Sat. May 28th, 2022

Multistars has proven to be a significant staging point en route to the major championships of the year. If you place highly at Multistars, you have a great chance of adding a rankings boost to your score.

Over the last few years, Jan Doležal, Adam Sebastian Helcelet and Martin Roe all benefited hugely from their podium points in Lana, and their performances put them in contention for major championship qualification over athletes with higher decathlon points scores.

We’ve moved a little south this year from Lana to Grosseto, home to Niklas Kaul’s U20 decathlon world record, Alina Shukh’s victory for Ukraine at the 2017 EU20 Championships and Andrei Krauchanka’s gold at the World U20 championships in 2004. An added bonus is the great espresso right by the warm-up track, according to Pelle Rietveld who finished fourth behind Krauchanka in 2004.

There’s no Martin Roe this weekend, but there is a Norwegian contingent to watch. Sander Skotheim has the No.2 all time score at the U20 indoor heptathlon, and Markus Rooth has the No.2 all-time score behind Kaul at the U20 decathlon. Both athletes won medals at the European age group championships last year, Skotheim silver at U20 (where he scored his 8000+ U20 mark) and Rooth bronze at U23. Skotheim also exceeded 6000 indoors this year in his first year as a senior, breaking Martin Roe’s national heptathlon record and both he and Rooth are looking for their first 8000+ scores at the senior event.

The most intriguing competition of the weekend will be among the Holy Trinity of Estonian decathlon Risto Lillemets, Taavi Tšernjavski and Kristjan Rosenberg. The Estonians have enough 8000+ decathletes to fill a 3-man World Championships squad, a 3-man European Championships squad, and if they considered a transfer to Scotland, most of a Commonwealth Games squad too.

Karel Tilga and the comeback kid Janek Õiglane already have 8350+ auto qualifying scores for Oregon, but Lillemets, Tšernjavski and Rosenberg are all within a few points of each other in 25th, 29th and 30th place respectively in the rankings. While there’s also Maicel Uibo, Johannes Erm and Hans Christian Hausenberg to worry about, whichever of the three can combine a strong score with a podium place here in Grosseto will give themselves a huge advantage if they are seeking selection for Oregon.

Italian combined eventing is having a moment, and the Carabinieri duo of Dario Dester and Sveva Gerevini have been setting records and making fields in major championships over the last few years. Dester hasn’t yet translated the form of his 6000+ 2021 national heptathlon record into his decathlon form – his best is still 7936 from his 4th place at the EU23 in Tallinn last year – but Sveva has been on a roll with two national records indoors within weeks of each other this year. There are plenty athletes with better lifetime bests than Gerevini in the competition, but on home soil she’ll have an advantage. Lorenzo Modugno (18th at Euro U23) and Alessandro Sion – remember his heart-breaking pole vault no-height in Nairobi in 2021 – are also competing, alongside Lorenzo Naidon, Simon Zandarco, Andrea Cerrato, Marta Giovannini, Linda Maria Pircher and Cornalba Sofia Barbé.

Pieter Braun is the obvious choice as the star name in the line-up, but his position is complicated. He seemed to be on the edge of a big breakthrough in 2019-2020, and his high rankings position kept him in qualification position for the Olympics during his absence with injury in 2021. However, he hasn’t completed a combined event competition since February 2020.  Multistars could deliver him the same benefits Roe, Helcelet and Dolezal enjoyed previously – if Braun isn’t near 8300 form, then an 8000+ score and a podium could serve him well.  The Dutch pair of Anne and Myke van der Wiel are competing this weekend, former charges of the great Ingmar Vos, as is Marijke Esselink.

There is always a strong Central and South American contingent at Multistars, and this year we have the athletes who have been at the top end of the continental championships in South America. Venezuela’s Georni Jaramillo hurt himself badly in Arona last year, but he recovered to place second at the South American indoor championships in Cochabamba in February. His teammate Gerson Izaguirre was fourth at the South American outdoor championships this year, and Brazil’s Jose Fernando Ferreira Santana won the South American U23 championships in 2021. Pedro de Oliveira from Brazil is also competing. While not in the end competing at Multistars this year, Andy Preciado of Ecuador has a wildcard for Oregon as winner of the South American championships. In the heptathlon Alysbeth Felix Boyer is the Puerto Rico National record holder and Puerto Rico is on top of the combined events world at the moment, after Ayden Owens broke the national record and placed himself at the top of the year’s decathlon lists with his 8500+ mark.

Twenty nineteen and 2020 were phenomenal years for Swiss combined events, as Géraldine Ruckstuhl won EU23 bronze in Gävle and Annik Kälin EU20 bronze in Boras, Kälin going on to set a national record in the pentathlon in early 2021. However, the 2021 outdoor season was a difficult year for both athletes. Ruckstuhl struggled with a foot injury through to Arona, and Kälin had to abandon heptathlon for the year due to a recurring back injury. However, Kälin has been fast this year over 60m indoors, and if her back holds up she – and a fit Ruckstuhl – would be hard to beat.  Celine Albisser and Katelyn Adel are also competing.

However, the athlete to watch in the heptathlon is Paulina Ligarska of Poland. She was extraordinarily unlucky in March this year, when a huge lifetime pentathlon best put her near the top of the world lists but came just hours too late for qualification for Belgrade. The breakthrough of her teammate Adrianna Sułek has brought a real momentum to the Polish team, and we could see a big breakthrough outdoors from Ligarska. Paulina is accompanied by Edyta Bielska, who finished 9th at the European U23s in Tallinn last year.

The French are fielding Axel Hubert and Celia Perron; Hubert is the only French athlete other than Kevin Mayer who currently looks close to being able to reach the World Championships qualifying mark of 8350, while Perron had a breakthrough in early 2021 to represent France at the European Indoors in Toruń. Both had been injured since, and Hubert’s injuries in early 2021 resulted in a change of foot in the high jump. Arthur Prevost completes the French line up.

In addition to the World and European championships, there are also the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham this summer. The current UK number one Lewis Church is seeking the 7750 qualifying score, to make the England Commonwealth team, in his debut at Multistars.  He won the British indoor champs this year and placed second behind Tim Duckworth at the 2021 outdoor championships. Aaron Booth, fresh from his New Zealand decathlon title, has spent more time travelling to the competition than he will competing a full decathlon…

With Ratingen soaking up most of German attention next weekend, Laura Voss is the sole German in Grosseto. Likewise, the usual US contingent is not in attendance since the US trials in Fayetteville are also imminent. Shaina Burns is the only US participant this year, and she finished sixth at the US indoors.

Claudia Conte in stealthily improving her heptathlon and pentathlon. Her trajectory from suffering with nerves in Arona, to a steely performance in Tallinn to take European U23 silver, and then a surprise call up to the World Indoor championships is preparing her well to progress further. Carmen Ramos – who recently won a sportsmanship award for pacing Maria Vicente to the latter’s national record in Götzis – will also be competing, as will Bruno Comin, another veteran of the U23s in Tallinn, in the decathlon.

Fran Bonifačić placed 10th at Multistars in 2021, and he went onto break Joško Vlašić’ (Blanka’s father) national decathlon record when scoring 7760 to place 6th at the U23s in Tallinn. He relinquished his record to Trpimir Široki earlier this year (7838 at the Texas Relays) so this will be his first attempt to claim it back.

The Ukrainian competitor in Multistars will be Daria Dikhanova, and her teammate Hanna Kasyanova has found safety in Italy, working with the Multistars team in preparation for the meeting.  The heptathlon field is completed by the 2021 Austrian indoor champion Chiara Belinda Schuler and teammate Lena Lackner, the Tunisian record holder Nada Chroudi and five-time Greek heptathlon and javelin champion Sofia Ifantidou.