Katarina Johnson-Thompson at the 2015 Decastar meeting in Talence (© Jean-Pierre Durand)
Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Ukraine’s Oleksiy Kasyanov lead after a compelling first day at the 39th Decastar meeting in Talence, the first half of the final act of the 2015 IAAF Combined Events Challenge on Saturday (19).
A missed connection in Amsterdam meant Johnson-Thompson took to the track following a late arrival into Bordeaux on Friday night, but she showed no sign of fatigue in the 100m hurdles, the opening event of the heptathlon.
In the mild, changeable conditions, the European indoor champion clocked 13.46, which placed her third in the fastest heat behind 20-year-old Nadine Visser of the Netherlands, who won in a meeting record of 12.88, and last year’s runner up Anastasiya Mokhnyuk of Ukraine, who finished in 13.33.
Entering the high jump at 1.75m, Johnson-Thompson’s performance wasn’t dampened by the brief rain shower as she outstayed the competition, making it to 1.87m to wrestle the lead from Visser, whose 1.78m saw her drop to second.
Hungary’s Gyorgyi Zsivoczky-Farkas and Belarussian Yana Maksimava were next best in the event with 1.84m, while world indoor champion Nadine Broersen and Mokhnyuk both cleared 1.81m.
Johnson-Thompson lost ground and drifted back to fourth after a poor shot put of only 12.07m, after which her coach Mike Holmes used an empty water bottle to issue a playful tap on the European indoor champion’s head.
Under a blast of autumn sunshine, Mokhnyuk took the lead with 13.86m with 2851 points, with Maksimava being the best in this discipline with 14.14m.
Visser, watched on from the grass terrace by training partner and world 200m champion Dafne Schippers, threw a personal best of 13.24m to stay in second place.
Zsivoczky-Farkas, who finished in sixth at the World Championships, posted a best effort of 13.78m to move into third overall.
Holmes’ tap on the head must have done the trick, because in the last event of the day Johnson-Thompson regained the overall lead with a well-executed 200m in 23.17, the fastest time by the huge margin of 0.74.
Her points haul after four events stands at 3851, 23 more than Visser.
A personal best of 24.30 in the final event put Mokhnyuk into third place overnight with 3802 points.
As a world-class long jumper, Johnson-Thomson could build a commanding lead on Sunday morning and she will want to put behind her the nightmare of the World Championships when she had three fouls. However, Visser and Mokhnyuk have both performed impressively here in Talence, and are well-placed to possibly provide an upset.
Broersen is down in seventh on 3578 points and has a battle to defend her overall IAAF Combined Events Challenge title.
The Dutch athlete would need her combined score in the long jump, javelin and the 800m to be a considerable improvement on anything she’s posted this year to score 6401 points or more, and snatch the title from Latvia’s Laura Ikauniece-Admidina, who isn’t competing here but is currently in first place.
Kasyanov and Felix profit from Shkurenev’s day off
Oleksiy Kasyanov took the decathlon lead early after coming home fastest in the 100m, winning his heat in 10.73. Japan’s Asian champion Akihiko Nakamura finished just behind him in 10.74.
Nakamura briefly shaded Kasyanov thanks to a best of 7.52m in the long jump, taking the lead after two events, while the Ukranian’s single legal jump, his round-two 7.33m, was well short of his season’s best of 7.70m but moved his tally along to 1815.
Meanwhile, South Africa’s Willem Coertzen jumped up to third place overall with 7.44m, the second-best long jump result.
Kasyanov regained the lead after a shot put of 14.63m. Nakamura could only muster a modest 11.52m, which saw him plummet to fifth. Coertzen’s best of 13.66m saw him cement his position in second, while Granada’s Kurt Felix reached 14.07m and moved up to third overall.
In the fourth event, the high jump, Kasyanov’s 1.98m meant he just clung on to first place, a mere 20 points ahead of Felix – the pair having 3367 and 3347 points respectively – the latter moving into second after winning the event with a 2.10m leap.
Coertzen, who also went over 1.98m, dropped down to third. The big move came from Russia’s Sergey Timshin, who was second in the event with a 2.07m, which catapulted him from 13th to fifth overall.
Things got even tighter at the top after the 400m brought the first day to an end.
Kasyanov laboured through one lap of the track in 49.17 to finish fifth in his heat, and take his total after five events to 4220 points, while in the preceding race Felix came home in third in 49.06 to reduce the gap between the top two to just 15 points.
Coertzen’s 48.92 leaves him third at the halfway point with 4148 points, while Timshin clocked 48.65 to move up one place overall to fourth. Nakamura was the fastest 400m man in 48.59, shifting him back in to the top five.
Russia’s Ilya Shkurenev, fourth at the World Championships three weeks ago, is down in ninth with 3940 points but still on course to secure the 2015 IAAF Combined Events Challenge crown. But he hasn’t finished inside the top five in any event and looks to be out of the running for victory in Talence.
Thomas Byrne and James Charlton for the IAAF