Brent Newdick of New Zealand in the decathlon (© Getty Images)
Experienced New Zealander Brent Newdick saw off the challenge of two teenage compatriots to win the decathlon at the Oceania Championships, the opening leg of the 2015 IAAF Combined Events Challenge, in the Australian city of Cairns on Saturday (9).
Newdick, an 8114 decathlete at his best and two-time World University Games medallist, tallied a relatively modest 7140 points to beat a pair of 18-year-olds in Aaron Booth and Alex Mander.
The winner’s cause was helped considerably when Booth failed to clear a height in the high jump on day one of the competition, costing him about 800 points and restricting him to a total of 6183.
Up until that point, Booth trailed Newdick by just 100 points. Booth was quicker in the 100m, running 11.31 to Newdick's 11.45. Newdick then produced season's bests of 7.05m in the long jump and 13.56m in the shot to move into the overall lead.
At the end of the first day, Newdick led by more than 800 points. Instead of taking it easy, he recorded more season's bests on day two, clocking 15.70 in the 110m hurdles, clearing 4.40m in the pole vault and throwing 53.85m in the javelin.
If the decathlon was a Kiwi triumph, the women’s heptathlon was anything but with Veronica Torr withdrawing when in the lead after five events and heading for a score of 5500 or better. Torr scored 4188 points over the first five events.
With Torr out, the win on Sunday went to Australia’s Sarah Wood with a total of 5052. Although some 300 points shy of her PB, her 1.76m leap in the high jump was the best of the competition and just two centimetres shy of her lifetime best.
The Oceania Championships were the first round of the challenge which now moves to Europe for two further early-season events at the famous venues of Florence and Gotzis .
The Multistars 28th Trofei Zerneri Acciai will be staged at the Stadio Ridolfi in the Italian city of Florence this Friday and Saturday, but it is at the 41st Hypo Meeting in Gotzis, Austria, at the end of the month (30-31 May) when the challenge should really start to heat up.
Serbia’s 2008 world junior bronze medallist Mihail Dudas, with a personal best of 8275 in finishing 14th at the Moscow 2013 World Championships, heads the entry list in the decathlon in Florence, with Katsiaryna Netsviatayeva of Belarus atop the heptathlon entries. Her personal best of 6121 was set last year.
However, the Gotzis heptathlon features the return to combined event competition of Olympic champion Jessica Ennis-Hill for the first time since her home soil triumph in London.
Merely being the first British finisher will be a challenge as compatriot Katarina Johnson-Thompson, the 2014 Gotzis winner, will also compete.
Britain’s world junior champion Morgan Lake, who turns 18 on Tuesday, will also compete in Gotzis, though it might be expecting a little too much for her to challenge her older rivals.
Canada’s world silver medallist Brianne Theisen-Eaton and Dutch star Dafne Schippers are also in the Gotzis field.
Schippers, the European sprints double gold medallist last year, will be using the event to gauge whether she will contest the sprints or the combined event later in the year in Beijing.
Eelco Sintnicolaas in the decathlon gives the Netherlands a strong entry in both competitions, while world record-holder and Olympic champion Ashton Eaton and Berlin and two-time world champion Trey Hardee fly the US flag.
The race for the Combined Events Challenge will have another focal point at the World Championships in Beijing on 22-30 August before the final event in Talence, France on 19-20 September.
In other events at the Oceania Championships, world youth championships-bound Brandon Herrigan compiled an impressive treble in the under-18 sprints and hurdles.
Herrigan won the 100m in 10.71, the 200m in 21.71 and the 110m hurdles in 13.84. The latter two performances were championship records, the hurdles being just outside his personal best of 13.71.
Herrigan will compete in the hurdles in Cali this year, and alongside sprint sensation Jack Hale in the 200m.
Len Johnson for the IAAF