Sat. May 28th, 2022

The postponement of the World Indoor Championships in Nanjing meant that some other meeting was going to have to bear the heavy responsibility of being the highlight meeting of the indoor season. The annual Tallinn Combined Events meeting on 8-9 February is that highlight. The 2019 iteration of the Tallinn Combined Events competition at the Lasnamäe Arena was the one that launched Janek Õiglane and Laura Ikauniece back into their positions among the world’s very best combined eventers.  Just wait until you see what’s in store this year at the stadium where Ashton Eaton set his then world heptathlon record of 6568 in 2011.  

Thirty-four year old Oleksiy Kasyanov was 6th in the Beijing Olympics and 7th in London 2012; 3rd at the World Championships in Berlin in 2009, and 6th in London 2017. Twice World indoor silver medallist, outdoor and indoor European silver medallist, 8479 decathlon best and 6254 heptathlon best.  But in the last few seasons, as his decathlon has not been quite as sharp as it once was, he’s been competing in hurdles as well as the combined events. This meeting was originally intended to be Kasyanov’s opportunity to secure a world indoor qualifying mark.

That was also the case for European Indoor Champion Jorge Ureña, since the Spanish championships take place after the qualification period was supposed to end. Despite some challenges in getting his poles from Spain to Estonia, the Glasgow gold medallist is ready to take on all challengers, and if Kasyanov is anywhere near in form, the hurdles showdown between Oleksiy and Jorge on Day 2 is going to be a belter. 

But that’s not the only treat in store. Last year Karl Robert Saluri was matched against fellow rocket Manuel Eitel in the 60m, and Saluri is back this year to open his season. And he’s brought his training partner, world silver medallist Maicel Uibo with him.  Uibo’s 11th hour entry to the competition was the second most exciting thing to happen this week after Mondo Duplantis stole Fredrik Samuelsson’s headband and almost vaulted 6.17m.

Karl Robert Saluri and Manuel Eitel after the 60m in 2019

Uibo is the current World indoor bronze medallist, and he gets to hold onto that honour for another year with the postponement of the World Championships. Saluri and Uibo haven’t brought their other training partners, Johannes Erm and Karel Tilga, but I guess they’ve already had a pretty successful indoor season , sitting 1st and 3rd on the 2020 lists with 6114 and 6019 respectively – the first time over 6000 for both of them, and they become the 9th and 10 Estonian men to exceed that mark.

Janek Õiglane of course was the 8th Estonian to exceed 6000 at the meeting in 2019. He’s not competing this weekend, or indeed this indoor season, deciding instead to focus on the outdoor season. But – with the exception of Kristjan Rosenberg – all your other Estonian favourites are here: Risto Lillemets, Hans Christian Hausenberg, Taavi Tšernjavski along with a selection of others reflecting Estonia’s exceptional depth in the event.

So, we have Saluri in the 60m, HCH in the long jump, and some 15m fellas in the shot.  Plus, Kasyanov v Ureña in the hurdles. But the end of Day 1 is going to be pretty special for 21 year old Liam Reveley. The only Brit who competed in the competition in 2019, he’s back this year after finishing 6th at the English Championships in Sheffield a few weeks ago with a brand new high jump PB of 2.08. And he gets to see if he can go higher against the vertiginous leaps of Maicel Uibo. What a moment.

Hans Christian Hausenberg wrecking the long jump pit in 2019

To be honest, you could stop there and decide that the competition was already awesome enough.  But just to spice things up, we’ve also got the French. Jérémy Lelièvre helped prevent a German clean sweep of the podium at the X-Athletics meeting in Clermont Ferrand on 11-12 January and turned his competition around to finish third with 5707. He’s here this weekend, along with Ruben Gado – the latter slowly piecing back together his competition after a 2019 that was fragmented with injury. Ruben withdrew before the PV in Clermont Ferrand as a precaution, and with a few weeks of recovery, what can he do here this weekend? Remember that he can vault 5.35m at his best, so Uibo may not have it all his own way in the vertical jumps. And don’t forget Pawel Wiesiołek. Often overlooked, he is always in the mix where the action is happening, flinging himself into qualification for the World Championships last year with an outstanding performance at the Polish championships. 

The heptathlon podium in 2019

Now, the pentathlon. While all eyes might be on La Shukh v La Vicente – and what a thrill that is going to be– keep an eye out for Finland’s Miia Sillmann. She finished second behind Laura Ikauniece in 2019 and ahead of Vanessa Grimm, who took the German title last weekend. Miia’s back with a new outdoor best of 6209 to her name, which she achieved when winning the Universiade in Naples last season. Meanwhile, Shukh seems to have recaptured her zest for the pentathlon after a few seasons where she appeared to be searching for motivation, and this season she has already set a lifetime best of 4602, just a few points behind Noor Vidts’ world lead of 4629. 

Miia Sillman, Laura Ikauniece and Vanessa Grimm after their 2-1-3 in 2019

Maria Vicente is the reigning European U20 champion, succeeding Shukh who won in 2017 in Grosseto, and while she’s had some niggles this season, she’s ready to go this weekend in Tallinn. The Spanish contingent is strong, with Carmen Ramos – who paced Vicente in the 800 in Götzis to help her attempt to break Ramos’ own Spanish record – and Gävle 9th placer Claudia Conte. And the French team is equally impressive. Annaelle Nyabeu Djapa won the X-Athletics meeting in Clermont Ferrand, and Cassandre Aguessy Thomas was 3rd. Britain’s Katie Stainton is competing in her first pentathlon since 2017, and as in the heptathlon, there’s a strong home team: twice Estonian heptathlon champion Mari Klaup-McColl, Margit Kalk, and Kristella Jurkatamm leading the local challenge.

Maria Vicente and Adriana Sulek in Goetzis

And finally, there’s the Ukrainians. Over and above Shukh, Daryna Sloboda and Rimma Buinenko are in the field, with Hanna Kasyanova, returning to competition after time out for a variety of reasons. And don’t discount Poland’s Adrianna Sułek. She is a hugely gutsy competitor, dealing with all kinds of emotions in Gävle to finish 6th.

Photos: Olavi Kaljunen