On the weekend of 8-9 August 2020, several decathlons took place across Europe. As Risto Lillemets was becoming the 19th Estonian to exceed 8000 points in Tallinn, 1500 miles away in Langenthal Simon Ehammer consolidated his position as the first Swiss to exceed 8000 points in 17 years, and together they leapt to the top of the 2020 world decathlon lists.
This weekend in Tallinn, and in Magglingen, we will see a repeat of that pan-European competition, with a number of objectives in play: first-time scores over 6000 points, national records, and places at the European Indoor Championships.
The field in Tallinn is primarily a domestic one, but in Estonia that makes little difference to the quality. The World decathlon silver medallist Maicel Uibo had been due to compete but withdrew earlier this week with a slight injury during training. However, his withdrawal leaves the way clear for the top two Estonians in 2020, Risto Lillemets and Taavi Tšernjavski.
Lillemets finished second at the competition in February 2020 behind reigning European Indoor champion Jorge Ureña, scoring a PB of 5996, just 4 frustrating points short of 6000 points. Since then, he’s added almost 300 points to his outdoor decathlon best, to 8133, so should be in a strong position to improve his heptathlon mark this year.
“Last year I managed to put together a good heptathlon, it would be awesome if I could do something similar this year. And 6000 is something I would like on my CV,” he said.
Taavi Tšernjavski also made a breakthrough at the competition 12 months ago, improving his indoor heptathlon mark by 148 points to 5910. He carried that form into the outdoor season and was the first man (and the 18th Estonian ever) over 8000 in 2020. 6000 points should also be within his range if all goes well.
Hans Christian Hausenberg led the 2020 competition in Tallinn until the high jump and was second place overnight behind Ureña. But his stumble in the hurdles ended his hopes of a big score. In the course of 2020 Hausenberg competed frequently across individual events, winning multiple titles, and improving his lifetime bests across a number of disciplines. His heptathlon PB is 5804 and should improve if he can stitch together all 7 events, especially since he is now consistently vaulting over 5m and edging closer to 8m in the long jump.
But it’s not just about the Estonians, and 2 Doha World Championships decathletes, Belarus’ Vitaly Zhuk and Germany’s Tim Nowak, are in town to spoil the party. Zhuk separated Ehammer and Lillemets on the 2020 outdoor world lists, and his heptathlon PB is surprisingly only 5705, compared to his decathlon best of 8290. If he can get a decent mark in his (relatively) weak long jump, he should be able to get much closer to 6000.
Tim Nowak’s outdoor season was truncated by a thigh injury in August 2020, but he returns after a few individual competitions (including a 600m PB at the Frankfurt Winter Cup!) to put down his first heptathlon mark of the year. His PB is 5906, on a par with Tšernjavski’s. Tim brings with him the German U20 champion, 19 year old Marcel Meyer. The international field is completed by Edgars Benkunskas and Tomas Sabašinkas from Lithuania.
Twelve months ago, in Magglingen, Simon Ehammer broke the Swiss heptathlon record, scoring 5915. Since then, he has improved his vault and shot substantially, and should be able to add several hundred points to that score. This year Ehammer has already hurdled 7.80, vaulted 5.00, long jumped 7.72 and pushed the shot to 14.22.
But it’s not just the Ehammer Show, and Andri Oberholzer is making a tentative return to competition after losing much of 2020 to a cruciate ligament rupture. His heptathlon PB is 5723, set when winning the Swiss indoor title in 2017.
The current world lead is held by Maksim Andraloits (6057) and the Europeans behind him are Rik Taam (6001 in Clermont Ferrand), Leo Neugebauer 5960, Yuri Yaremich 5950, Romain Martin 5766, and Benjamin Hougardy 5763. Assuming Neugebauer focuses on NCAA competition and Jorge Ureña decides to defend his title, there are 5 slots available for the European Indoors in Toruń in March, and the men above hold the scores to beat.
Zhuk could well leapfrog his countrymen Andraloits and Yaremich into a qualification slot. The Estonians could only qualify if one of their teammates withdrew, since Uibo and Janek Õiglane already have places reserved, and there is a maximum of 2 per country in the small field of 12. But there is no such barrier for Ehammer, and he already has qualification for Toruń in the 60m hurdles.
It seems clear that at least 6000 points is going to be necessary to qualify for Toruń. None of the men competing this weekend in Tallinn or Magglingen have ever been over 6000 – how many do you think will achieve that by Sunday evening?
The pentathlon in Magglingen will be a duel between 2019 European U20 heptathlon bronze medallist Annik Kälin and 2017 European U23 champion Caroline Agnou. Kälin’s best is 4338 (from 2019) and Agnou’s 4440 (from 2018) and both have prepared for the pentathlon with a few individual competitions. The senior field also includes Celine Albisser, Lydia Boll and Sandra Röthlin, all of whom are approaching scores of 4000.
In Tallinn, the field is almost entirely Baltic and almost entirely U20, and a great opportunity for Estonia’s young talent to compete on a platform alongside some of the best athletes in the world. The international rising star of the field is 21-year old Pole Adrianna Sułek. It’s unfortunate that she won’t get the opportunity to compete against home favourite Mari Klaup, who withdrew from competition after being faced with an expensive journey (due to Covid-19 restrictions) from her base in Sweden.
The highest European scores this season belong to Belgium’s Noor Vidts, who has the world lead of 4665 from Clermont Ferrand, Paulina Ligarska (4405), Celia Perron (4367), Annaelle Nyabeu Djapa (4306), Solène Ndama (4301) and Maria Vicente (4299).
Sułek and her teammate Ligarska (who finished 3rd in Clermont Ferrand in January) have been pushing each other to new heights, and it would be a wonderful sight to see two Polish pentathletes at a home competition in Toruń.
Anastasiya Mohknyuk is also on the entry list. She has been eligible for competition since April 2020, after serving a 4-year ban for performance-enhancing drugs. Her personal best of 4745 is the highest in the field, set in January 2016, 3 months before being banned.
Photos are by Marko Mumm for Estonian Athletics, Michel Fisquet, Olavi Kaljunen and Bjorn Parée.