Sat. May 28th, 2022

This is the first in a new weekly series of posts providing an analysis of developments in qualification for major championships, and the current world rankings for combined events.

The posts will typically be short, simply providing a quick analysis of developments over the previous week and potential implications for qualification.

This introductory post is longer, in order to highlight useful case studies from 2020 and 2021, and to identify issues to consider when planning a strategy for qualification.

QUALIFICATION FOR BELGRADE WORLD INDOOR CHAMPIONSHIPS

You can find the most up-to-date position for qualification for the heptathlon and pentathlon at the World Indoors at the World Athletics “Road to Belgrade” tool.

The field size for Belgrade is 12 athletes, consisting of:

  • The winner of the Combined Events Challenge from 2021;
  • The five top athletes on the world lists from the 2021 outdoor season who wish to compete indoors (max one per country);
  • The five top athletes on the world lists from the 2021-2022 indoor season, as at 1 March, who wish to participate in the championships; AND
  • One discretionary place, to be decided by World Athletics.

HEPTATHLON

For the heptathlon, the qualified athletes as at 17 February are:

Kai Kazmirek won the 2021 Combined Events challenge, and secures a qualifying spot through that route.

In 2021, Pierce LePage (Canada) and Steven Bastien (USA) were both ahead of Tilga on the outdoor world lists but as the second athlete from their respective countries behind Warner and Scantling – and only one per country is allowed by that criteria – they will have to qualify by performance this season if they wish to compete.

Kyle Garland (USA), who is ahead of Hausenberg in 2021-22, is also not included among the qualified athletes, likely aiming for college competitions, but at the time of writing Ayden Owens’ name is still in the ring.

There are two Estonians currently qualified, Tilga and Hausenberg, one through the 2021 outdoor world lists and one through the 2021-22 world lists . The maximum of two athletes per country overall means that any other Estonian athlete would need to score higher than Hausenberg to be considered.

Maicel Uibo – who was doing well until his no-height in Tallinn recently – has only scored higher than Hausenberg’s mark once, when he won the bronze medal at the last World Indoor championships in Birmingham in 2018. All the other Estonian athletes competing this season would require a significant PB to overtake Hausenberg.

Likewise, although Finley Gaio is getting nearer and nearer to 6000 points with every competition, the Swiss team is currently full.

Artem Makarenko’s ANA status has been confirmed and he is theoretically eligible to compete. However, the Russian Federation is only permitted a pool of 20 athletes to participate in all the major senior championships throughout 2022 (not 20 per event). So, Makarenko will need to be named in that pool to compete in Belgrade.

Although there is no “host country” place for the World Indoor Championship, as there was for the European Indoors, it is possible that World Athletics would look favourably on Serbian athletes near to qualification standards. However, with no Serbian combined eventers in contention at this level, it seems likely that the final discretionary place would also be drawn from the 2021-22 world lists.

More athletes may be drawn from the 2021-22 world lists if any of the pre-selected 6 were to withdraw due to injury.

Next on the list behind Oberholzer are:

  • Marcel Meyer (Germany) 6024
  • Leo Neugebauer (Germany) 6021 – also in the NCAA system
  • Jiři Sýkora (Czech Republic) 6020
  • Risto Lillemets (Estonia) 6006 – not currently eligible as the third Estonian
  • Sander Skotheim (Norway) 5965

All of these athletes could of course participate if the field sizes were 16, not 12. Thanks to Fredrik Samuelsson, that should be the case for Istanbul 2023.

PENTATHLON

For the pentathlon, the qualified athletes as at 17 February are:

Kendell Williams won the Combined Events Challenge in 2021, so qualifies through that mechanism.

Erica Bougard (USA), Emma Oosterwegel (Netherlands) and Noor Vidts (Belgium) would have been eligible based on their 2021 performances on the world lists but since only one athlete per country is permitted through this route – and Kunz, Vetter and Thiam are ahead of them in line respectively to take those spots if they want them – they will have to qualify by right.

No more Americans can be considered unless one of Williams or Kunz were to decide not to compete.

Next on the list behind Loban are:

  • Maria Huntington (Finland) 4476
  • Sarah Lagger (Austria) 4468
  • Leonie Cambours (France) 4457
  • Sveva Gerevini (Italy) 4434

RANKINGS ANALYSIS

For the outdoor championships later in the year, the rankings will come into play.

Below are two tables which display in full the scores which have contributed to the current standings.

There has only been one significant change in rankings in the last week:

  • Jiři Sýkora has jumped from 26th place (1186) to 17th (1212) thanks to his win at the Czech national championships. His 6000+ score replaces his 7943 from his 17th position at the Olympic Games. This is marked in green (with an upwards arrow) in the table below.

And one further change in the top 50 (not shown here):

  • Dorota Skřivanová enters the top 50 in 39th place following her win at the Czech championships and her score of 4560, 3rd best in the world in 2022 so far.

In the meantime, let’s explore some of the curiosities of the current rankings position.

Men’s rankings, as at 15 February (Source data from World Athletics)

WHO’S MISSING

Neither the decathlon nor the heptathlon World Champion is in the rankings.

Because only the most recent score from the World Championships or Olympics is permitted, Niklas Kaul’s and Katarina Johnson Thompson’s injuries in Tokyo mean that they do not have sufficient performances within the rankings window to contribute to a ranking.

While neither Kaul nor KJT had a great year before Tokyo, Thomas van der Plaetsen did, setting an 8400+ lifetime best to finish 3rd in Götzis. But because he doesn’t have an eligible score prior to that, and because he was injured at the Olympics, he has dropped out of the rankings.

Among those who aren’t currently ranked but who are leading the world lists this season are Simon Ehammer, Hans-Christian Hausenberg, and Artem Makarenko. All three focused on individual events during the outdoor season, Ehammer after his no-jump in Götzis and his no-heights indoors. Ehammer’s big decathlon scores from 2020 took place during the Covid blackout window. Dominik Distelberger, who won the Austrian title last weekend, also isn’t ranked due to injury in 2021.

Lindon Victor of Grenada isn’t ranked, nor is Pieter Braun of the Netherlands, Devon Williams of USA, Axel Hubert and Basile Rolnin of France, Jan Dolezal of the Czech Republic and Darko Pešić of Montenegro.

In addition to KJT, Carolin Schäfer isn’t ranked, despite finishing 7th at the Olympics. Schäfer’s last heptathlon before the Olympics was in August 2020, where she scored over 6300 points, but like Ehammer it was within the Covid blackout window.

Due to injury, neither the 2019 European U23 champion Geraldine Ruckstuhl of Switzerland or 2019 European Indoor bronze medallist Solène Ndama of France are ranked, and Alina Shukh of Ukraine is also missing.

Less surprisingly, Hanne Maudens of Belgium is not yet ranked having just this year returned from her year out at 400m and 800m. Somewhat ironically she featured in the heptathlon rankings until the summer of 2021 – despite not competing at the event.

Romain Martin of France and Karl Robert Saluri of Estonia still feature in the top 50 men’s rankings, but both have retired.

While U20 female athletes feature in the rankings (World and European champion Saga Vanninen is highest in 29th place), their male counterparts encounter a disadvantage in the rankings in their first year as senior athletes.

The big names from the U20 decathlon in 2021 Jente Hauttekeete (Belgium), Sander Skotheim (Norway) and Teo Bastien (France) are not currently ranked. If they are interested in seeking qualification for any of the major outdoor championships in 2022, they will need to get both senior qualifying performances logged this year.

However, the World U20 champion, František Doubek of the Czech Republic is ranked, albeit just outside the top 100. He did a senior decathlon while still a junior in 2021, in addition to his senior heptathlon at the Czech championships last weekend.

So, the rankings system is a new factor for male U20 athletes and their coaches to consider in their transitional year. In 2019 both Ayden Owens and Ash Moloney came very close to the qualifying standard for Doha as U20 athletes – but as the analysis below demonstrates, near misses are no use if they’re not in a location that gets you big points.

PERFORMANCE SCORES V PLACING SCORES

The tables below unpack the elements of the scores that lie behind the rankings. A full explanation of how the rankings scores are calculated can be found on the rankings analysis homepage.

Here are some interesting features to note (highlighted on the table in yellow):

For Kendell Williams and Annie Kunz, they secured more performance points from their lower scores. Their 6508 and 6420 respectively at the Olympics got them 1350 and 1318 performance scores. Kendell scored almost 200 points more and Annie almost 300 more at the US trials. But because it was the trials, rather than the Olympics, they only got 1260 and 1273 points respectively for those superior performances.

Women’s rankings, as at 15 February (Source data from World Athletics)

Maria Vicente’s biggest ranking performance was her super win at Multistars. Her 6304 got her a 1245 performance score. However, Adrianna Sułek scored higher when she finished 6th at Götzis, with 6315. But that only got her 1187 of a performance score.

So, for those combined eventers who are seeking to qualify for championships by way of the rankings, it can be more advantageous to skip the world’s most prestigious event and go to an “easier” competition where they have more chance of making the podium. That’s a hard choice to ask any athlete to make

Ekaterina Voronina of Uzbekistan and Evelis Aguilar of Colombia’s highest scoring performances are both just over 6100 but are boosted by the points associated with Area champs – Asian for Voronina and South American for Aguilar. Representation is important, and so it’s hard to argue with that principle.

One of the biggest contradictions in the rankings arises from Yargelis Rodriguez’ score of 6437 in La Habana. It was the 9th best score in the world in 2021, and she has been invited to the World Indoors on the basis of that score.

However, because it was in La Habana, it only attracted a 1171 performance score, and means that she is only 22nd in the rankings. Annie Kunz scored a similar 6420 last year, but because it was at the Olympic Games she attracted almost 150 points more.

So, the same score that automatically qualified Rodriguez for the Olympics and qualified her for the World Indoors drags her ranking position down to 22nd. It is Schrödinger’s heptathlon score – simultaneously good enough and not good enough.

But at least Rodriguez’s score was over 6420. The person who has been penalised most by the rankings is Tyra Gittens of Trinidad and Tobago. She has the 11th best score of 2021, 6418, which was just 2 points short of the Olympic qualifying mark.

Because it was at a meet in College Station, Gittens’ 6418 it is regarded as less valuable, attracts fewer placing points and doesn’t even make it into the top 2 scores for her ranking calculation. While she now sits 19th in the rankings, when the Olympic qualifying period ended she was outwith the top 24 qualification envelope. Tyra was penalised twice, once by the reduction in field sizes, and again by the rankings weightings.

Turning to decathlon, a similar curiosity applies to Cedric Dubler. His two “best” scores for rankings points are his 8031 and 8175, to finish second in the Oceania and Australian National champs respectively in 2019 and 2021. His Olympic qualifying score of 8367 isn’t deemed good enough to be counted in rankings terms. Perhaps the competition was harder in those two events? The competition was certainly impressive, but it was identical – he was second to Ash Moloney and well ahead of everyone else in the field on all 3 occasions.

The lesson from Rodriguez, Gittens and Dubler is that if you are just a few points over the qualification standard your rankings position doesn’t matter. But if you are just a few points under the standard, where you achieve that score can be the difference between qualification and losing out to athletes with lower scores.

Kai Kazmirek has qualified for the World Indoors because he won the WA Combined Events challenge in 2021. Despite not having one of his better years, those performances also keep him high in the rankings. He didn’t score over 8200 in 2021, but his rankings points from Ratingen and Götzis place him 10th overall.

Jorge Ureña and Paweł Wiesiołek shared similar years in 2021 outdoors, both scoring around 8330 and sitting within the top ten in the rankings. They are also the highest placed athletes for whom their indoor performances – silver and bronze at the European Indoors – are counted towards rankings positions.

Like Voronina and Aguilar, Felipe Dos Santos of Brazil also received generous points from an area Championships, taking silver at the South American champs in 2021. His Olympic qualifying score in December 2020 is his biggest contribution to his position at 12th on the rankings, but it is worth noting he is the highest placed athlete with a sub-8000-point score

Adam Sebastian Helcelet (Czech Republic) and Martin Roe (Norway) sit in 14th and 15th place in the rankings. They each scored between 8000-8100 points in their main decathlons, and placed 2nd (ASH) and 1st/4th (Martin) respectively at Multistars and Arona. Those performances qualified them for the Olympics and elevate them above other athletes with higher scores.

However, Jack Flood, of the USA, might reasonably feel hard done by the rankings. His two best scores of 2021 were 8038 and 8036, very similar to Helcelet and Roe. One was achieved when placing 9th at the US trials, arguably the highest quality decathlon of the year after the Olympics. The other performance was in North Carolina. Those performances place Jack 49th in the rankings, over 30 places behind his European counterparts.

Similar to Kendell Williams and Annie Kunz, Karel Tilga’s and Harrison Williams big, Olympic qualifying scores were not the ones that achieved the best rankings performance scores. Their 8400+ scores in Athens and Chula Vista respectively secured them fewer points than their 8200+ scores at the NCAAs and US Trials respectively. And despite both their decathlon scores being higher than those of Kazmirek, Helcelet and Roe, they are only ranked 18th and 19th respectively.

Finally, Kristjan Rosenberg has the honour of having the highest place in the rankings – 29th – while securing zero placing points from one of his performances. That was his 8032 to finish 13th at Götzis. Had he scored that 8032 at Multistars or Arona, he would have received around 90 points in placing score.

While every effort has been made to ensure that the material presented in this article is accurate at the time of writing, please consult World Athletics for the official position re rankings and qualification. Any feedback on factual errors is most welcome.