European U23s Gävle 2019: Preview
The European Under 23 Championships are underway in Gävle, Sweden. This is one of the last major competitions on this side of the Atlantic, ahead of the calm before the storm of the World Championships decathlon in Doha in October. And it is one of the most exciting duels of the season, as world U20 record holder Niklas Kaul and world U23 leader Johannes Erm meet for the first time this year.
After a short, but successful indoor season where he went over 5m for the first time in the pole vault, Kaul had his first decathlon in Götzis where he scored 8336 and finished 4th just 17 points behind Maicel Uibo. He has improved his throws this year, with 15.10m in the shot and 46.90m in the discus, and of course we saw the famous 70m+ Kaul javelin in Götzis. Complementing Kaul’s strength in the field and middle distance is teammate Manuel Eitel, Germany’s sprinting equivalent of Damian Warner, fresh from a 200m PB of 20.79s last week in Regensburg. The German Athletics Federation have indicated that the three athletes with the highest qualifying scores from Götzis, Ratingen and Gävle will go to Doha. Kazmirek, Kaul and Tim Nowak currently fill those three top spots, and so Eitel may well have Tim Nowak’s 8209 in his sights – a score Nowak achieved with the help of Kaul acting as rabbit in Götzis. Eitel would require an improvement of some 80 points on his lifetime best of 8128 from Austria in May.
Johannes Erm has a higher score this season than Kaul, but he has been much busier in the run-up to Gävle, coming off a long US college season – somewhat reminiscent of Tim Duckworth at the European Championships in Berlin last year. Erm had a magnificent win at the NCAA Championships in Austin in June, despite the competition being disrupted by severe weather, and is only one of six men who have secured an Olympic qualifying score. The others are Warner, Lindon Victor, Pierce LePage, Kai Kazmirek and Uibo. Erm won the NCAA title for Georgia in 8352, over 300 points ahead of Stanford’s Harrison Williams. Johannes has been back home in Estonia over the last few weeks, competing in a handful of events at the national U23 Championships in a windy Rakvere.
But it’s not just about Kaul, Erm and Eitel. Artem Makarenko will be keen to break his run of bad fortune. The timing of his ANA status led him to just miss qualification for the Glasgow European Indoors, and his chances of a decent score in Götzis ending with no mark in the long jump. In April Belgium’s Jean Baptiste Nutte had a superb start to the outdoor season at Multistars in Lana. He spoke to Decathlonpedia just after finishing in Italy with PBs in the 100m, 400m, hurdles, pole vault, equal long jump PB, outdoors shot PB, decathlon discus PB, and an overall decathlon PB.
“I’m happy with the weekend, but some events I’m not really happy about and I will work on those. The European Under 23s are the next goal for me, and I will try to do my best and beat my PB. We have really amazing talent in Belgium in combined events, and they push me to work harder. I moved to a new training group this year, and we are changing a lot of things – and we will see what happens!”
Jan Ruhrmann has the third German spot in Gävle this weekend after winning the U23 Mehrkampf-Meeting in Bernhausen in June in a personal best of 7834. Andreas Bechmann had had his eye on the place, but an injury sustained during the competition ruined his chances of qualifying. He is instead aiming for the Germany v USA Thorpe Cup competition, also in Bernhausen, in September.
Although he still appears on the entry lists, there’s no Risto Lillemets in Gävle, who decided to focus on helping Estonia win the last ever Combined Events Super League in Lutsk last weekend, albeit injuring his heel in the process. While not competing in the decathlon, other Estonian combined eventers are in action in Gävle with Hans-Christian Hausenberg in the long jump and Karl-Erik Nazarov in the 400m hurdles.
Alexandros Spiridonidis from Greece and Croatian Trpimir Široki have had as busy a season as Erm, also coming off an NCAA campaign where they finished first and third respectively in the Division II Championships. Spiridonidis is joined by his teammate Áris-Nikólaos Peristéris, who finished second at the Portarathlon in Naxos in June. Finley Gaio and Makenson Gletty reprise their competition from the World Under 20 Championships in Tampere last year, with Ludovic Besson also competing in Sweden for France, and the Czech Republic’s Ondřej Kopecky and Poland’s Rafał Horbowicz meet again after both competing in the Spain v Poland v Czech Republic v GB combined events meeting in Cardiff in January.
The Dutch have sent a full squad with Rody de Wolff, Rafael Raap and Rik Taam; Finland is represented by Leo Uusimäki, Lithuania by Edgaras Benkunskas, and the home crowd will have the pleasure of one of their own to cheer, in the shape of Andreas Gustafsson.
All things being equal, we can hope for an epic battle between Johannes Erm and Niklas Kaul – Erm with the superior sprints and long jump in the first half of competition, Kaul with the stronger shot and final two disciplines, the javelin and 1500m.
Photo: Michel Fisquet, Team Photo Marseille