Mon. May 27th, 2024

On Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th February 2024 the second World Combined Events Tour meeting of the year takes place at Lasnamäe Indoor Arena in Tallinn, Estonia. Like X-Athletics in Clermont Ferrand last weekend, the meeting is Silver/Category B, which means it brings 60 points for first place, through to 20 points for eighth, for those looking to include a strong indoor mark in their aspirations for Olympic qualification.

WORLD INDOORS

In the shorter term, there are places in the field for the World Indoor Championships in Glasgow up for grabs. Qualification for Glasgow allows for:

  • Five places from the 2024 indoor top lists (by scores, not ranking)
  • Five places from the 2023 outdoor top lists (maximum one per country)
  • One place for the 2023 WA Combined Events Tour winner
  • One discretionary place, to be decided by World Athletics

At the time of writing, the five places from the 2024 indoor top lists are occupied by:

  • Ken Mullings (6340), Simon Ehammer (6242), Makenson Gletty (6230), Tim Nowak (6032), Ondrej Kopecky (6018)
  • Maria Vicente (4728), Sveva Gerevini (4538), Allie Jones (4528), Szabina Szucs (4491), Bianca Salming (4453)

In practice, more places may end up being filled from the 2024 top lists since the qualification criteria erroneously assumes that all athletes do both outdoor and indoor seasons, an anomaly World Athletics have committed to review.

In the pentathlon, Marijke Esselink (4477) will come into play in the scenario that either Emma Oosterwegel (CE tour winner) or Anouk Vetter (2023 top list) don’t take their place. The US champion Cheyenne Nesbitt (4475) will also become eligible as second American once Anna Hall is removed from the 2023 outdoor list qualification.

In addition, WA really have no option other than to fill the discretionary place from the 2024 indoor lists. Otherwise, with rankings points available for 1st to 12th place in Glasgow, they are essentially awarding free rankings points and an Olympic qualification boost to random individuals of their choice. That, of course, would be highly inappropriate.

HEPTATHLON

In 2023, the Tallinn meeting was the first step for Norway’s Sander Skotheim en route to a silver medal in the European Indoors in Istanbul, where he ran Kevin Mayer close for gold. Skotheim is the headline name in the field and should have little problem landing himself a place in the Glasgow line-up.

The heptathlon field this weekend is light on Estonians – just Hans-Christian Hausenberg and Taavi Tšernjavski from their elite ranks, and 21-year-old Aleks Malm – but in recent years our hosts have done well at major indoor championships.

In 2023, Risto Lillemets took Estonia’s first Euro Indoor combined events medal since Mikk Pahapill won in Turn in 2009, and in Belgrade in 2022 Hans Christian Hausenberg was fourth behind Damian Warner, Simon Ehammer and Ash Moloney.

Hausenberg shines indoors with only one weak event, his 1k, holding him back from a bigger 6k+ score beyond his current 6191. At his best, he can keep pace with Skotheim all the way through to the high jump. With sub-eight-second hurdles and a 5.30m+ pole vault, he has the tools to join Karel Tilga (the 2023 combined events tour winner) in qualification for Glasgow.

The Germans have sent four athletes to Tallinn: Marcel Meyer, who was fourth in the 2023 EU23 championships across the water in Espoo; Nico Beckers, continuing the form of his breakthrough in Ratingen 2022, Nils Laserich and Silas Kriete. Don’t be fooled by the lowly 4713 PB against Laserich on the entry lists – this is the 22-year-old’s first season doing heptathlon, and while that 4713 from the German championships includes a no-mark in the LJ, it also included lifetime bests in all three of the track disciplines.

At this meeting in 2023, Edgaras Benkunskas broke the 15-year-old Lithuanian national record of Darius Draudvila, scoring 5937. In his first hep of the year at his nationals he scored 5753, so with some stronger competition this weekend he should be close to 6000. He’s accompanied by compatriot Domantas Dobrega.

Vilem Strasky of Czech Republic had a good competition at this meet in 2023 too, setting what was then a PB of 5694. But he’s since added over 200 points to his score, most recently last week in Clermont Ferrand with 5934. He is now within sight of 6000 points and his teammate Ondrej Kopecky’s place in the field for Glasgow.

The 2021 European Indoor bronze medallist from Toruń (remember that pole vault?!) Paweł Wiesiołek opens his season over seven events in Tallinn, as does teammate Rafał Horbowicz.

Four athletes from the Balkans make the trip to Tallin for the heptathlon. Montenegro’s multi-record holder Darko Pesic, sixth at the European Indoors in Belgrade in 2017 and eighth in Toruń 2021, starts his season here, along with Fran Bonifacic, the former national record holder in decathlon from Croatia. Greek twins Angelos and Antonios Andreoglou are also competing.

Ville Toivonen hops over the Gulf of Finland for the competition, and the field is completed by UK champion Sam Talbot. At his best, Talbot can hold his own with much of this field and, as one of the fastest in the field, will get the competition off to an explosive start.

PENTATHLON

Szabina Szucs of Hungary and Bianca Salming of Sweden have both had strong starts to 2024, with lifetime bests – Szucs 4491 last weekend in Clermont Ferrand, and Salming 4453 at Swedish nationals, which put them in contention for the World Indoors in Glasgow. However, with a few movements in selection yet to come, Salming in particular is likely to be bumped out of the top-five 2024 top list route. With one week to go in the qualification window, Tallinn is therefore a timely competition to see if Szucs and Salming can build on those impressive scores.

However, Salming brings with her her new training partner, the 2018 World Indoor silver medallist Ivona Dadic of Austria. While Dadic has by far the best PB in the field – her national record of 4767 – injuries mean that she hasn’t been in 4500 form since 2021. But the new arrangement in Sweden seems to be going well for her, and hopefully that will translate into a good score this weekend.

While Dadic brings experience to the field, at the other end there are three young athletes ready to step up. Jana Koscak, now 17, set a Croatian record of 4432 at this meet last year. Although easily qualified, she missed out in participation in the heptathlon in Budapest last year due to age restrictions. Nineteen-year-old Liisa-Maria Lusti is on home soil and ready to improve her score of 4125. Ukrainian Albina Zaitseva, also just 17, is close to breaking 4000 for the first time. Along with teammates Yuliya Loban and Daryna Sloboda, the young Ukrainian is here under the watchful eye of the legendary Kasyanovs, Oleksiy and Hanna.

Last week in Clermont Ferrand Ash Moloney continued his self-education on indoor combined events, and this week it’s the turn of fellow Australian Taneille Crase. After time in Germany last year on the summer circuit, Crase has based herself with some of the German squad and looking to turn her 6000+ heptathlon skills into a good inaugural pentathlon mark. The German team includes world championships representative Vanessa Grimm, the new German indoor champion Mareike Rosing, the 2021 European U20 bronze medallist Marie Dehning and Lara Siemer, fourth in this year’s nationals.

A score of 4400 generally establishes an athlete as a player in international pentathlon, and the UK’s Abi Pawlett came close to that when she won the UK indoor title last month. Her score of 4325 was a big PB and the stronger field in Estonia should help her closer to 4400. Jordanna Morrish, third in the UK champs, returns to Tallinn with her new 4k+ score from Sheffield last month.

In 2023, Poland’s Adrianna Sulek scored 4702 here in Tallinn – “it’s what I told my mother I would score” – as the first stepping stone towards breaking Natalya Dobrynska’s world pentathlon record at the European Indoor Championships, holding the best score in history for a few seconds until Nafi Thiam crossed the line. Adrianna is about to become a mama any day now, so instead Paulina Ligarska leads the Polish team. Ligarska had her breakthrough in 2021, just in time for the European Indoors in Torun. Twenty twenty-three was something of a washout for Ligarska with injury, but she’s back and ready to compete in 2024, accompanied by Julia Słocka and Edyta Bielska.

While Sander Skotheim is competing in the heptathlon, Norwegian teammate Ida Eikeng will be doing the same in the pentathlon. Eikeng has competed for the University of Washington in recent years and brings with her a PB of 4266. Finland’s Vilma Itallina, Latvia’s Gerda Dremaine (a few points off the national U20 record this season), and Estonia’s Katre Sofia Palm, Marite Ennuste, Emma Hein, Jane Roosimagi and Liiljan Neerot are the remaining Nordic and Baltic contingent.

And finally, Annaelle Nyabeu-Djapa, fresh from Clermont Ferrand last week, Andrea Medina of Spain and Marta Giovannini complete the international line-up.

You can find full details of the meeting here.