifetime best, she also improved the Belgian record by four centimetres, breaking a mark that had been held by Sandrine Hennart for 23 years.
Marthe Koala jumped 6.49m, the second longest mark of the day to move up to second place overall, just one point ahead of Solène Ndama of France and eight points ahead of Laura Ikauniece of Latvia, promising a fierce contest for the podium places.
Despite a tough winter due to injury, Thiam seemed to be on her way to improving her personal best of 7013, as well as the European record of 7032 held by Carolina Kluft.
But in the penultimate event of the weekend, Thiam lost valuable points in the javelin. She sent her implement out to 44.33m in the first round and followed it with 47.25m in the second, more than ten metres adrift of the career best of 59.32m she set in Götzis two years ago.
Clutching her elbow in pain, she decided against taking her third attempt. “I hurt my elbow six weeks ago but the doctor said it would be ok,” said Thiam. “I am afraid I’ve worsened the injury.”
Xenia Krizsan of Hungary produced the best mark of the day: her 53.27m throw – two metres better than her previous lifetime best – catapulted her to second place overall, 27 points ahead of Ikauniece. Nadama managed 37.29m, dropping to sixth place overall, 246 points behind the podium.
With a score of 6002 before the 800m, Thiam needed to run 2:07.23 to surpass 7000 points, eight seconds faster than her personal best. That was, of course, out of the question but she clocked 2:20.46 to tally a world-leading 6819, just 12 points behind the meeting record set by Denise Lewis in 2000.
“My first day and the beginning of the second were very good,” said the 24-year-old, who was competing in Talence for the first time. “Despite my elbow injury, I’m very proud to finish. The atmosphere was incredible.”
Kriszan, a strong 800m runner, finished her heptathlon with 2:08.16 to set a Hungarian record of 6619 in second place, replicating her position from 2017. “It’s an amazing competition,” said the 2015 European U23 champion. “I enjoy it every year.”
Ikauniece, the 2015 world bronze medallist, rounded out the podium with a season’s best of 6518 ahead of Ndama, whose PB of 6290 was just 10 points shy of the qualifying standard for the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019.
LePage clinches first international decathlon victory
Pierce LePage ended the first day with a tally of 4558, 253 points ahead of USA’s Zach Ziemek and 487 ahead of Thomas van der Plaetsen. World record-holder Kevin Mayer, meanwhile, contested the first three disciplines and confirmed that he’d compete in three more events on day two.
LePage extended his lead to 323 points after the 110m hurdles. His mark of 14.40 (-1.3m/s) was his best ever within a decathlon, while Mayer sped to a 13.90 clocking, just 0.19 shy of his lifetime best.
“Yesterday I made a mistake in the long jump and I hurt my knee,” said Mayer. “I struggled in the hurdles because I use the same supporting leg. My start was bad. 13.90 doesn’t represent what I’m capable of.”
Ziemek made up some ground on LePage in the discus. The Olympic finalist threw 49.36m to the Canadian’s 44.46m, while Mayer was the only athlete to surpass 50 metres, throwing 50.15m.
LePage exceeded expectations again in the pole vault. The Commonwealth silver medallist, whose previous best was 5.10m, improved to 5.25m, the same height as Ziemek. Van der Plaetsen won the ‘Louis d’Or’ thanks to an outdoor PB of 5.45m.
Mayer struggled in the windy conditions, clearing 5.05m before failing three times at 5.15m.
The results of the javelin and the 1500m didn’t change the positions. With 55.22m and 4:59.76, 23-year-old LePage added almost 300 points to his lifetime best to win with 8453. He improved on his third-place finish from 2016 and moved to third on the Canadian all-time list.
Ziemek, who threw 57.49m in the javelin and ran 4:46.55 in the 1500m, finished second in a season’s best of 8344 while Van der Plaetsen ended his weekend with 60.85m and 4:37.99 to achieved a World Championships qualifying mark of 8214.
Quentin Guillon for the IAAF