Tue. Feb 27th, 2024

After an exciting competition last weekend in Clermont Ferrand and a WTF performance from Kyle Garland, we move onto Tallinn for the annual Combined Events meeting.

This year our Estonian hosts include Maicel Uibo and Risto Lillemets in the heptathlon, and 2021 European U20 representatives Rasmus Roosleht and Tony Tamm.

Both Uibo and Lillemets are in the qualification zone for the European Indoors in Istanbul next month, Uibo by qualification standard and Lillemets by world ranking. However, there are four Estonians in that zone – Hausenberg by qualification and Erm by rankings – and only three permitted in a single team.

So if Lillemets wants to secure a place in Istanbul without being dependent on decisions by others, another strong podium result – he was second last year to Hausenberg – will help him a lot. Uibo jumped 2.19m at this competition last year – the same as his fellow University of Georgia alumnus Kyle Garland last weekend, but failed to clear an opening height on borrowed poles.

In the pentathlon, the eye-catching name is Liisa-Maria Lusti who had an extremely promising set of performances in 2022, including a national U20 record in Götzis. She is still only 18. Katre Sofia Palm and Margit Kalk join her in the competition and of course there is a plentiful range of other Estonian athletes in both the heptathlon and pentathlon.

The contingent from Poland brings with it World Indoor and European silver medallist Adrianna Sulek, who enjoyed a marvellous breakthrough year in 2022. This will be her first pentathlon of the year, and the benchmark is Leonie Cambours’ world lead of 4490 from Clermont Ferrand last weekend. Julia Slocka also competes in the event.

The Polish men had much more mixed fortunes in 2022, as Pawel Wiesiołek struggled with injury, although he was able to make it to the European Championships. Wiesiołek did not finish a multi in 2022, however, and has no eligible performance within the Euros qualifying period. That means he is currently unranked. So if the 2021 European Indoor bronze medallist wants another crack at the European Indoors, he’ll need two eligible scores or an outright qualification (6140).

Norway’s Sander Skotheim had an outstanding debut year in 2022 as a senior, exceeding the previous national record and 8000 points for the first time, and participating in both the World and European Championships. Skotheim now holds the Norwegian heptathlon record, but has never been over 6000 points indoors as a senior. He does, of course, hold the second highest U20 heptathlon score of all time behind Jente Hauttekeete, who went over 6000 points as a senior for the first time last weekend. Skotheim is well placed for qualification for the European Indoors – he’s the fourth athlete qualified by rankings but will want to improve that.

Andrea Rooth has returned to the multis from 400m hurdles this season, and has set a pentathlon PB in Norway last weekend.

Over and above Lusti, Skotheim and Rooth, the field in Tallinn is showcasing some of the best of Europe’s young combined events talent. Double World U20 heptathlon champion Saga Vanninen of Finland is competing, as is European U18 champion Jana Koščak of Croatia. Koščak has already jumped 1.90m this season, so expect a good high jump with Sulek.

The Czechs have sent a good squad to Tallinn. Dorota Skřivanová has quietly established herself as the No.1 Czech heptathlete, competing in the World Indoors and European Championships. Ondřej Kopecký put down some big marks in 2022 – including 8310 at the Czech champs – and qualified for both World and European championships, but was unable to compete in either.

Czech decathlon is now primarily in two main training groups, and Kopecký belongs to the group led by the first decathlete to break 9000 points, Roman Šebrle. That group also includes the 2021 World U20 decathlon champion Frantisek Doubek (not competing this weekend), Vilem Strasky and Latvia’s Reinis Krēgers who are competing. Krēgers used to train with Montenegro’s multi-record holder Darko Pešić in Prague, and they are reunited this weekend in Tallinn. Of this group Kopecký is the fifth athlete qualified by rankings (behind the four auto Qs, and just behind Skotheim) for Istanbul, while Pešić is currently unranked.

The Germans have brought some exciting talent with them to Estonia, most notably Lucie Kienast and Nico Beckers. Kienast is clearly destined for big things, but a serious injury in Götzis 2021 thwarted her plans. She is now healthy and back in action, and told Decathletes of Europe earlier this week: “I’m really happy and thankful to be able to compete again. My last indoor season feels like years ago so I just want to have fun, give all my best and enjoy being back in competition (and staying healthy!)”

European U20 bronze medallist Marie Dehning is competing in the pentathlon, as is Janina Lange and Laura Voss, in what feels like her tenth competition of the season already. On the men’s side, Nico Beckers stepped up big time towards 8000 points in 2022, most notably at Ratingen, and he set a PB of 5807 to with the German championships recently.

Marcus Nilsson competed alongside Beckers in Ratingen 2022, and had his best season for years, culminating in an 8300+ score in Munich. Nilsson is the second athlete currently qualified for the Europeans by ranking, sixth overall.

The best performers at the England Athletics championships in January won the opportunity to compete this weekend in Tallinn. There’s no Sam Talbot, but Lewis Church, Harry Maslen and Caius Joseph are competing in the heptathlon, while Jordanna Morrish, Emily Tyrrell, Bryony Bovell and Lucy Fellowes go in the pentathlon.

Finally, Yuliya Loban of Ukraine (last year’s preview cover star) and Edgaras Benkunskas of Lithuania are returning to Tallinn.

The full list of entrants can be found here, and an analysis of current rankings in the decathlon here.