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This weekend saw the 20th annual EAP International Combined Events in Hexham. The decathlon and heptathlon meeting attracted 35 athletes from around the world. In total 11 countries were represented in a meeting that always provided a last chance opportunity to qualify for major global championships. This year the incentive was a qualification standard for the Rio Olympic games which start in 5 weeks time.
HEPTATHLETE Jessica Zelinka (CAN) who was 6th in London ’12 and 5th in Beijing ’08 started the first day well with a new track record at Hexham in the 100m hurdles, stopping the clock in 13.22 sec. The high jump was won by African Champion Uhunoma Osazuwa (NIGERIA) in 1.78m. St Lucian all rounder Makeba Alcide took the shot putt with 13.35m. With strong winds throughout the day, the 200m provided an opportunity for the women to pick up good points and Osazuwa went under 24 seconds to set a new meet record with 23.98sec. The Las Vegas based Nigerian ended day one with a strong lead of 3674pts – 140 points ahead of Zelinka and Alcide.
The long jump was headed by Poland’s Izabela Mikołajczyk with 6.12m and going into the javelin, Osazuwa increased her lead to 153 points. Mikołajczyk moved up to second overall with a 39.94m throw compared to Osazuwa’s 35.34m. Both athletes fought a tough 800m but Mikołajczyk (2min 24.53 in the 800m) cound’t gain an advantage in the final event to catch Osazuwa who ran 2 mins 23.73sec.
The winning performance by Osazuwa was 5842pts. from Mikołajczyk in 5766pts and Alcide in 3rd with 5684pts. With Osazuwa currently lying 16th on the World rankings the Nigerian athlete still can make the Olympics and will have to wait for the selectors to confirm if she is going to Rio.
In the DECATHLON Ingmar Vos (NED) lined up as the class act with a best of 8,224pts. The Dutch all rounder was also looking for the 8,100pts Olympic qualifying mark. Top French decathletes Romain Martin and Gael Querin from Lille, showed their class throughout the two days. With some moments of class from Sybren Blok of the Netherlands. Blok set a meet record in the 100m (10.71sec) with Querin and American Tom Hopkins both jumping 7.40m in the long jump. Norwegian star Lars Viken Rise – fresh from doing the first day of the European Championships only 3 days earlier, putt the shot 15.62m to break a meet record held by 2004 winner Dean Macey. The French decathlete Romain Martin was the only athlete over 2m in the high jump with 2.05m and move right up the leader board and lead at the end of the first day with his 400m of 49.93sec.
The hurdles started day two with Querin (14.18sec), Block (14.37sec), Hopkins (14.40sec) and Martin (14.79sec) showing their class. Lars Viken Rise took the discus in 41.99m to add to his shot putt win from day one.
The pole vault lasted over 3 hours and entering late in the competition, Querin and Martin demonstrated their superiority in the pole vault in typical French style. Both cleared 4.85m easily but Martin passed 4.95m and failed 5.05m in windy conditions. Querin looked set tl break the meeting record but after a long competition, had to settle for 5.05m and quickly move onto the ninth event, the javelin.
At this late stage in the second day in became clear that Querin was capable of hitting the Rio standard of 8100pts. Despite throwing 54.34m compared to Rise’s 65.12m, Querin still looked like he could get the standard if he ran his heart out in the 1500m. Needing 4mins 12.70sec. Querin set off steadily but it became clear he had the stamina to go for the target. Fighting against strong winds and running at the front, Querin wasn’t going to be stopped, breaking the tape in 4mins 12.71sec to finish with 8,114 points. 14 points over the Rio qualifying standard. The performance puts Querin 21st in the World this year.
With the winner in 2015 (Adam Helcelet CZE) scoring 8,158pts and this years winning score by Querin of 8,114pts, the meeting has once again put Hexham back on the combined event athletics map as both achieved the World and Olympic qualifying standards.
Richard Hunter the meeting organiser since it started back in 1997 was pleased to see such a high standard throughout the decathlon and heptathlon with many personal bests and the strongest line up in the meetings history.
“To show how good this performance was, Querin would have finished 4th at the European Championships (held 2 days before Hexham) with his Hexham performance.” Hunter adds.