Thomas van der Plaetsen in the decathlon high jump at the European Championships (© Getty Images)
In the European Championships decathlon, part of the IAAF Combined Events Challenge, a strong second-day performance from Thomas van der Plaetsen gave Belgium their first ever outdoor continental combined events title.
The 100m got action going on the track on what was a fresh, blustery morning. Oleksiy Kasyanov, who took silver four years ago in Helsinki, started the day as he would end it – with a slender overall lead.
The Ukrainian was comfortably fastest overall in the opening event in 10.79. Norway’s Martin Roe was second fastest in 10.86, with Serbian Mihail Dudas third in 10.90.
Van der Plaetsen ruled the long jump. His 7.64m was eight centimetres farther than Ashley Bryant of Britain, who was second best in the event. Roe went out to 7.50m to take the overall lead by a point from Kasyanov, who could only hit 7.43m. Dudas jumped 7.44m to stay third overall.
In the shot put, popular Belgian Hans van Alphen led the way with 15.62m. France’s 2010 European champion Romain Barras (15.54m) and Norway’s Lars Vikan Rise (15.17m) were the only others to go beyond 15 metres. There was no change in the overall medal places as Roe threw 14.58m to Kasyanov’s 14.51m and Dudas’s 14.24m.
That order was upset in the high jump, though, as Roe slipped down to sixth after clearing just 1.89m. That allowed Kasyanov to move into first after going over 1.98m, while Dudas also bumped up a place after going over 2.01m.
The big mover was Van der Plaetsen. His 2.10m clearance was only matched by Krisjan Rosenberg, and saw him leap up to third overall. Rosenberg was rewarded by moving into seventh.
Kasyanov highlighted his sprinting ability by finishing fastest overall in the 400m to close the day. The nearest anyone got to his 48.97 clocking was Dudas, who finished in 49.45. Just 35 points separated the pair at the end of the first day while Spain’s Jorge Urena was in third and Van der Plaetsen was fourth.
As he had been in day one’s sprint events, Kasyanov was fastest in the 110m hurdles in 13.93. Urena stuck with him to record a personal best of 13.95 that saw him move into the silver medal position ahead of Dudas, who was more than half a second back in 14.55.
But Urena’s medal hopes faded in the very next event. He fouled all three attempts of the discus, dumping him out of the running.
Kasyanov was short of his best but a 42.56m throw kept him in top spot. Dudas’s 45.65m – the third-best throw overall – allowed him to move into the silver medal position, while Van der Plaetsen’s 44.32m moved him up to third.
The Belgian continued to rise in the pole vault. While Kasyanov (4.80m) and Dudas (4.70m) toiled, Van der Plaetsen relished the full attention of the crowd, clearing 5.40m – his best ever in a decathlon – to take the overall lead.
Having struggled with an elbow injury this year, the javelin was going to be Van der Plaetsen’s most challenging event of the contest. Although his 57.23m opening throw was eight metres down on his best, it kept him in medal contention. His spear landed beyond 60 metres on his final attempt, but his toe just dipped over the line and it was ruled a foul.
Kasyanov, clearly experiencing some pain in his groin, managed just 48.23m which saw him drop back to fourth. A personal best of 67.24m from Czech Adam Sebastian Helcelet put him second, while Dudas stayed in third with a 58.19m best.
A scan of the 1500m PBs suggested Van der Plaetsen would be able to hold on to pole position but Helcelet and Dudas were still within close proximity. He nonetheless left nothing to chance in only his third decathlon since recovering from testicular cancer, finishing in 4:37.84 to take gold with a score of 8218.
“It is difficult to say if this is my greatest win, but it is definitely the one I cherish the most after everything that happened last year,” Van der Platsen said.
Helcelet was 0.55 back from Van der Plaetsen in the 1500m to take silver with 8157. Dudas, who just missed out on the podium in 2012, earned his first major senior medal with a score of 8153.
Thomas Byrne for the IAAF