World Tour of Decathlon: 2020 in Review

We expected 2020 to be a race for decathletes to achieve the 8350 Olympic Qualifying mark, or to rank in the top 24 in the world. We expected a World Indoors, a World Juniors and an Olympic Games.

But instead, the year was one of ingenuity, with decathlons in apartments, heptathlons on balconies, discus throws in fields and sprints in the street. The absence of competition challenged motivation, but it also released pressure.

First the World Indoor Championships fell, as coronavirus took hold in China. Then the NCAA championships went, with athletes already on site. Multistars, in Italy where the early impacts of coronavirus were first felt most harshly, was the first big outdoor multi-event competition to be cancelled. And the rest, including the Olympic Games, followed.

But by 31 December, 4 more decathletes had secured the Olympic qualifying mark, 12 in total, and another 6 reached 8000 points for the first time. Some athletes postponed retirement for another year. Some retired. Two of them retired and came back. The 1960 and 1964 decathlon champions left us forever.

This was 2020.

BRAZIL, CUBA, GRENADA

The world lists were bookended by big marks from Central and South American athletes. Their 2019-2020 summer season took place before lockdown measures were introduced, and their 2020-21 summer season coincided with the opening of the Olympic qualifying period on 1 December 2020.

Felipe dos Santos scored 7932 on 1 March, which was the second best score of the year until competition started again in the summer. Thirty-three year old Leonel Suárez scored 7990 later in the month, and that lasted as the world best until July, while Pan American Games silver medallist Lindon Victor competed sparingly at the start of the year.

Dos Santos then improved his score to an unofficial 8014 on 1 November. But he added a massive 345 points to his PB– including PBs in the HJ, LJ, PV, and javelin – with 8364 on 12 December at the Brazilian Championships, only 29 points behind Carlos Chinin’s Brazilian record of 8393 from 2013. 

USA

Most reviews of 2020 overlook the US, but that does a disservice to one of the most exciting comebacks of the year during the indoor season, and to the ingenuity in solo decathlon organisation later in the year. Garrett Scantling, 4th place and 8228 points at the US Olympic trials in 2016, returned from his spells in the NFL and the finance industry to dominate the US indoor scene.

His first heptathlon mark of 6110 in Lexington would have been a world lead had it not been for the oversized track (a harsh judgement for a 2:52 1000m!) but he consolidated his domination a few weeks later at the US Indoor CE Champs with 6209, one of the 5 PBs of his performance, and an official world lead.

That was also the 8th best US mark of all time, a feat that was also achieved by his counterpart in the pentathlon Annie Kunz a few days later. Scantling wasn’t the only blast from the near past – Jeremy Taiwo scored a respectable 5787 at Nampa in January in his first multi-event since 2018.  

Garrett Scantling (Photo: Bert Hindman)

Other notable indoor marks were Kyle Garland’s 5994 and TJ Lawson’s 5885 behind Scantling in Fayetteville, and Scott Filip’s 5797 to take silver at the US Champs.

The US nationals at the US Naval Academy’s Wesley Brown Field House were one of the last competitions to take place before coronavirus, as the NCAA indoors suffered a dramatic 11th hour cancellation in March, leaving several of Scantling’s UGA teammates high and dry.

But the USA was not without decathlons. Both Chris Helwick and Jordan Gray competed in decathlons in October at Marble Falls in Texas Thirty-five year old Chris extended his Olympic campaign by another year with a negative split decathlon score of 7430; and Jordan Gray added a decathlon long jump world best of 6.19 to her many accolades. Nine hundred miles west in Texas, Mitch Modin was setting up a solo decathlon in Phoenix, Arizona. His first day was short, sweet, and sweltering, cracking through the 5 events in temperatures in excess of 38C. The second day was a touch more leisurely, completed in all of 3 hours, and he finished with a score of 7536.  

Other athletes were on the move during 2020. Solomon Simmons, 8th at the World Champs in Doha rejoined Jordan Gray and coach Andy Eggerth at their new home at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.  Harrison Williams, the second-placed American in Doha, moved to Chula Vista to train alongside Kunz, Erica Bougard and Riley Cooks; and Charlie Card Childers moved to Austin to join the Mahler newlyweds.  And the world of decathlon lost a titan, when 1960 Olympic Champion Rafer Johnson died in December.

RUSSIA

When it looked like the indoor season might settle into a series of world lead baton exchanges between the Americans and Estonians from UGA, up popped Artem Makarenko. He had posted a number of impressive 60m hurdles times: 7.60 in January and then 7.55 on 9 February. But in mid-February he put together a 6320 heptathlon, leaping to 3rd on the Russian all-time list behind Lev Lobodin (6412) and Ilya Shkurenyev (6353). Makarenko’s heptathlon included a 7.72 hurdles, reported as a Russian heptathlon best. He ended his season – and his multievent career – there, indicating that he intends to focus solely on the hurdles in the future.

Later in the year, Shkurenyev delivered a modest 8086 in Sochi to finish the year as equal 10th in the world. However, the interesting developments were happening in the younger age groups. Stepan Kekin won the Russian U23 title in 7625 (including a huge 5.30 pole vault) and was the third best Russian of 2020 at the senior decathlon. Kekin also finished 3rd at the Russian indoor champs in 5757 behind Makarenko, and 19-year old Aleksandr Komarov had the 3rd best U20 in the world in 2020 (behind Markus Rooth and Sven Jansons), with his 5727 in February.

In the first few months of 2020, with competition and qualifying suspended throughout much of the world, it seemed entirely possible that we might go through 2020 without a single 8000 point score. According to uber-statistician Jon Mulkeen, the last time that happened was in 1965, when Soviet Mikhail Storozhenko had the year’s best score of 7883. Sadly, only a few weeks after his name returned to our attention, Mikhail passed away at the end of March.

UKRAINE

Thirty-five year old Oleksiy Kasyanov started 2020 with a podium finish at the annual Tallinn Combined Events meeting, scoring 5958 and just 42 points from achieving the 10th 6000+ score of his career. Later in the year he clocked 7716 at the Ukraine Champs in August and then finished his year in Réunion in December. Unfortunately, he fouled three times in the long jump, but while a lesser man might have retired to the beach with a beer, the mighty Kasyanov continued in the competition.

Oleksiy Kasyanov (Photo: Marko Mumm for Estonian Athletics)

GERMANY

With 2 athletes already qualified for the Olympics (Niklas Kaul and Kai Kazmirek) the race for the third spot in the German team started in the first few weeks of 2020. But the Germans were among the first to have their training disrupted by coronavirus, trudging home unhappily from their training camp in South Africa mid-March.

Manuel Eitel won the first significant international event of the year with a heptathlon PB and early world lead of 5963 in Clermont Ferrand. His SSV Ulm training partners Tim Nowak and Luca Dieckmann finished behind him in 2nd and 5th respectively, Dieckmann in his first senior competition. Eitel was still short of training following his stomach operation in 2019 and later in 2020 he also took the opportunity to have some ankle surgery. Eitel also split his time between Ulm (for decathlon training) and Leverkusen (to focus on some individual events). Once the season opened up later in the year, Nowak suffered a thigh injury, leaving him unable to tackle a decathlon, and focusing instead on individual events.

The German squad at X-Athletics (Photo: Michel Fisquet)

Andreas Bechmann built on his first 8000 decathlon in 2019 by breaking the German Under 23 heptathlon record in February with a score of 6097, with Felix Wolter setting a PB of 5550 behind him. After a few individual events during the summer, Bechmann then invited his Swiss counterparts to Frankfurt for a mini-competition, going head to head with Simon Ehammer over 200m, hurdles and pole vault.

Kai Kazmirek similarly focused on individual events during the summer, including a brave attempt at the 110m hurdles a few hours after the 400m at the German championships. World champion Niklas Kaul participated in the Ultimate Garden Clash against Kevin Mayer and Maicel Uibo in June, and then took the opportunity of the break from competition to have surgery on his elbow.

Ultimate Garden Clash

Kaul also took on a new role as commentator at the German champs, and the absence of the bigger names allowed younger athletes to shine. Jannis Wolff had the highest score of the weekend (and the best German result of the year) with 7670, but since he had only entered the U23 category, the overall champion was 20-year-old Malik Diakité, scoring 7641. Marcel Meyer won the U20 competition in 7607. Fynn Zenker and Leo Neugebauer settled into college life at Texas Tech and the University of Texas respectively. Neugebauer’s 5848 heptathlon didn’t feature on world lists due to another oversized US track. However, if you’ve ever wondered which American snacks are worth the hype and which are not worth bothering about, then Leo the German is here to tell you what you need to know.

The 2017 and 2013 world silver medallists Rico Freimuth and Michael Schrader announced their retirements, as one of Germany’s many 8000 decathletes Florian Obst. And decathlon lost another great, when the 1964 Olympic decathlon champion Willi Holdorf died.

SPAIN

After some drama in getting his poles from Spain to Estonia, Jorge Ureña won the Tallinn Combined Events competition in February with 6091 points, days after the World Indoor Championships in Nanjing were first postponed. He went onto register the 3rd best heptathlon of the year at the Spanish championships, scoring 6143.

Meanwhile, in the UK, Pablo Trescoli took second place at the England Combined Events indoor championships in Sheffield in 5540, while Jonay Jordan continue to struggle with injury throughout the year after his season opener in Clermont Ferrand. Bruno Comin scored 5430 at the Spanish indoor championships, and then went onto win his first senior title outdoors with a mark of 7303. Jorge and others engaged in Spain’s contribution to lockdown competition, the “Decasathlon”.

England Combined Events champs (Photo: Gabby Pieraccini)

UK

Ahead of Pablo Trescoli on the podium in Sheffield in January 2019 stood Scotland’s Andrew Murphy with the best UK score of the year in 5606. Fellow Scot Scott Brindley stood atop the podium in the U20 event, just a few points short of Scott Connal’s Scottish U20 heptathlon record.

A month later, Brindley claimed the U20 record at the Scottish Combined Events championships in Glasgow, scoring 5409 in the stadium where just a few weeks later Mondo Duplantis would jump 6.18 for the first time. Scott Connal became the Scottish 60mh and heptathlon champion, and Murphy won bronze at the British indoor champs at the pole vault, reaching 5m for the first time.  Lewis Church and Harry Maslen had the second and third best heptathlon marks of the year by UK athletes, with 5395 and 5377 respectively. The 2014 Commonwealth silver medallist Ashley Bryant made a brief, but welcome, appearance during the 2020 indoor season.

Scott Brindley (Photo: Bobby Gavin for Scottish Athletics)

When the outdoor season restarted, the only senior decathlon marks of the year came from the Scots. Howard Bell returned from injury with a PB of 6891 in Poland, and Cal McLennan set a Scottish 1500 decathlon best with his Niklas Kaul-esque 4:15.98 at the same competition. In the U20 competition, Jack Turner scored 7291 at the Norwegian championships, and Ollie Thorner scored 7215 in Hochdorf in Switzerland in September.

The British No.1 and European Indoor silver medallist Tim Duckworth competed only in individual events before competition closed down, and he goes into 2021 at 17th position in the world rankings.

ITALY

Simone Cairoli hit the big time when his lockdown “Decathlon in a Room” went viral, but his bigger achievement of the year was improving his heptathlon best to 5939 in February to come within 33 points of William Frullani’s Italian record set in 2009. The Italian decathlon title was won by 20-year-old Dario Dester in 7655 in August.

ESTONIA

In 2019, the first 8000 point score of the year was from Karl Robert Saluri. And in 2020, it would again be an Estonian to first hit the landmark score. But in May Saluri, whose career had been constrained by injury, decided that the time had come to retire. A few months later, he decided to give things another go, and reversed his decision. Let’s see what 2021 brings for Saluri. But back to the big scores from the Baltic.

The first big Estonian scores of the year actually came from Georgia, when Johannes Erm and Karel Tilga became the 9th and 10th Estonians to score over 6000. Erm held the world lead briefly with his 6114 at the Razorback Invitational until training partner Garrett Scantling retrieved it again. Tilga has been on a long road to recovery following an elbow injury at the 2018 European Championships in Berlin, and his 6019 represents a promising return to form. However, both lost out on the opportunity to land some big scores at the aborted NCAA indoors in Albuquerque.   

Back in Estonia, training partners Risto Lillemets and Taavi Tšernjavski had a strong start to the year, as Risto finished second behind Jorge Ureña in Tallinn in February, achingly 4 points short of 6000, and both setting multiple PBs in the process.  Later in the year, at the Estonian champs, both seemed well on course to break 8000. But Risto no-heighted in the PV and so it was Taavi who had the honour of being the first man to break 8000 in 2021, the 18th Estonian to go over 8000, and the 17th best in history. Just 4 weeks later, Risto – in a solo effort – also finally reached 8000, becoming the 19th >8000 Estonian and the 13th best in history.

Risto Lillemets and Taavi Tsernjavski (Photo: Marko Mumm for Estonian Athletics)

Both then competed at Réunion in December, where – behind Mayer’s Olympic bid – they engaged in a superb competition with the best of the French. Tšernjavski finished second with another 8000 point score (8030) and Risto third (7993) and both with valuable rankings points. “It started off as a pleasure cruise” said Taavi of the competition “…and surprisingly went a lot better than expected. Risto and I knew the competition in the 1500 was between us and we agreed to push 100%. We did our job and are happy with the outcome!”

Their training partner Kristjan Rosenberg – who exceeded 8000 for the first time in Lutsk in 2019 – didn’t compete in decathlon during 2020, but focused on individual events, including representing Estonia over the 400m and 4x400m at the Baltic Cup in Latvia.

Hans Christian Hausenberg had a superb season in individual events: he set PBs in the shot (14.29i), pole vault (5.30i), triple jump (14.77) and his speciality long jump (7.91). He won indoor and outdoor titles in the long jump, an indoor pole vault title and a pile of silver and bronze medals indoor and out across disciplines. His heptathlon and decathlon attempts were less successful, but surely it can only a matter of time before he delivers a big score.

Hans-Christian Hausenberg (Photo: Raul Mee for Estonian Athletics)

Erm and Tilga returned to Estonia during the summer and both improved their heavy throw PBs: Erm improving his shot and discus to 14.75 and 49.39, and Tilga to 15.38 and 48.79. Erm told Estonian media “I’m not dreaming of 9000 points…but 9200 points.” Janek Õiglane, 6th in Doha, had a little minor surgery on his ankle during the dead season and made the move across the Atlantic to the UGA “Decathlon Academy” in search of stronger competition in training.

And the world silver medallist Maicel Uibo competed on both sides of the Atlantic. After a last minute decision to compete in Tallinn in February, he then participated in the Ultimate Garden Clash with Kaul and Mayer in June and had a few individual competitions in the USA. Reflecting on the endless stream of Estonians “the crazy thing is…this ain’t everything!” he had a top tip for Decathletes of Europe for the next Estonian to look out for: Kristo Simulask.

NORWAY

While Niklas Kaul’s 2017 World U20 record from Grossetto was finally ratified in 2020, European U20 bronze medallist Markus Rooth registered the second best U20 score of all time. His mark of 8238 in Oslo in June was a Norwegian U20 record, and it was his second U20 national record of the year, after winning the Norwegian indoors champs in 5798. Sander Skotheim was ranked second behind Rooth in the Norwegian U20 lists, scoring 7839 outdoors and 5700 indoors.

Rooth set about replicating his U20 8000+ score in the senior event and lined up against Martin Roe at the Norwegian Champs in August. However, he had to withdraw after the pole vault and Roe won his only competition of the year in 7990.

Markus Rooth (Photo: Eirik Førde)

NETHERLANDS

As predicted in 2019, we’re starting to see some breakthroughs in Dutch decathlon.

While Pieter Braun predictably won the indoor title with 6072, Rafael Rapp improved his heptathlon best to 5907 in second and Leon Mak similarly improved to 5597 in third. At the junior event, Sven Jansons won the indoor title in 5793 and Sven Roosens in 5528.

At the outdoor championship, Rik Taam won the outdoor title with his first 8000 point score of 8031, with Rapp (7829) and Mak (7614) again finishing 2nd and 3rd. However, in winning the U20 decathlon title, Sven Roosen scored 8116, shattering Pieter Braun’s junior record and positioning himself as 8th best U20 athlete of all time. Roosen also competed over 400H during the season, taking the Dutch U20 title.  The Dutch record holder Eelco Sintnicolaas continues to strive for one last Olympics, training mostly in Sweden.

Dutch combined events champs (Photo: Bjorn Paree)

SWEDEN, FINLAND

Eelco found himself training with Fredrik Samuelsson in 2020, and Fredrik split his time between competing and calling for change. Fredrik was outspoken about the lack of promotion of combined events by the Swedish Federation, and also welcomed – and won – the inaugural “triathlon” in the legendary Finnkampen.

Samuelsson won the Swedish indoor and outdoor titles (5808 and 7854) with Marcus Nilsson second on both occasions (5597 and 7574), and they were joined by Andreas Gustafsson in the victorious Swedish team for Finnkampen. The Finns were represented by Juuso Hassi, Tarmo Savola and Petri Ihander. Juuso won the Finnish title in 7379, but the best score of the year belonged to Leo Uusimäki who scored 7419 in Lahti.  

Finnkampen (Photo: Olavi Kaljunen)

BELARUS

Vitaly Zhuk held the world lead briefly at the start of August, scoring 8202 at the Belarus National Championships. Maksim Andraloits also scored a lifetime best of 8100 in second. After his return to competition in 2019, 2008 Olympic silver medallist Andrei Krauchanka continued his comeback with a 5584 heptathlon in February – and finally joined Instagram – but his progress was side-lined when he was arrested in November for speaking out against the Belarussian regime, as were a number of other high profile Belarussian sportspeople. He was released safely after 10 days, and back in training as the winter snow arrived.

BALKANS

Darko Pešić bounced back from his injury in Ratingen in 2019 with a 5530 performance at the X-Athletics competition in France in January, but illness got in the way of his planned participation in the Serbian indoor championships, won by Mikhail Dudas in 5760. Aleksandr Grnović was second at the Serbian champs in 5475 and went onto win the outdoor title, despite not completing the 1500. He also won the Balkan championships with 7179 in Cluj Napoca, ahead of Romania’s Razvan Roman in second.

Darko and pals (Photo: Michel Fisquet)

CZECH REPUBLIC, AUSTRIA, POLAND

Ondřej Kopecký won the Czech indoor championships in 5889 ahead of Adam Sebastian Helcelet in 5782, as the latter continues to build on his new training techniques and return to full competition. Jan Doležal competed sparingly, but his big ranking points from his wins in 2019 at Multistars and the Czech National champs mean that he enjoys 15th place in the world rankings. František Doubek had the highest junior marks of the year with 5307 indoors and 7666 outdoors.

Dominik Distelberger won the indoor Austrian champs with 5536 but his highest score of the indoor season was 5653 in Sollentuna, competing as a guest at the Swedish champs.

The Poles organised one of the first post-lockdown decathlons in Warsaw in August won by Rafał Horbowicz ahead of Jacek Chochorowski. The pair then finished first and second at the Polish champs in October with 7478 and 7315 respectively, and earlier in the year they had finished second and third behind Paweł Wiesiołek at the Polish Indoor champs in March. Paweł achieved his first heptathlon score over 6000, winning the title in a PB of 6050.

Patryk Baran hasn’t completed a decathlon since he finished 10th in the world-record competition at Decastar in Talence in 2018, aged just 20, and after struggling with injury since then he decided to retire from decathlon and focus on pole vault. However, after announcing his decision, he was approached by 2004 heptathlon Olympian Magdalena Szczepańska and they decided to work together on his return to combined events.

ISRAEL, INDIA, JAPAN

Ariel Atias collected indoor (5164) and outdoor (7136) Israeli National records. Tejaswin Shankar competed at the rare indoor pentathlon at the start of the season and set a K-State school record of 4137 at the Carol Robinson/Attila Zsivocky Pentathlon in Manhattan, which included a 2.23 high jump. He repeated the feat a year later, extending his record to 4343 and his HJ to 2.24. Akihiko Nakamura won the Japanese national champs in 7739, ahead of Asian champion Keisuke Ushiro who scored 7684.

BELGIUM

Thomas Van der Plaetsen fought through every barrier possible to qualify for Doha in 2019, and he embarked on a similar journey in 2020. His decathlon in his hometown of Deinze in September was going well before wind and rain destroyed any chance of a big score, although he still managed 8027. His intention was to compete in Réunion in December, but he withdrew to protect a knee injury. However, he had a superb pole vault competition at the Brussel Diamond League where he vaulted 5.40, and close to 5.50, in a competition where Mondo Duplantis set a meeting record of 6m.

Benjamin Hougardy set PBs indoor and out, with 5568 to win the Belgian indoor championships (behind guest Romain Martin) and 7761 in Réunion in December. Niels Pittomvils scored 7516 in August, and Jean Baptiste Nutte enjoyed an indoor competition rich in PBs on the way to his 5520 in Clermont Ferrand in January.  Jente Hauttekeete had the best U20 score of the year with 7833.

Belgian decathlon record holder Cassandre Evans didn’t get the opportunity to compete in a decathlon in 2020, but she did take the Belgian javelin title with 44.24 in August.

CANADA

2019 World lead and No.1 WA ranked decathlete Damian Warner was in excellent form coming into what was supposed to be Olympic year. He threw a lifetime best 15.59 shot and ran a hurdles PB of 7.62 in Baton Rouge in February. Pierce Lepage similarly improved his lifetime shot best to 14.85 and his 60m best to 6.89 in January in Toronto.  

But Olympic qualifying scores did not make it easier for the two Canadians to find training opportunities during lockdown, and like others, they had to be creative. The unusual circumstances did however give Taylor Ehrhardt the opportunity to develop his woodworking business – if you’ve not checked out his “trackcuterie” boards, it’s well worth doing so!   

AUSTRALIA

The Australian contribution to decathlon in 2020 took place in the margins of the year and was brief, but utterly deadly. Like other southern hemisphere nations, the Aussies logged some early marks, and Cedric Dubler’s score of 7900 at nationals in February kept him at 3rd in the world lists until competition restarted in the summer. The squad kept themselves busy during the hiatus in action, Dan Golubovic showing that decathletes can compete at cross country, and Marty Clark becoming a TikTok sensation. As the Queensland Championships approached a few weeks after the opening of the Olympic qualification period, Cedric and Ash Moloney were ready.

The competition wasn’t straightforward. Moloney suffered from cramp on day 1, and nearly took himself out of contention in the PV with a rogue pole. But he kept his focus and scored an astonishing 8492, 389 hundred points beyond his PB from his last decathlon at the Oceania Champs in June 2019, securing a firm sport for Tokyo.

And it also all came together for Cedric. His qualification for Doha had involved checking the world lists daily in the weeks up to the World Championships, as he had yet to score 8200 (a mark just short of his PB of 8229). But no such problem for the Olympics. Cedric scored a 138 point PB of 8367 to become the 12th man to secure the Olympic qualifying score. And the cherry on the cake from the Queensland Champs went to Liam Gilbert, who secured a qualifying mark for the World U20 championships in Nairobi.  

Qualified! Ash Moloney and Cedric Dubler (Photo: Casey Sims)

SWITZERLAND

Switzerland was a somewhat unlikely hub of decathlon activity in 2020. Throughout the course of 2019 and 2020, everything Simon Ehammer touched seemed to turn to gold. He turned his 2019 European U20 title into two 8000 point performances in 2020, 8029 in July and 8231 in August, just 13 points short of the Swiss record. Until the French came along in the last few months of the year, he held the decathlon world lead, and he also set a national indoor heptathlon record of 5915.

But it wasn’t just decathlon. Ehammer improved his hurdles from 14.20 to 13.48, faster than both Kevin Mayer and Artem Makarenko. He had multiple duels with the Swiss hurdles record holder Jason Joseph throughout the year – mirroring Makarenko’s competition with Joseph in Gavle 2019 – and his only stumble of the year was a literal one in the final against Joseph at the Swiss U23 Championships.

Simon Ehammer (Photo: Athletix.ch)

And Ehammer’s long jump was world class. With an invitation to Götzis for 2020, he had planned to attack Roman Šebrle’s Götzis record of 8.11. Chances are, he would have been successful since in June he jumped 8.15, a Swiss U23 record and the second longest Swiss jump in history. Ehammer was invited to Bellinzona in September where he finished 4th, jumping 7.99 behind Kristjan Pulli, world champion Tajay Gayle and Ruswahl Samaai. Of Ehammer’s 13 long jump competitions of the year, 4 of them were over 8m, and 9 were over 7.70.

But he also improved his 100, 400, 1500, shot and discus and when he beat fellow U23 competitor Andreas Bechmann over 3 events in Frankfurt, it was Ehammer’s 20cm PV PB of 5.10 – the event in which Bechmann is usually much stronger –which prevented the German from clawing back points.

The finale for the year was the Swiss individual champs. Ehammer was sitting in gold medal position in the long jump, with 7.75 after round 4 After taking his jump, he and Finley Gaio dashed over to the hurdles to run the final. Ehammer took silver behind Joseph in a huge PB of 13.48, with Gaio similarly setting his first sub-14 hurdles time of 13.94.

Both then returned to the long jump to take their 5th round jumps. Ehammer extended his lead to 7.99 in the final round, securing gold to add to his hurdles silver and pole vault bronze. His final long jump series was: 7.62, 7.75, 7.72, 7.75, 13.48 hurdles, 7.59, 7.99.

Ehammer’s performances in 2020 inspired those around him, and Gaio improved his PB  to 7668 at the Swiss champs in Langenthal, as did Matthias Steinman to 7411. Luca Bernaschina finished 4th in a PB at the indoor champs at Magglingen but did not compete outdoors, and Andri Oberholzer likewise spent most of the year continuing to recover from injury. In the last few weeks of the year Finley Gaio suffered a serious pole vault injury to his face, but is back in training ready for 2021. Such was the buzz around Swiss athletics in 2020 that Steinmann and Pascal Magyar set up their own podcast, Swiss Track Check.

FRANCE

While Taavi Tšernjavski had the honour of the first official 8000 score of the year, it was not the first time 8000 points had been reached in 2020. In June, Axel Hubert organised his own decathlon and scored an unofficial 8113, his first time over 8000. But it was no fluke performance. Three months later, at the French championships in September, Hubert catapulted himself to the top of the world lists with a score of 8260, and he stayed there until Kevin Mayer crossed the finish line in Réunion in December.

Réunion was also a significant competition for Makenson Gletty. As others fell away over the two days in the Indian Ocean, it was Gletty, Ludovic Besson and Hubert who held the challenge of the Estonians in tension. While the Estonians came out top on this occasion, Gletty led the rest of the French results with a PB of 7978. Besson had won the French indoor title earlier in the year in a PB of 5799, and had the top indoor result ahead of Jeremy Lelievre, Ruben Gado and Romain Martin. Nineteen-year old Baptiste Thierry scored a strong 7849 at the U20 competition at the French Champs.

And in the final days of 2020 we said goodbye to multiple French Champion Gaël Querin, in his final decathlon. In his usual style, he won the 1500 leading a team of Frenchmen (and one Belgian) with their heads shaved bald in tribute.

We entered 2020 with a world record holder who did not have an Olympic qualification. Kevin Mayer needed to balance the need for 2 decathlons (a qualifier and the Games) with the knowledge that just one event too many could result in injury that would side-line him for months.

Kevin Mayer (Photo: Gil Victoire)

The suspension of the qualifying period put paid to his plans for an April decathlon. But in June, at the Ultimate Garden Challenge, Kevin Mayer decided to take matters into his own hands. “I think I will organise a decathlon.” he said. “I think in December, you will see me in decathlon.” And so, we did.

In the interim Kevin made some changes, parting ways with Bertrand Valcin after 12 years, and bringing Alexandre Bonacorso onto the team. He also published his story, in “Mes 10 Commandements”. And he ended 2020 with his first successful decathlon since September 2018, the world lead, an Olympic qualifying mark of 8552, and not a single hair on his head.

Bald and happy (Photo: Gil Victoire)

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