Preview - multi-events: Behrenbruch determined to make it to the podium in Helsinki
|Pascal Behrenbrunch of Germany finished third with
8433 points at the famous Hypo-Meeting in Gotzis.
A month ago in Gotzis, Austria, Behrenbruch was just six points away from his personal best when he scored 8433 to finish third in the Hypo-Meeting, behind Hans Van Alphen, of Belgium, with 8519 and the Netherlands' Eeco Sintnicolaas with 8506.
The trio-make up the top three men in the world this year - and Behrenbruch now has the chance to head into the Games in London 2012 as the best of them all.
It is why the event at the European Athletics Championships holds such fascination, because a man who was only 86 points away from being the No 1 now has the opportunity to do that. Never mind the strength, the psychological aspect of that can be as important and with it the likelihood of his first major honour.
Behrenbruch, 27, from Offenbach, near Frankfurt, is no stranger to being in the mix.
He won silver at the European Under-23 Championships in Debrecen in 2007, he was fifth at the European Championships in Gothenburg two years earlier and has finished sixth and seventh at the last two World Championships.
With the beautiful backdrop of the Austrian hills and the families gathering with their picnics on the banks by the side of the track, the venue at Gotzis belies the intensity and the drama which goes on during the meeting.
Behrenbruch was so close to his highest score, yet achieved the 8433 without one personal best in any of the 10 events. The multi-eventer who competes for LG Eintracht Frankfurt in Germany could be ready to unleash an even greater total in Helsinki.
If he does win gold, it will be the completion of a career that first started when he was only seven.
At that tender age, he entered an athletics competition and beat nine-year-olds to show that he had an outstanding talent.
His father was impressed, thinking he should do more of it and by the age of 15, Behrenbruch was the German record holder for his age in eight events, progressing to set the under-18 national decathlon mark and establishing himself as one of the best in the world.
Not that that means he will have an easy time in Helsinki.
Far from it, even though he has more than a 300-point advantage over France's Florian Geffrouais who is second in the entry list for the event because a Championship event can produce any outcome and next on that list is a man who knows all about that - Roman Sebrle of the Czech Republic.
Sebrle's has a season's best of 8097 but 11 years ago in Gotzis, he set the world record of 9026 which was only bettered by Ashton Eaton of the United States, who accumulated 9039 to set a new world record (pending ratification by the IAAF) at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene last week.
Now 37, there is no let-up in this extraordinary athlete's ability to want to stay at the top but Helsinki could be his final bow at the European Championships.
He is one of the great legends of these Championships because on the only two occasions he has taken part, in Munich in 2002 and Gothenburg, four years later, he won gold.
His triumph in 2006 came during a remarkable period where he dominated the sport. Not only was he the Olympic champion at the time from Athens in 2004, but he then progressed to win the world title in Osaka 12 months after his European success in Sweden.
Age catches up with even the best, but Helsinki will know it has one of the greatest multi-eventers ever in its presence and who knows what he might produce?
It would probably be too much for him to edge towards the standard that Behrenbruch has set, yet over the 10 events, and with the experience he has, never mind the desire for one last major hurrah, the European Athletics Championships could be provided with a remarkable story if Sebrle puts himself among the leaders.
But Behrenbruch will concentrate on what he has to do, even if he might have to look over his shoulder on the odd occasion to see who is closing in on him. And if it is the sight of Sebrle, it could be some competition.
Yosypenko leads the pack in heptathlon
The strongest competitor over the seven disciplines of the Heptathlon is Ukraine’s Lyudmila Yosypenko who finished a fine third in Götzis this year setting new figures in the process of 6,501 points. Her performance in the Austrian Mecca of multi-events included PBs in the hurdles and shot.
The 26-year-old member of the Kiivska club has considerable experience at big championships, finishing fifth in the Berlin worlds and a finalist in Daegu last year where she finished tenth. Her performances over the last three seasons have been variable with the notable habit of not having a competition prior to the big one.
This year, however, she made an exception and is all the better for it. In Austria last month she improved her points tally by 78 for a lifetime best. In Barcelona two years ago she could finish no higher than sixth, but she is sure to better that position this time round.
Another woman enjoying her best season to date is Russia’s Yekaterina Bolshova who finished third in her national championships with a career best 6466 points, the first time over 6000 points for the 24-year-old and a massive improvement of 728 points over her previous best.
There is not a great deal in it between Yosipenko and Bolshova except for the latter’s much inferior javelin which this season is a full 10 metres behind the Ukrainian’s. In Cherboksary, the Russian could manage no better than 37.62 compared to Yosipenko’s 48.79 in Götzis.
Winner of the Russian indoor Pentathlon championships, Bolshova travelled to the world indoors in Istanbul to finish sixth for her best ever performance in an international event.
Ukraine’s Hanna Melnychenko is the only other Helsinki entrant who has scored more than 6,400 points this season when she won her national championships in Yalta in May. On the two occasions Melnychenko and Yosypenko have found themselves in international competition, it is the former who has enjoyed better fortune.
In the Berlin world championships Melnychencko was one place behind her compatriot while history repeated itself in the world indoors this year with Bolshova in sixth and Melnykova seventh.
The big danger for these three is, however, the athlete who has yet to compete at a full Heptathlon this year. Step forward Latvia’s Aiga Grabuste who has yet to enter the lists in 2012. Worryingly for the top three is the fact that Grabuste has been working away at the individual events and come up with no fewer than four PBs, though amongst those four only the shot and long jump are part of the Heptathlon.
Nonetheless, Grabuste has had a packed indoor season as well as competing on numerous occasions outdoors.
Another surprise package comes in the person of France’s effervescent Ida Antoinette Nana Djimou who carried off the European indoor title in Paris-Bercy last year, two years after lifting a surprise bronze in Turin. Often compared to Eunice Barber, France’s former combined events star, Nana Djimou has suffered the usual injury problems, but her indomitable spirit makes her a formidable opponent and although her total in the recent French championships was only 6279, the Montreuil resident is capable of adding 200 points to that in the heat of battle.