Sat. May 28th, 2022

Hans Christian Hausenberg led the heptathlon in Tallinn last weekend (5-6 February) from the moment he crossed the finish line in the 60m, to the moment he completed the 1000m. He became the 13th Estonian to exceed 6000 points and moved to 5th place on the Estonian all-time list.

In contrast, 4 different women led the pentathlon during the 5-event competition on Sunday. Victory, by just one point, eventually went to Adrianna Sułek of Poland and she extended her own world lead from the previous week in Clermont Ferrand.

HEPTATHLON

60M

The Estonians promised fast times from their early season form, and fast times we saw.

In the first heat, the hosts’ Baltic neighbour Edgaras Benkunskas of Lithuania was fastest in 7.10 and Poland’s Rafał Horbowicz equalled his PB mark of 7.19 from Clermont Ferrand last weekend. Maicel Uibo took his first competitive steps of the year with a solid 7.27 60m.

The second heat was much faster, led by Hausenberg in 6.85, just 3 hundredths short of his 6.82 PB. Risto Lillemets took 4 hundredths off his PB in 6.93, and Rosenberg equalled his 6.97 PB from last month. Vytautas Savickas of Lithuania ran 7.03, Abdel Larrinaga of Portugal 7.06, Taavi Tšernjavski 7.11 and Vitaly Zhuk of Belarus 7.16.

After 1 event:

  • Hausenberg 936
  • Lillemets 907
  • Rosenberg 893
  • Savickas 872
  • Benkunskas 847
Heptathlon 60m (Photo: Marko Mumm)

LONG JUMP

Hausenberg has been promising something special this season, and that something special arrived in his best event, the long jump. He had already jumped 7.76 this year, just 1cm short of his indoor best.

In the first round he flew out to an Ehammer-esque 7.97, for a new indoor best and exceeding his 7.91 outdoor best. In the second round, he registered 7.77 (equalling his old lifetime best) before calling it a day.

Unfortunately, Kristjan Rosenberg also had to call it a day after 2 events, for different reasons. Three no marks for the No.2 Estonian outdoors in Olympic year. Vitaly Zhuk, who so often finds himself with a long jump in the mid-6.60s, could only manage 6.62m.

Behind Hausenberg, the best jumps came from Abdel Larrinaga (7.36) and Maicel Uibo (7.34). Among the other Estonians, Taavi Tšernjavski landed a solid mark of 7.19, and Risto Lillemets likewise with 7.13, each just 10cm or so below their best.

After 2 events:

  • Hausenberg 1976
  • Larrinaga 1761
  • Lillemets 1752
  • Tšernjavski 1725
  • Uibo 1685
Hans Christian Hausenberg (Photo: Marko Mumm)

SHOT

If Zhuk’s long jump was not where it needed to be to set himself up for a 6000-point score (he jumped 7.01 en route to his PB of 6010 at this competition in 2021), then his legendary shot skills were on point. The Belarussian big guy threw 16.29 in the first round and then 16.46 in the second to pull back precious points.

Tšernjavski, Lillemets and Uibo, all 15m throwers, were closer to 14m than 15m with their throws (14.40,14.13 and 14.22 respectively), and Horbowicz was a metre down on his X-Athletics meeting record the previous weekend, with 14.67.

While Hausenberg’s best throw of 14.04 was only 10th among the competitors, relatively speaking it was much closer to his lifetime best (14.29), and so he didn’t lose ground in one of his weaker events.

The most significant throw of all, however, was from Abdel Larrinaga. The Portuguese had held one of the early world leads in 2021-22, and ahead of the event in Tallinn set out his ambitions for the indoor event as he grows in confidence and capability. He took one big step towards those ambitions in the first round, throwing 15.00, a massive 50cm lifetime best.

As Hausenberg maintained his lead, Larrinaga put some space between himself and the other Estonians. For both men, they needed to make their points buffers as large as possible, to insure themselves against their weaker events on day 2 (the 1000m and pole vault respectively).

After 3 events:

  • Hausenberg 2707
  • Larrinaga 2551
  • Lillemets 2488
  • Tšernjavski 2478
  • Zhuk 2431

HIGH JUMP

If truth be told, Rosenberg’s three LJ fouls took a little bit of energy from the competition. The Estonians are superb high jumpers, and Rosenberg is one of the best among them. But although he continued in the heptathlon, understandably it wasn’t with the energy we would have seen had he been in contention.

The high jump was largely unremarkable: Zhuk clearing 1.95, Rosenberg and Hausenberg 1.98, Benkunskas, Lillemets and Larrinaga 2.01. Savickas had the best height of the competition at 2.04.

Well, except for one guy. Enter Uibo.

One of the best vertical jumpers in world class decathlon put on a spectacular show in his home meeting. He came into the competition at 2.01, as most of the field were packing up. He then had two fouls at 2.07 and 2.10 before clearing on the third attempt, just to keep things interesting.

Clear over 2.13 at first attempt. Third attempt at 2.16, to bring him within 1cm of his indoor best and 2cm of his outdoor best.

Onto 2.19. One failure. And then over! A personal best, indoor and out. The competition was back on!

After Day 1:

  • Hausenberg 3492
  • Uibo 3409
  • Larrinaga 3364
  • Lillemets 3301
  • Zhuk 3189

60M HURDLES

At this stage, there was potentially two separate competitions taking place.

Uibo is the world silver medallist and the reigning world indoor bronze medallist, but he has not qualified yet for the World Indoors. His outdoor marks from 2021 weren’t high enough to receive a top 5 invitation, and he didn’t compete or place well enough to secure a wild card (which has gone to Kai Kazmirek).

Furthermore, there’s already one Estonian going to Belgrade, Karel Tilga, who did qualify automatically on the basis of his 2021 outdoors score. Countries are limited to only 2 entrants in the combined events, so there can only be one more Estonian that can go to Belgrade.

And so, with his other big vertical jump still to come, a much stronger 1000m than Hausenberg and a very valuable prize to play for, the smart money might have been on the more experienced Uibo to prevail.

In parallel, the pack was gathering behind Hausenberg and Larrinaga. Lillemets and Tšernjavski would expect to make up significant ground on the Portuguese during the pole vault and build on that in their stronger 1000m. The question was whether they could catch Hausenberg.

But those considerations were for after the hurdles. Larrinaga and Hausenberg are the skilled technicians in the 5th event, and they hurdled smoothly to lifetime bests of 7.82 and 7.96 respectively.

Risto Lillemets always brings some of his best performances to this meeting in Tallinn and he ran a PB of 8.04 to complement his 60m PB the day before.

After 5 events:  

  • Hausenberg 4484
  • Larrinaga 4392
  • Uibo 4307
  • Lillemets 4273
  • Tšernjavski 4135
60m hurdles (Photo: Marko Mumm)

POLE VAULT

The pole vault was an Estonian one-man show, but it wasn’t the Estonian we expected. It’s all fun and games until someone no-heights.

A 5.32m pole vault and a 2:45 1000m would have taken Maicel Uibo over 6100 points. But there’s no points for a no-height and unfortunately that was the outcome for Uibo.

Zhuk went out early in the heights, clearing 4.62 but then passing at 4.72 and failing 4.82. Of the 5m vaulters in the field – Rosenberg, Lillemets, Hausenberg and Uibo– Kristjan took a cursory jump at an early height to ensure he could finish the competition. Risto’s best was 4.92, although he was very unlucky at 5.02 when the bar tipped off after an apparent clearance.

Hausenberg had only taken one jump before 5.02, clearing his opening height of 4.82 at the first attempt. All three men left – Lillemets, Hausenberg and Uibo – went to third attempts at 5.02. While Lillemets went out, Hausenberg went clear.

After demonstrating his outstanding competitive attitude in the high jump, the previous day, perhaps few people would have expected an outcome other than Uibo clearing the very modest height of 5.02 when it mattered. But he didn’t. He explained to Estonian media afterwards that his poles hadn’t arrived. While he had borrowed Erki Nool’s, he couldn’t quite make it all work. He will need to try again for a qualifying score, of which one option is the British championships at the end of February.

In the meantime, Hausenberg kept going. After he was the only man to clear 5.02, he cleared 5.12. And then 5.22, just one height below his 5.30m lifetime best, and the second time he has been over 5.20 this season.

Hans Christian Hausenberg (Photo: Marko Mumm)

Erki Nool was on hand, of course to provide on-side coaching and mentoring to Uibo and to visiting athletes, as was Andrei Nazarov. That included to Abdel Larrinaga who cleared 4.22 in the lower group.

After 6 events:

  • Hausenberg 5463
  • Lillemets 5159
  • Larrinaga 5071
  • Tšernjavski 4991
  • Zhuk 4869
Post-mortem discussion between Maicel Uibo and Erki Nool (Photo: Marko Mumm)

1000m

So, after 6 events, everything had changed. Uibo was out, and Hausenberg had relinquished nothing, instead extending his dominance further. With a 300-point lead, unless Lillemets had a 10 second PB ready to unleash in the 1000m, Hausenberg would win.

Furthermore, Hausenberg only required 3:37 for a PB, 3:13 to break 6000 points and 3:10 to break into the world top 5. With a 1000m lifetime best of 2: 56.46, all three of those goals should be within reach.

And all three goals were achieved.

As the gun went, Rosenberg took out the pace, subsequently picked up by Tšernjavski, Lillemets and fellow Estonian Martin Kivimaa. Taavi and Risto finished 2nd and 3rd respectively in the event, around 2:42 and both close to their lifetime bests.

Rosenberg takes out the pace in the 1000m (Photo: Marko Mumm)

That took Lillemets to his second 6000+ score of his career, 6006. Given the number of events that were below par for him this weekend – and how hard he had to work just a year ago to reach that level – the performance is extremely promising for the Estonian. If he can add his proven shot, high jump and pole vault skills to his new speed, a much bigger score awaits.

Likewise, Tšernjavski did well to reach 5840, quite possibly a stomach flu PB. He was only 70 points behind his lifetime best, and in better health 6000 points is definitely within sight.

But how big did Hausenberg go? Amidst all the usual fidgeting and pacing on the line ahead of the final event, Hausenberg was the picture of composure, breathing deeply and practicing a number of yoga moves. A world apart from the competition in 2021, where he withdrew suddenly before the 1000m and gave up combined events for the year.

He followed Rosenberg’s early pace before settling into his usual rhythm. He crossed the line in 2:58.45 to score 6143.

That made Hausenberg the 13th Estonian man to break 6000, positioned him 4th in the world so far in 2022 (and the 2nd non-NCAA athlete, who are unlikely to be targeting Belgrade), and 5th on the Estonian all-time list behind Nool, Mikk Pahapill, Uibo and Tilga.

“I’m really happy,” he told Decathletes of Europe after the 1000m. “My head is a little bit up and down right now!” He explained what had made the difference between his competitions in 2021 and 2022. “I changed coach, and I was resting a little bit more than before. I did a lot of swimming and a lot of mental things. I think was what was different.”

Final scores:

  • Hausenberg 6143
  • Lillemets 6006
  • Tšernjavski 5840
  • Larrinaga 5810
  • Horbowicz 5556

The full results can be found here.

PENTATHLON

With only 13 athletes participating, the pentathlon was a brisk but intriguing affair. Four women swapped the lead back and forth, a new Ukrainian talent made her mark, and a narrow win by world leader Adrianna Sułek overshadowed the potential for a very big future score for Holly Mills.

60m HURDLES

Mills made her customary lightning start in the hurdles, landing a small PB of 8.17 in the first event. She was over a tenth ahead of her nearest competitor, Finland’s Maria Huntington in 8.31, and Adrianna Sułek from Poland in 8.41. Just a step behind Sułek, Ukraine’s Yuliya Loban – who competed with Mills and Sułek at the European U23 championships in Tallinn last summer – ran a lifetime best of 8.42. All 4 women scored over 1000 points in the first discipline.

After 1 event:

  • Mills 1091
  • Huntington 1059
  • Sułek 1047
  • Loban 1035
  • Palm 974
Holly Mills leads the hurdles (Photo: Marko Mumm)

HIGH JUMP

The balance tipped in the other direction in the high jump, as Sułek improved on her 1.84 indoor PB from Clermont Ferrand. She cleared an outright best of 1.87m, as she had predicted was to come after winning in France. Huntington jumped to form with 1.81, while Yulia Loban set her second PB in 2 events, clearing 1.78.  Mills, however, was further down the field with 1.72, citing a niggle in her knee.

After 2 events, Sułek took over the lead:

  • Sułek 2104
  • Huntington 2050
  • Loban 1988
  • Holly 1970
  • Ligarska 1914
Adrianna Sulek (Photo: Marko Mumm)

SHOT

The Ukrainians typically enjoy this meeting in Tallinn. In 2020, the pentathlon podium was a 1-2-3 for Alina Shukh, Hanna Kasyanova and Rimma Buinenko; and Oleksiy Kasyanov is a regular in the heptathlon. However, the sole competitor in 2022 was Yuliya Loban, and she represented Ukraine wonderfully in the shot. Her longest throw of 14.75m was the best in the competition, and split the difference between her previous indoor best (13.89) and her impressive outdoor best (15.50). It was also her 3rd PB from 3 events.

No other women threw over 13.50m, and the next best was Poland’s Paulina Ligarska (13.28), Mills (13.10), Huntington (12.98), Estonia’s Katre Sofia Palm (12.61) and Sułek (12.53).

Upon conclusion of the shot, Loban went into the lead, while Sułek was almost 100 points ahead of Holly Mills in 4th.

After 3 events:

  • Loban 2832
  • Sułek 2800
  • Huntington 2776
  • Mills 2704
  • Ligarska 2660
Yuliya Loban (Photo: Marko Mumm)

LONG JUMP

In Tallinn in July 2021, Sułek had led Mills by 150 points at the start of Day 2 (after clearing 1.84 in the high jump to Mills 1.72), but Mills had slashed that lead to under 100 with her long jump.

The same phenomenon occurred on their return to the city some 6 months later at the shorter event. Mills’ jump of 6.37, to Sułek’s 6.15 – both indoor PBs – reduced Sułek’s gap ahead of Mills to less than 30 points. But Maria Huntington, arguably the pre-competition favourite, had come to life and jumped 6.26, leapfrogging both Loban and Sułek into first place.

After 4 events:

  • Huntington 3706
  • Loban 3700
  • Sułek 3696
  • Mills 3669
  • Ligarska 3440
800m (Photo: Marko Mumm)

800M

The standings were incredibly close, less than 40 points between 1st and 4th place. Loban’s challenge would come to an end, given her best time over 800m was some 10 seconds (about 150 points) slower than Sułek and Mills. Likewise, the 800m is not Huntington’s strength, and she would similarly likely lose about 150 points to the duo.

Holly Mills hit the front and didn’t look back. She ran 2:12.54, just outside her lifetime best. The third member of the Polish contingent, Edyta Bielska was next fastest in a big indoor PB of 2:13.58. Then Sułek in 2:14.32.

Further back, Loban ran 2:23.07 and Huntington 2:24.02, both lifetime bests. It was all still remarkably close.

In the end, Sułek won the competition by 1 single point, extending her world lead from 4569 to 4598.

Mills added over 40 points to her lifetime best with 4597, still with significant potential improvement possible in her high jump.

Loban held on for third place, edging Huntington out by 6 points. The first four athletes are now 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th in the world, separated only by Maria Vicente’s 4495

After the competition, Holly told Decathletes of Europe:

“I feel overwhelmed at the moment to come agonisingly close to winning after a very strange pentathlon where some events really didn’t go how I wanted.”

“I was really grateful that my body was able to pull me through it after the high jump I had a little bit of a niggle in my knee – that’s why we had to stop at 1.72 which is obviously far from ideal, because high jump is big points. I think I was subconsciously still thinking about my knee still in the shot because my shot was then below par.”

“Luckily, I had a left leg PB in the long jump which brought me back and then in the 800m I just gave it everything I had, especially in the last 800m. I was like “you’ve got to kick now, give it everything! And to come one point away, it’s agonising, but I’m happy it’s over, I’m happy it’s done, and it was a points PB.”

Final scores:

  • Sułek 4598
  • Mills 4597
  • Loban 4482
  • Huntington 4476
  • Ligarska 4301

The full results can be found here.