The Magic of Götzis
In two weeks’ time the 45th Hypomeeting will take place in Götzis. Here we bring you five different perspectives on what makes this annual occasion so magical in the world of combined events.
Götzis through the eyes of a fan and spectator; Götzis from the perspective of an Austrian athlete growing up with the event; Götzis in the experience of the competitor who calls it his second home; Götzis through the anticipation of participating for the first time, and Götzis as an aspiration for a future career.
The spectator experience - Gabby Pieraccini
It is Friday afternoon, late in May. The breeze from the waters of the Bodensee offers a gentle greeting to the passengers alighting from the intercity-train from Basel. As we trundle into town pulling our suitcases behind us, magnificent images of Nafi tower from the walls of the buildings of Bregenz, capital of the province of Vorarlberg. There’s just time to find my hotel, deposit my luggage, and enjoy a strawberry ice cream before it melts during a walk along the waterfront. As the sun sinks in the sky and signals the arrival of Friday evening, I leave the mellow weekend revellers of Bregenz and hop back on a local train for the short journey through the spectacular Alpine scenery.
A few minutes before we arrive at our destination, there’s a first glimpse of the Mösle stadium, gathering its breath for the weekend to come, brightly-coloured pennants flashing against the blue sky. And then we are deposited, quietly and without ceremony, at our stop marked by a tiny station and a traditional wooden chalet with rose bushes in the garden. This is Götzis.
The streets are deserted, still and calm in the heavy evening air. But there is a deep, distant, sonorous sound. Strolling toward the quiet centre of town, the deep and distant rumbles become the rhythmic tones of trombones and tubas. And suddenly we turn a corner and encounter the entirety of Götzis, filling a narrow street with celebration of the Hypomeeting, oompah band resplendent and in full swing. Beers flow at the open-air bar, legends of the multi-events mingle with mortals, children sport excitedly their new matching T-shirts and water bottles, and the atmosphere is full of laughter, statistics and anticipation. And then we all head inside, for the first of the two shows of the weekend. The multieventers parade down a catwalk like superstars. And here in Götzis, superstars they are.
The next morning, I repeat the journey from Bregenz to Götzis. I wave to the cuckoo-clock house, and then instead of turning right to the beer and oompah, I turn left along the quiet bicycle path for the shady walk that leads to the Mösle stadium. The sun in the lane is hazy and warm, edges adorned on one side with wildflowers, and on the other the manicured blooms of suburban Götzis. As we get closer, you feel, rather than hear, the booming of the loudspeakers, announcing the two days of magic that will follow. And then we are there, greeted by the clink of beer mugs and the aroma of bratwurst. Gazebos offer shade; visitors from across Europe and beyond wander around the field to secure the best vantage point for each of the seventeen chapters of the weekend.
And then the 100m line-up is announced and the magic begins. And it is magic, the stuff of athletics folklore. Athletes are framed against the snowy peaks of the mountain at the apex of their vault. Discus and javelin zoom above our heads like fireworks, and disappear into the cloudless sky. The rapt audience watches every run, every jump and every throw, attention fixed entirely on the sixty men and women before them. This is no sideshow.
And the scent of history hangs in the air. Three decathlon world records. The first 9000 point decathlon the world has ever seen. The fastest 100m a decathlon has ever seen. The highest jump a heptathlon has ever seen. Leonel’s 75m javelin. Austra’s 16.92m shot. Damian’s 13.54s hurdles (twice). Dafne’s 22.35s 200m. Over twenty current national records from four continents. Hämäläinen’s three titles under three flags. The German dominance of the mid eighties. The Czech dominance of the early millennium. Roman’s five in a row. Carolina’s five in a row.
This is Götzis. Magic happens here.
I remember being deliberately confronted with Götzis in 2010. It was when my former training colleague and idol Dominik Distelberger made his debut at the Mösle Stadium. To be honest I found all the hype within the Austrian athletic scene exaggerated, considering Götzis is a rather small village in the furthermost area of Austria and no major event. However, Dominik performed brilliantly at Götzis and every Austrian multi-eventer won’t forget those 47.25 seconds he ran over 400m. He raised his PB by 350 points and I realised how participating in Götzis can boost an athletes’ game! I set my goal to one day compete in Götzis, but I did not realise how soon one day might be. The following years of hard work led me to be the number two best decathlete in Austria (just behind Dominik) and eventually I got my first invitation to Götzis in 2014. To be fair, Austrian decathletes do have an advantage for joining the starting list over others.
Competing at the Hypo Meeting was much more than I expected. Free soft drinks and food, my own physio and locker room, cameras everywhere and an unmatched crowd full of multi event enthusiasts. Everything was so professional and yet so obliging. It was the first time I felt I had reached the top class. So I felt instantly overwhelmed and unsteady, which was reflected in my poor long jump and shot put performance. Rookie mistakes. But soon I found my rhythm and during the high jump I could feel, or at least imagine, that the whole stadium was cheering only for me. I learned to absorb the crowd’s energy and to transfer that energy into my performance. It felt as if nothing could go wrong with all those people setting me into this certain mood. I think it’s called flow? But, I only played it cool on the field and in front of the cameras and I literally freaked out in the dining room. My shaky hands made it impossible to eat my pasta with a fork, as my noodles fell off, so I ordered a spoon. Still. I had issues in filling my nervous stomach with food at all. At the end of that weekend, nearly everything went well and I improved my PB by 400 points from my previous personal best. During the competition, both days felt like eternity, but in retrospective It seemed like only a few moments.
Only after my nerve-racking weekend did I realise the impact on the media and on my future athletic career. Austria's national sports channel broadcasted both days entirely, I received interview requests from newspapers and got mentioned in several sports magazines. During the following week, my phone was busy answering calls from family and friends, who had surprisingly been following the competition. I felt honour and humility, but most of all motivation for the next steps towards sporting excellence.
For two days the focus of many Austrian sport enthusiasts was on the multi event community. In Austria, maybe even more focus than on the major athletic championships. It might be due to the fact that Götzis lies within Austria, but I personally believe it’s the accumulated expression of emotions that feeds the “Götzis-vibe” and legacy.
The competitor who calls Götzis their second home - Fredrik Samuelsson
My feelings towards Götzis are spelled L-O-V-E.
It’s the first big competition for me every year for the upcoming Championships. Götzis is the place where every combined eventer wants to be at. It’s something special in the air you can only feel If you are there live. It starts the day before at the warmup, and then keeps going for the following two days of world class competing.
The crowd is magnificent, the atmosphere is just wonderful. I like that they come so close, for example in the high jump and pole vault curve. I always want to give back to the audience and my “Yellow Wall”, give them a show to enjoy. Well, they already enjoy their beers for sure.
But the most important thing with this awesome weekend is that we (the athletes) are truly loved and supported by the younger kids. To sign autographs and take pictures, see their happiness, that’s when I have succeeded. This will be my fourth straight start in Götzis, and it already feels like my second home.
Competing for the first time at Götzis in 2019 - Tim Duckworth
For me Götzis has been a meet that for the past four years I’ve watched the live stream of while I was at the NCAA regionals, and dreamed of competing there. It looks like a meet where everyone there loves the combined events and knows what’s going on for the whole competition. It’s a place where I feel like we, as multi event athletes, get the respect we deserve and aren’t put to the sidelines for the “headline events” like the 100m. I plan on attending this meet more than once in my career, but I feel like the first time there is going to be special, and I can’t wait to feel the energy that everyone has told me about and get to compete against the best in the world again.
Aspiring to compete in Götzis in the future - Andreas Bechmann
I drove to Götzis as a visitor and watched my competitors. At the decathlons and heptathlons, we are really a big family. It’s just fun, it doesn’t feel like competitors, but like friends, like family who are competing with each other, not especially against each other. I would love to compete in Götzis, it’s such an amazing event and that’s just as a visitor – I can imagine as a competitor it’s just even better.
Photo: Gabby Pieraccini