Ilya Shkurenyov produced the fifth best decathlon performance by a European athlete this summer as he led Russia to victory in the European Cup Combined Events Super League in Aubagne on Sunday.
Russia retained the title as Shkurenyov scored 8378 points with Ukraine's Alina Fyodorova winning the heptathlon in a personal best of 6278.
It was a dramatic, exciting second day in southern France, as Ukraine had led overnight.
But Russia were always looking strong and - with points combined from the decathlon and heptathlon - they triumphed with 41,700 from France with 40,724 and Estonia with 39,875.
The Czech Republic ended bottom of the table with 36,767 and were relegated along with the Netherlands on 38,753, who went down as Great Britain finished just 38 points ahead after the 1500m where they had just enough.
Shkurenyov was back in winning mode after his heptathlon gold at the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Prague in March to take the decathlon from Ukraine’s Oleksiy Kasyanov (8105) with France’s Romain Barras third (8007).
The positions behind him were important as Russia secured the title.
Even though France’s Florian Geffrouais was fourth (7970), Yevgeniy Sarantsev was fifth (7851) and his Russian teammate Sergey Timshin was sixth (7825).
As Fyodorova won the heptathlon from Estonia’s Grit Sadeiko (6196), Russia’s Anna Blank was third (6037) with her teammate Ulyana Aleksandrova in fourth (5963) and Anastasiya Belyakova in 11th (5646) as the team scorers, with the leading French athlete being Marisa De Aniceto in seventh (5795).
Shkurenyov has an early flourish
Making a good start on the second day can set the tone and when the gap is so close between the first two, any minor increase could make a big difference in the end.
Shkurenyov led Kasyanov by nine points overnight, 4278 to 4269, and he made sure he finished in front of him in the in the opening event on Sunday, the 110m hurdles, as he won his heat and ended with the quickest time from all four races.
It was close but Shkurenyov triumphed in 14.32, beating Kasyanov (14.41) with Barras third (14.63).
It was becoming quite a competition between the two leaders as Kasyanov now narrowed the gap after the next discipline, the discus, which he won with his only legal throw of 46.39m in the first round.
Shkurenyov was second (45.99m) from his last effort with Aliaksandr Dzerhachou, of Belarus, third (45.00m).
It meant Shkurenyov led by just 12 points with 5999 from Kasyanov with Timshin third (5693).
In the heptathlon running simultaneously, Fyodorova may have led teammate Anastasiya Mokhnyuk by 44 overnight but she was much clearer ahead after the first event on Sunday, the long jump.
Mokhnyuk had three fouls, scoring no points, as Fyodorova produced a season’s best in the second round to win the event (6.31m) from Aleksandrova (6.20m) and Britain’s Jessica Taylor (6.13m).
The outcome saw Mokhnyuk slip all the way from second to 23rd overall.
It meant the whole picture at the top of the table had changed with Russia now leading (30,194) from France (29,256) and Ukraine (29,202).
By this early stage of the day, Britain had moved out of the bottom two by 144 points, with those positions held by Netherlands (28,086) and the Czech Republic (27,018).
Vault proves a key for Shkurenyov as Fyodorova runs her quickest 800m
Shkurenyov was determined to make inroads into his decathlon lead and he did that in the pole vault which he won by 30 centimetres, clearing 5.30m on his first attempt as he won the discipline from France’s Pierre Joseph-Parfaite who beat Yury Yaremich, of Belarus, on countback. Kasyanov was 11th with a season’s best of 4.70m, but the points difference saw him comfortably in second on 6806 yet trailing Shkurenyov by 197 with Barras back into third with 6554 with two events to go.
The penultimate event in the heptathlon, the javelin, was far from the greatest for Fyodorova who was 24th (35.72m) from her first throw, but it gave Sadeiko the opportunity to chase glory of her own as she chose the perfect time to produce a personal best of 50.68m to win from France's De Aniceto (48.81m) and fellow Estonian Linda Treiel (47.62m).
But then it was the turn of Fyodorova to produce a best-ever display as the heptathlon came to a conclusion with the 800m.
Blank won the second heat for Russia (2:11.88) as they moved towards the title with Fyodorova second behind her (2:14.77) ahead of France’s Sarah Chauchard (2:15.38) and, significantly, in the pursuit of the individual title, Sadeiko was fourth (2:16.65).
Homing in on the title
The final two events of the decathlon, the javelin and 1500m, saw victory in the first of those go to Marek Lukas, of the Czech Republic, (65.22m) with Russia gaining more valuable points as Sarantsev was second (60.41m) and Frenchman Barras third (59.60m). Shkurenyov was fifth (56.93m) and Kasyanov 26th (47.89m).
Kasyanov came fourth in the opening race of the 1500m in 4:30.43 as Steven Nuytinck won it for the Netherlands with a personal best of 4:25.41.
But the top three Britons overall in the decathlon made their mark in the race, with Martin Brockman in third (4:28.44), Ramsay in fifth (4:31.65) and Ben Gregory in sixth (4:33.05), as their points ensured their team stayed up.
The second heat was a French 1-2-3 with Geffrouais winning in 4:25.32 from Maxime Maugein (4:25.72) and Joseph-Parfaite (4:27.94) and in tenth in 4:39.51 came Shkurenyov to be crowned champion of the event, and a team champion too.
SUPER LEAGUE – FINAL STANDINGS
1. Russia – 41,700
2. France – 40,724
3. Estonia – 39,875
4. Ukraine – 39,461
5. Belarus – 39,414
6. Great Britain – 38,791
7. Netherlands – 38,753 (r)
8. Czech Republic – 36,767 (r)