Review: Tallinn Combined Events Meeting

A Ukrainian pentathlon clean sweep, the Estonian you might not have expected on the podium, a refocusing of the energy originally intended for the World Indoor Championships, and a message from the World silver medallist that you ain’t seen everything yet. Welcome to Tallinn.

PENTATHLON

Usually a competition settles down after the first few events, but on this occasion the pentathlon refused to be so corralled, and the lead changed after each of the five disciplines. But that lead was always in the hands of one of the four Ukrainians in the competition. The fastest in the 60m hurdles was Rimma Buinenko in 8.34. After a high jump of 1.87, the lead was claimed back by Alina Shukh. Hanna Kasyanova’s shot of 14.11 meant that she seized the lead again after 3 events. And after the long jump, the lead switched again back to Rimma Buinenko following her jump of 6.19. But we weren’t done yet. In a superb piece of front-running, Alina Shukh covered the 800m in 2:16 to reclaim the lead, win the competition in 4518 and post the 4th best score of the year so far.

Pentathlon 800m

France’s Annaelle Nyabeu Djapa and Cassandre Aguessy Thomas continued their first class seasons, slotting in 4th and 6th behind the mighty Ukrainian team. Aguessy Thomas bookended her competition with two lifetime bests, in the hurdles and 800m. Splitting them in 5th place was Great Britain’s Katie Stainton, setting a PB of 4258, but nevertheless still hugely disappointed with her overall performance.     

The challenges of Spain’s Maria Vicente and Poland’s Adrianna Sułek didn’t emerge on this occasion, nor Finland’s Miia Sillman, as none of them completed the competition. But despite the Ukrainian domination, the home crowd had something to cheer for, as in her first pentathlon since 2017, Mari Klaup-McColl returned with a flourish to post a new lifetime best of 4122 in 9th place. 

Final results:

  • 1. Shukh 4518
  • 2. Kasyanova 4449
  • 3. Buinenko 4360
  • 4. Nyabeu Djapa 4288
  • 5. Stainton 4258

The full results can be found here.

Mari Klaup-McColl

HEPTATHLON

60M

Half of the field had run under 7 seconds for 60m, and five of them did so this weekend. The fastest on paper was Karl Robert Saluri, but the fastest in practice was his Estonian team-mate Hans-Christian Hausenberg in 6.86, beating Saluri into second in 6.88, Jorge Ureña in in 6.94, Oleksiy Kasyanov in 6.97 and Ruben Gado in 6.98. The majority of the field came within one-tenth of their lifetime bests, giving a great taster of what else was to come this weekend.

After 1 event:

  • 1. Hausenberg 933
  • 2. Saluri 925
  • 3. Ureña 904
  • 4. Kasyanov 893
  • 5. Gado 889

LONG JUMP

Onto Hausenberg’s speciality, and he didn’t disappoint, leaping out to a 1cm indoor personal best of 7.77m. The 8 metre man in the field Kasyanov (his 8.04 dating from 2010) had a best of 7.41, and Ureña had a solid series of jumps around 7.30 behind him. 

Taavi Tšernjavski and Risto Lillemets had clearly compared notes beforehand, because they delivered beautifully symmetrical performances.  In the first round Taavi improved his lifetime best of 7.04 by 22cm to 7.26, and in the second Risto improved his lifetime best of 7.03 by 22cm to 7.25.  

Behind them Maicel Uibo scraped over 7m to 7.09 and Jérémy Lélièvre to 7.08, and Ruben Gado jumped just short of 7m at 6.92. Hendrik Lillemets equalled his PB of 6.82, and Great Britain’s Liam Reveley had a solid series at 6.76.

While the first two events of the decathlon or heptathlon usually go to form and the fast guys dominate, that pattern had been disrupted this time. One might have expected the French duo – both with long jumps some 30cm superior to Lillemets and Tšernjavski – to have retained their position in 4th and 5th behind Hausenberg, Saluri, Ureña and Kasyanov. But, significantly, the Estonians moved in front, and for the rest of the competition the French were playing catch up.

After 2 events:

  • 1, Hausenberg 1935
  • 2. Saluri 1825
  • 3. Kasyanov 1806
  • 4. Ureña 1797
  • 5. Tšernjavski 1727

SHOT

Onto the shot, and finally Uibo started to perk up from his transatlantic commute, and landed an indoor PB throw of 14.82 in the second round. Paweł Wiesiołek followed with an indoor best of 14.68 in the third. Both men are capable of 15m, as is Oleksiy Kasyanov, who had a best of 15.05 in the final round. Kasyanov was 13th in the throwing order of the 16 men in the field, and after he had taken his final throw, and after Paweł (who was 15th) was done, one could be forgiven for thinking that the action was done.

Oleksiy Kasyanov with the longest shot of the day…just

Uh-uh. Risto Lillemets was last to throw.  He’d never been over 14m, inside or out. In the first round, he threw 14.04, for a small improvement on his 13.99 PB. In the second round, he threw 14.39. “What a great performance!” one might think. “But he’ll be done now.”

No, no, no. In the third round, Lillemets heaved the shot out to 15 metres exactly. And so while the overall placings at the top end of the table did not change significantly, the early advantage of Hausenberg and Saluri was being reeled in, and Tšernjavski and Lillemets started to gain traction in 5th and 6th place.

“My last shot put training was on Tuesday, where the best one was a bit below 14m, consistently over 13 and a half, so it was amazing, I skipped 14m! I don’t know where it came from – I just hit the positions I needed to, and just let the animal out.”

Risto Lillemets on his 15m shot

After 3 events:

  • 1. Hausenberg
  • 2. Saluri
  • 3. Kasyanov
  • 4. Ureña
  • 5. Tšernjavski 

HIGH JUMP

If Hausenberg was the star of the first 2 events with his speed and his jump, then the high jump was the first instalment of the Uibo Show. In the end, there were few fireworks in the event, save for a number of impressive clutch third attempts by Gado, Saluri and Tšernjavski. Liam Reveley could not quite match his performance from the English Championships in Sheffield in January, only reaching 1.99 compared to his best at 2.08. But 1.99 was a new PB for 21-year-old Estonian Johannes Treiel and the youngsters did well overall in the high jump. 

Johannes Treiel

When the bar reached 2m, most of the names you would expect were still in the game: Uibo, Ureña, Wiesiołek, and Lillemets. But that’s Lillemets x 2.  20-year-old Hendrik – “he’s a high jumper who does heptathlon for fun” according to his older brother – matched Ureña at 2.08 behind Uibo’s overall lead of 2.11.

Hausenberg had managed only 1.93 and Saluri 1.84, and so Ureña moved up 3 places to lead the field overnight. Behind him, it was very close with a fast hurdles competition to come in the morning and Part 2 of the Uibo Spectacular: the pole vault.

Liam Reveley reflected on discovering at the last minute that he would be competing against Uibo.

“We saw Uibo in the airport and I thought…what’s he doing here! This meeting was a really great experience for us last year – I did pretty well with a PB. The track is really good, everyone’s really friendly and the people you’re competing against are so good. It’s strange competing with people who jump so high, so easily, in combined events – it’s a great experience.”

Liam Reveley on competing against Maicel Uibo

At the end of Day 1:

  • 1. Ureña 3420
  • 2. Hausenberg 3387
  • 3. Kasyanov 3366
  • 4. R Lillemets 3358
  • 5. Uibo 3295

60M HURDLES

Four men in the field had run under 8 seconds for the hurdles, and three of them duked it out right to the line in the first event of Day 2. Jorge was the fastest in 8.02, with Oleksiy only 2 hundredths behind him in 8.04 and Johannes Treiel next in 8.11.

Jorge Urena, Johannes Treiel and Oleksiy Kasyanov

“It was really fun. I haven’t done multi events for some years, and hadn’t necessarily planned to do it here. I’m really happy and it’s a great experience competing with more accomplished men.”

Johannes Treiel, on lining up between the European Indoor Champion and the legendary Oleksiy Kasyanov

But it was disaster for Hans-Christian Hausenberg, who stumbled midway through the race and was out.

There was a similar ending to Hausenberg’s for Hendrik Lillemets in the other heat, who got caught up in a hurdle and ended up jogging to the line. But in the same heat Risto won with his 3rd PB of the weekend, a small improvement to 8.21. With Hausenberg out of contention, Kasyanov moved into second place behind Ureña, while Uibo lurked ominously just outside the top 5.

After 5 events

  • 1. Ureña 4397
  • 2. Kasyanov 4338
  • 3. R Lillemets 4288
  • 4. Wiesiołek 4193
  • 5. Tšernjavski 4191

POLE VAULT

After cutting short his heptathlon in Clermont-Ferrand in January after the hurdles, Ruben Gado was back in action in his best event, the pole vault. After a whole season out with injury, he had not quite yet returned to applying full intensity to all events, and his technique had suffered in a few places as a result.

But he had little problem in the pole vault. Ruben cleared 5.10, only one height behind the inevitable winner, Maicel Uibo at 5.20.  But Ruben wasn’t alone at 5.10. In what had become the narrative of the weekend, Risto Lillemets set another lifetime best, after clearing 5m for the first time a few weeks previously, and he flew over 5.10.

“I wasn’t so confident going into the pole vault because my last session was a bit rough. But as soon as I did some warm up jumps, I just felt the vibe and knew what I had to do. I went up a couple of poles and that resulted in a new height for me. It was amazing.”

Risto Lillemets on his 4th PB of the weekend

After 6 events:

  • 1. Ureña 5246
  • 2. R Lillemets 5229
  • 3. Kasyanov 5128
  • 4. Uibo 5127
  • 5. Tšernjavski 5040

1000M

Ahead of the event, you might have predicted that by this point, Ureña, Kasyanov and Uibo would have pulled away, and the final podium places would be informed by how tired Uibo was, how fit Kasyanov was, and how deep Ureña dug to hold onto his lead. And those factors were all still relevant. But, mirroring the performances of fellow Estonians Õiglane and Saluri 12 months ago, where both set a plethora of PBs and Õiglane streaked past 6000, Lillemets and Tšernjavski were also in the form of their lives.

While it seemed unlikely that Lillemets could outrun Ureña in the 1k, Kasyanov and Uibo were – only one point apart – 100 points behind Lillemets with PBs 5 second faster and worth around 50 points more.  How fatigued was Lillemets, and had Kasyanov and Uibo kept something up their sleeve for the final event?

The 1000m began in the usual style with Saluri nipping through the gaps to the front. On the second lap, the 2:35 guys Gado and Lélièvre had pulled away with Saluri, joined by Tšernjavski who was clearly giving it everything he had left. The chasing pack consisted of Uibo, Lillemets and Ureña before Jorge kicked at the bell.  Ruben won the sprint to the line in 2:38.02, Lélièvre on his shoulder in 2:38.33. Taavi took a second off his best to finish third in 2:40.35 and Jorge behind him in 2:42.62, his victory safe.

Ruben Gado wins the 1000m

Neither Oleksiy nor Maicel had a fast run in reserve, and so Risto was also safe in second. But the drama did not end there. As the results were announced, it became clear that Risto had missed becoming the 11th Estonian man – and the third this year – to break 6000 points, by an agonising 4 points.

“I gave my everything in the previous 6 events and had nothing left in the legs to run a decent time. But that’s the multi-life, you win some, you lose some. Those 4 points made me really emotional, but Maicel cheered me up, and I immediately felt better. I feel like I’ve always looked up to these guys, and now I’m competing with them. I’m doing pretty well, and I’ve realised it’s only the beginning of something beautiful”

Risto Lillemets

And the European Indoor champion, and the winner here in Tallinn, Jorge Ureña was happy, but not satisfied with his performance.

“I was expecting to do a little better, and it wasn’t the result I wanted, but I’m happy. The objective for this year was to go there [the World Championships], and to secure a qualifying score here, and so it’s a shame that they have been cancelled. But I have no injuries – everything is good!” 

Jorge Urena

Similarly, the jetlagged World silver medallist and Estonian No.1 was disappointed not to have the opportunity to go to Nanjing.

“I wish it was happening. I wanted to go, I was ready to go. But I guess now I refocus on the outdoor season. The plan was always to go to Götzis – that’s usually the first meet I would do. It’s good timing, you get time to work on things between then and the Olympics. I’m happy that I’m feeling healthy right now, and that’s the most important thing going into Olympic season.”

And what about the likes of the “triathlon” at the Paris Diamond League last year? 

“I really wish they did more of that! But now I don’t know, because they’ve taken away some actual events, so I doubt that they will add us in, other than in perhaps Paris or Monaco where there is an incentive to show local decathletes like Kevin.”

How does Maicel feel about the performance of the Estonians this weekend in Tallinn?

“It’s crazy, right!? The crazy thing is that we’ve also got a couple of very good guys in the US right now who put out some big scores over the last few weeks – so this ain’t everything!”

Maicel Uibo
Maicel Uibo – at the front of an endless stream of Estonian decathlon talent

Final results:

  • 1. Ureña 6091
  • 2. R Lillemets 5996 PB
  • 3. Kasyanov 5958
  • 4. Uibo 5924
  • 5. Tšernjavski 5910 PB

The full results can be found here.

Photos: Marko Mumm for Estonian Athletics

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