Damian Warner in the decathlon high jump at the Hypomeeting in Gotzis (© Jean-Pierre Durand)
Rain was predicted for the 45th Hypo Meeting in Götzis, and the weather held until the early afternoon. But there was lightning on the track at the Mösle Stadium as Canadian Damian Warner ran the fastest 100m ever seen in a decathlon, and as the weather worsened, Katarina Johnson-Thompson’s talent shone through the clouds.
Both reinforced their position as favourites at the end of the first day of the second leg of the IAAF Combined Events Challenge in Austria.
“This weekend we’ll get a chance to see where we’re at and see what we need to improve on going forward,” Warner had said ahead of the event. “I just go into the decathlon and trust the training that I’ve done, and compete in each of the individual events, and of course try to win the competition. And if you can do that, the score is going to take care of itself. I’m pretty pleased with where my fitness is, so it will be nice to see how that translates.”
To say that Warner’s fitness has translated well would be an understatement. As the men’s 100m got underway, European indoor champion Jorge Ureña was the first to show his form in a PB of 10.76, with world U20 champion Ash Moloney and Commonwealth champion Lindon Victor two heats behind him recording PBs of 10.41 and 10.56 respectively.
But then the intensity changed, as Warner sped to a world decathlon 100m best of 10.12, breaking his own mark of 10.15, set in Götzis in 2016. The performance brought an extra special element to the Hypomeeting debuts of Germany’s Manuel Eitel and Great Britain and Northern Ireland’s Tim Duckworth as they lined up on either side of Warner, Eitel running 10.41 for second overall.
The long jump could have been a little damp after such as sensational opening, and indeed there were no equivalent standout performances. But the solid work was put in to bolster points on the scoreboard.
Duckworth had the longest jump in the event with 7.72m. Warner recorded 7.67m behind him, Moloney 7.52m and Victor had his second PB of the day with 7.43m. Germany’s Kai Kazmirek was pleased with his 7.59m in the third round and likewise Estonia’s Janek Õiglane, in his first decathlon since the 2017 World Championships, clearly enjoyed his 7.26m effort.
But then came a hail of quality performances in the shot. Warner extended his personal best of 15.16m from a few weeks ago by 18 centimetres to 15.34m. Australian Moloney – still an U20 athlete – set a PB of 13.69m, Italy’s Simone Cairoli surpassed his previous best in the second and third rounds, with 13.49m his best in round two, and Maicel Uibo, Õiglane, Vitaliy Zhuk and Pawel Wiesołek were all close to their best.
The longest marks of the day came from Victor, clearly in form, and Zhuk – near his outdoor PB but still some way short of his indoor best of 16.32m. But then came the Germans. It was perhaps no surprise to see the rapidly improving Eitel further improve to 14.64m and Niklas Kaul surpass 15 metres for the first time with an enormous 15.10m. But it was Tim Nowak who got the German onslaught underway in the second round with a lifetime best of 14.86m, and most significantly of all, Kazmirek recorded a PB of 14.94m to declare that he was back, and ready to bring the challenge to Warner.
And anything Germany can do in decathlon, Estonia can do it too. The high jump was the Maicel Uibo show, with only Cedric Dubler and Duckworth able to stay with Uibo until 2.06m and 2.09m respectively. Duckworth would have wanted to be much nearer 2.15m and had a modest day overall, but in the end, it was only Uibo who made it to 2.12m and 2.15m.
“It’s a decent day,” said Uibo. “I’m in one piece, which is the most important thing. High jump was good, I’m trying to find a new rhythm on my new approach, and it came together in the end. The shot was good, although I really wish I’d done a little better – I was hoping to throw a little further than I had been throwing in practice, and it was pretty much the same – but it was alright.”
In the 400m Eitel took 0.4 from his PB to record 48.52, and likewise Ureña continued his impressive show of speed in recording a PB of 48.36. But it was Moloney who ran away with the event, finishing ahead of Kazmirek (47.33) and Warner (47.38) in a time of 46.97.
Coming into the meeting, Warner and Victor were very much the known quantities and day one finished with Warner in first and Victor in equal third with Kazmirek. Warner's current tally of 4596 is 31 points up on his day-one score from Götzis last year when he set the Canadian record of 8795.
But Moloney (in second), Eitel (in fifth) and Kaul are bringing the fight from the younger contingents. And there is no longer any doubt about the form of two of the big names that have not been seen for a while – Kazmirek and Uibo are back.
Day two will bring one of the liveliest disciplines of the season, the discus, in which a number of the field have set recent lifetime bests, and of course the pole vault, which – as witnessed at the European Indoor Championships in Glasgow – has already played a significant part in shaping the outcome of combined events competitions in 2019.
USA provides strong challenge, but Johnson-Thompson prevails on day one
In the heptathlon, US women dominated the hurdles with Kendell Williams recording the fastest time of 12.84 and Erica Bougard second in 13.00. But Australian Celeste Mucci held her own, finishing just 0.02 points behind Bougard.
World silver medallist Carolin Schäfer ran 13.24 and Katarina Johnson-Thomson equalled her personal best of 13.29, which placed the German fifth and the Briton sixth after one event.
On to the high jump, and if the decathlon was the Uibo show, the heptathlon was the KJT show, with the added thrill of several third-time clearances, as Johnson-Thompson showed her competitiveness. Schäfer could jump only 1.77m, which allowed her to retain her position in fifth, but Johnson-Thompson’s clearance of 1.95m catapulted her to first place overall in the competition, followed by Erica Bougard (1.83m) and Kendell Williams (1.80m).
The shot was always going to be a critical event on day one, with Schäfer owning a superior lifetime best of 14.84m to Johnson-Thompson’s 13.14m. But the German has been recalibrating her approach to the shot as part of her preparation for the Olympic Games, and the pieces are not yet all in the place that she would ultimately intend. Schäfer ensured she got a mark recorded with 13.45m, but that was only 50 centimetres ahead of Johnson-Thompson’s 12.95m.
Nadine Broersen had the strongest shot performance of the day with 14.76m, ahead of Multistars winner Annie Kunz with 14.44m and Mareike Arndt with 14.37m.
Johnson-Thompson ended the day with her usual strong 200m performance, running 23.21 in cold and damp conditions. Bougard and Williams were in contact until about 150 metres, after which the world indoor champion pulled away to finish first, and settle comfortably into first place overall.
The Briton ended the day with 4034 points, more than 300 points ahead of Schäfer in fourth place. US duo Williams and Bougard separate the pair of European medallists in second and third respectively.
“I’m pleased with the leading margin,” said Johnson-Thompson, speaking from her ice bath after the 200m. “Leading after day one doesn’t really give me the confidence it would have in the past, because I know that others have a great day two and that’s where I’ve struggled. The event isn’t done, we’re only four events down, so I need to work on that long jump and javelin.”
Latvia’s 2015 world bronze medallist Laura Ikauniece had a solid first day and currently sits in eighth place overall, but can be expected to climb up the leader board tomorrow as she is strong in the final three disciplines. World U20 champion Niamh Emerson, however, was forced to withdraw after picking up an injury in the high jump.
Gabriella Pieraccini for the IAAF