The 4th edition of the X-Athletics Meeting in Clermont-Ferrand last weekend was a magnet for some of the world’s best multi-eventers and continues to grow into its position as the first major international combined event competition of the year.
In the run up to the competition it seemed easier to list who wasn’t competing, although a few names withdrew shortly before the event. Six slots for the European Indoor Championships in Toruń have already been reserved from the 2019/2020 world lists, but there are a further 6 slots available in both the heptathlon and pentathlon for the top athletes in the 2020-21 indoor season. So, many athletes started the competition in France last weekend with those places in mind; others used the competition as a first test of form after months of lonely lockdown training, and others rolled straight indoors from the outdoor competition in Réunion in December.
Day 1 was a lively 3-way competition between Rik Taam (Netherlands), Paweł Wiesiołek (Poland) and Jean Baptiste Nutte (Belgium). Taam and Wiesiołek both dipped under 7 seconds in the 60m, Rik equalling his PB with 6.92, the fastest time of the day, and Paweł running 6.99 just a few hundredths behind his lifetime best of 6.94 set a few days previously in Toruń. Benjamin Hougardy carried his good form from Reunion into the indoor season and set the first of his 5 PBs of the weekend, with 7.07.
Ahead of the event, the 2016 European silver medallist Adam Sebastian Helcelet and Jan Doležal, the highest placed athlete in the World Athletics world rankings (currently in 14th), would have been expected to shape competition. However, the Czechs’ challenge did not materialise, as ASH withdrew after the first event, and Doležal after the first day. Onto the long jump and Nutte (7.41 PB) and Wiesiołek (7.32) were well ahead of the rest of the field, including Taam who jumped 7.10 and Hougardy who logged another PB with 7.04. After two events Paweł and Rik were separated by just 12 points in first and second respectively, with Doležal in 4th, Hougardy in 5th and Nutte in 6th.
Some big puts ensued in the shot with 4 men over 15m. Paweł consolidated his 15.20 from Toruń earlier in the week with an indoor PB of 15.24, just 2cm short of his outdoor PB from the World Championships in Doha last year. Jean Baptiste and Ludovic Besson, also in his first competition after Réunion, both threw 15.09 (a PB for the Belgian) and the other Pole in the field, Rafał Horbowicz threw 15.03. Further down the field, the most experienced of the three Belgians in the field, Niels Pittomvils continued his return to form with a PB of 14.71.
After 3 events, Paweł led the field with 2581 ahead of Jean Baptiste (2507) and Rik (2488). As the halfway point approached, Jeremy Lelievre (2442) was the best of the French contingent in 4th, and Benjamin Hougardy sat in 5th with 2413.
As the high jump drew to a conclusion, the positions changed, as Jean Baptiste won his second event of the day. But as he tried to stretch his lead, the young Belgian ended up putting himself out of contention in the competition. Wiesiołek best was 1.95, Rik Taam equalled his PB of 2.01 and Jean Baptiste had the highest clearance of the leaders with 2.04. Nicolas Gerome and 18-year old Teo Bastien also had superb high jumps, both setting PBs as they cleared 2.04 alongside Nutte. However, on his second attempt at 2.07 Nutte succumbed to a recurring Achilles injury and his competition was over.
Nevertheless, at the end of day 1, Jean Baptiste sat at the top of the leader board with 3347, Paweł 8 points behind him with 3339, and Rik 38 points further behind in 3rd with 3301. Only 45 points separated 4th and 10thpositions: Reinis Krēgers on 3169 in 4th and Ludovic Besson on 3124 in 10th, and Doležal, Horbowicz, Hougardy, Romain Martin and Pittomvils squeezed between them.
Day 2, and without Nutte, the competition between Wiesiołek and Taam turned into a duel. Taam ran an 8.22 hurdles to Wiesiołek 8.37, closing the gap between them to a mere 2 points, the Pole 4230 to the Dutchman’s 4228. But the fastest hurdler of the day was Romain Martin in 8.07, just one hundredth from his PB, and he leapt from 8th place to 3rd place with 4096 points, ahead of Hougardy in 4054 (after a hurdles PB of 8.29) and Krēgers in 4022. The competition in the top ten remained close, with only 19 points separating Besson (4012) in 6th and Tristan Marcy (3993) in 10th place.
As always, the pole vault shook things up and Texas State alumnus Julien Olivas had the best vault of the day at 5.13 (excluding the guest pole vault specialist). Niels Pittomvils and Wiesiołek also vaulted over 5m, both clearing 5.03. Romain Martin cleared 4.93 and Rik Taam improved his PB to 4.83. And so, after 6 events, Wiesiolek started to stretch his lead with 5150, Taam in second with 5087, Martin third in 4985 with the remaining Belgians fourth (Pittomvils 4932) and fifth (Hougardy 4882).
But the Pole decided to call it a day before the 1000m, protecting a slight injury in his calf and safeguarding his preparation for the Polish championships and the Euro Indoors (for which he is already qualified). However, it was not simply a default victory for Rik Taam. The Dutch decathlon champion won the final event, outkicking Jérémy Lelièvre to set a 1000m PB of 2:36.39, which would have made for a nail-biting finale against Wiesiołek. Only 63 points had separated the two after 6 events, and Wiesiolek’s 1000m PB is some 6 seconds, and 56 points, slower than Taam’s.
But it was a win for Taam nevertheless with 6001, exceeding 6000 points for the first time in his career and taking his turn at the top of the 2021 world lists. Romain Martin (5766) finished just 3 points ahead of Benjamin Hougardy, who added a heptathlon PB of 5763 to his decathlon PB 5 weeks previously.
- Taam 6001
- Martin 5766
- Hougardy 5763
- Pittomvils 5744
- Lelievre 5670
- Krēgers 5587
- Marcy 5511
- Olivas 5491
- Besson 5444
- Gerome 5253
- Couzin 5232
Like the heptathlon, the one-day pentathlon was a tight competition between the top athletes. Sunday’s competition started as expected, with a clear win over the hurdles by Solène Ndama, in a time of 8.16s. Benin’s Odile Ahouanwanou and World U20 Champion Maria Vicente both ran 8.30 behind Ndama, with Belgium’s Noor Vidts next in 8.33 and the 2020 X-Athletics winner Annaelle Nyabeu Djapa in 8.37. Earlier in the competition, 23-year-old Celia Perron ran a PB of 8.43 in the first heat, and she would play a significant part in competition as the day progressed.
Noor Vidts moved into first place after the high jump, sharing the biggest jump of the day of 1.82 with Leonie Cambours. Odile claimed the lead after the shot, which she won with 15.10m, an indoor personal best. Annaelle Nyabeu Djapa was overjoyed by her huge 14.23 PB which moved her up to third place behind Vidts. But Maria Vicente could only manage 9.99, and after 3 events she slid down from 3rd to 10th place. Meanwhile, Paulina Ligarska was climbing up the leader board to 5th, behind Ndama, following a solid high jump of 1.79 and shot of 13.76. A few metres behind, Celia Perron was setting her 3rd PB of the day with 11.43.
Noor then regained the lead with a long jump PB of 6.42, ahead of Maria Vicente’s 6.38, a 6.15 PB from Celia Perron, a 6.09 PB from Odile and 6.08 from Slovakia’s Lucia Vadlejch. With one event to go, the Belgian had a lead of 67 points with 3762 ahead of Odile in 3697, Paulina in third with 3582 and Annaelle in 4th with 3523.
The top 3 stayed that way going into the 800, with Noor and Odile consolidating their positions with PBs of 2:14.30 and 2:24.42 respectively and all three setting personal best pentathlon marks and positioning themselves at the top of the world lists. But Celia Perron leapt from 7th place, past Solene, Maria and Annaelle, to finish 4th in a PB of 4367, just 38 points behind Ligarska in third.
Thank-you to the team at X-Athletics for organising another great – and safe – competition!
- Vidts 4665
- Ahouanwanou 4461
- Ligarska 4405
- Perron 4367
- Nyabeu Djapa 4306
- Ndama 4301
- Vicente 4299
- Cambours 4193
- Vadlejch 4178
- Ortega 4044
The full results can be found here.
All photos by Michel Fisquet, Team Photo Marseille.