It was 43 years ago that European Athletics staged the first European Combined Events Team Championships, a competition which has grown into three leagues and is now held bi-annually/every summer outside of an Olympics season.
Bonn, in West Germany, was the setting for the inaugural event in 1973, and next year, on the weekend of 1-2 July, Tallinn will host the top division at the Kadriorg Stadium.
The competition has evolved over the years and now the combination of scores from the men’s decathlon and the women’s heptathlon find the winning nation along with two individual champions.
In Aubagne in 2015, Russia took the team title with 41,700 points from France (40,724) and Estonia (39,875), with the individual champions being, in the decathlon, Russia’s Ilya Shkurenyov (8378) and in the heptathlon, Alina Fyodorova (6278) of the Ukraine.
Russia’s defence of their crown is subject to the IAAF’s decision to reintegrate the All Russia Athletic Federation and if they are allowed back, it will be into a Super League of eight teams.
France, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus and Great Britain remain from 2015 when the Netherlands, who finished second from bottom, and the Czech Republic, who were bottom, were both relegated, being replaced by First League champions Switzerland and runners-up Poland.
The European Combined Events Team Championships is one of the most exciting competitions in the calendar because of the way that one discipline can transform the whole standings. Each team has three decathletes and heptathletes, with the point totals changing all the time.
Aubagne was the perfect example of that. Overnight, Ukraine led with 22,904, ahead of Russia by 82 with France in third with 22,170, but then that all changed on the second day because there are so many possibilities with so many combinations of scores from the six athletes on each team.
The competition has also been graced by some of the greatest multi-eventers of all time.
Tomas Dvorak, the triple world champion and former world record-holder, won the decathlon in 1995 and 1999 and his Czech teammate Roman Sebrle, the 2004 Olympic champion and double European champion, was victorious in 1997.
In 1998, Sebrle finished second behind Erki Nool, the Estonian who went on to become Olympic champion in Sydney two years later, while in 1999 he was runner-up to Dvorak.
In the heptathlon, Great Britain’s Olympic champions Denise Lewis and Jessica Ennis-Hill have both been individual champions, in 1995 and 2007 respectively, while Sweden’s Carolina Klüft, the 2004 Olympic champion, won the combined events title in 2006.
Up to 2011, there were separate men’s and women’s team competitions before the decision to make it an overall prize, which has only added to the drama.