The Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland women’s team secured their first-ever victory in the European Cup Combined Events Super League in Szczecin, Poland, on Sunday 8 July.
They led throughout the seven events to finish with 18,329 points, ahead of: 2 Russia 17,289; 3 Ukraine 17,243; 4 Poland 17,093; 5 Greece 16,725; 6 France 16,559; 7 Finland 16,431; 8 Sweden 15,148.
Jessica Ennis (City of Sheffield AC) led the team to success by winning the individual competition with 6399 points. Kelly Sotherton (Birchfield Harriers) was second with 6229 points, Julie Hollman (Belgrave Harriers) tenth with 5701 and Ros Gonse (Bedford and County) 17th with 5501.
Here is how heptathlon’s equivalent of the Fab Four created history:
After the opening event, the 100m hurdles, they led with 3194 points from Finland (2955), Poland (2919), Greece (2925), Ukraine (2882), France (2799), Russia (2797) and Sweden (1770).
Ennis was the quickest of all in the 100m hurdles, winning her heat (wind: +0.9) in 13.05 seconds. Sotherton won her heat (wind: +2.5) in 13.28 seconds, her quickest time so far this year and faster than all of today’s competitors except Ennis. Hollman opened with a season’s best of 13.89 seconds, the sixth fastest time of the day, in her heat (wind: +0.9). Gonse, drafted into the team when Louise Hazell (Peterborough AC) was selected for next week’s European Under 23 Championships, opened with a season’s best of 14.43 seconds (wind: +0.1).
Ennis and Sotherton finished top of the high jump competition, too. Both cleared 1.87m, an outdoor best in the case of Sotherton. Hollman cleared 1.78m and Gonse a season’s best of 1.69m. Points after two events: 1 Norwich Union GB&NI 6281; 2 Ukraine 5600; 3 Finland 5440; 4 France 5405; 5 Russia 5291; 6 Poland 5326; 7 Greece 5223; 8 Sweden 3313.
Sotherton put the shot 12.97m, Ennis improved her outdoor best to 12.89m, Hollman threw 11.28m and Gonse 12.49m. Points after three events: 1 Norwich Union GB&NI 8340; 2 Finland 7699; 3 Ukraine 7590; 4 Russia 7586; 5 France 7463; 6 Poland 7415; 7 Greece 7230; 8 Sweden 4689.
The GB team finished the day with a flourish in the 200m. Ennis won her heat (wind: +3.1) in 23.65 seconds, Sotherton won her heat (wind: +3.1) in 23.97, Hollman won her heat (wind: -0.4) in 25.02 and Gonse was fourth in her heat (wind: +6.1!) in 25.57. Points after four events: 1 Norwich Union GB&NI 11,224; 2 Russia 10,099; 3 Poland 10,049; 4 Ukraine 10,145; 5 Greece 9,745; 6 Finland 9,613; 7 France 9,893; 8 Sweden 9,000.
Day two began with the long jump. Sotherton placed third with 6.36m (wind: +2.3), Ennis fourth with 6.20m (wind: +2.5), Hollman seventh with 6.06m (wind: +2.5) and Gonse 19th with 5.76m (wind: +2.5). Points after five events: 1 Norwich Union GB&NI 14,567; 2 Russia 13,849; 3 Greece 13,631; 4 Poland 13,581; 5 Ukraine 13,569; 6 France 13,556; 7 Finland 13,331; 8 Sweden 11,834.
In the javelin, Ennis threw a lifetime best of 37.38m, adding 33cm to her previous furthest; Hollman threw 36.55m, Sotherton 28.59m, but the team’s brightest star in this event was Gonse, who reached 41.44m with her third and final attempt. Points after six events: 1 Norwich Union GB&NI 15,634; 2 Ukraine 14,684; 3 Russia 14,522; 4 Poland 14,396; 5 Greece 14,343; 6 Finland 14,206; 7 France 14,059; 8 Sweden 12,902.
GB’s leading duo both ran 800m season’s bests to clinch the Cup: Sotherton was second in 2:10.43, Ennis third in 2:10.91, Hollman 13th in 2:22.79 and Gonse 15th in 2:26.26.
Indeed, Ennis beat her previous lifetime best of 2:12.66, set last summer, to the delight of her coach, Toni Minichiello: “There were 16 in the race and when they broke on the back straight, it was like watching a swarm of flies looking for space. Jess was out in lane three to get past people. I just wish she’d been able to find another couple of hundredths to score one more point: she deserved 6400!”
Minichiello, who is chair of UK Athletics Combined Events Management Group, added: “The team scored more points than we have ever managed in the Super League in the 25 years of European Cups. It’s 100 more than Denise, Kelly and Julie scored in 2005. And what’s equally important is that we have got heptathletes with great talent being helped through the age groups to keep the momentum going.”
The Norwich Union GB&NI men’s team was on course for a podium finish in the men’s First League decathlon – until the second-highest scorer, Roger Skedd (City of Stoke AC), had to withdraw from the last three events with an injury. Even so, they still scored more points than in this match last year.
The team was third after the opening event, the 100m, with 5714 points. Ben Hazell (Basingstoke and Mid Hants AC) clocked a season’s best of 11.33 seconds (wind: +3); Ed Dunford (Birchfield Harriers) was second in his heat (wind: +2.2) in 10.97 seconds, his first sub-11 seconds sprint; Skedd clocked 11.12 (wind: +2.5) and Dean Showler-Davis (Winchester and District AC), who came into the team in midweek after Kevin Sempers suffered an injury in training, opened with victory in his heat (wind: +2.3) in 10.96 seconds, a season’s best. Team points after one event: 1 Belgium 6038; 2 Poland 5777; 3 Norwich Union GB&NI 5714; 4 Greece 5626; 5 Ukraine 5566; 6 Finland 5520; 7 Sweden 5499; 8 Latvia 5147.
In the long jump, Skedd reached a lifetime best of 6.95m (wind: +0.6), Hazell 6.85m (wind: +0.8), Dunford 6.83m (+1.3), Showler-Davis 6.79m (wind: +1.8). Points after two events: 1 Belgium 8881; 2 Poland 8561; 3 Norwich Union GB&NI 8543; 4 Ukraine 8350; 5 Sweden 8330; 6 Greece 8264; 7 Finland 8238; 8 Latvia 7686.
In the shot, Skedd threw an outdoor best of 13.77m, Hazell 13.23m, Dunford 13.05m and Showler-Davis 11.07m. Points after three events: 1 Belgium 7323; 2 Poland 7090; 3 Norwich Union GB&NI 6909; 4 Ukraine 6888; 5 Sweden 6799; 6 Finland 6748; 7 Greece 6727; 8 Latvia 6352.
In the high jump, Dunford cleared 1.92m, Hazell 1.89m, Skedd 1.83m and Showler-Davis 1.80m.
In the 400m, Hazell was second in his heat in 49.83 seconds, Showler-Davis second in his heat in 50.20, Dunford fourth in his heat in 50.25 and Skedd second in his heat in 50.66, a lifetime best. At the end of the first day, the team points were: 1 Belgium 11,978; 2 Poland 11,857; 3 Ukraine 11,426; 4 Norwich Union GB&NI 11,407; 5 Sweden 11,366; 6 Finland 11,203; 7 Greece 10,789; 8 Latvia 10,597.
The men’s decathlon after day one was led by Hans Van Alphen (Belgium) with 4037 points. GB positions: 8 Dunford 3845; 13 Skedd 3787; 15 Hazell 3775; 25 Showler-Davis 3616.
On day two, in the 110m hurdles Dunford won his heat (wind: +1.7) in 14.21 seconds, his fastest yet; Skedd was third in his heat (wind: +2.4) in 14.97; Showler-Davis was third in his heat (wind: +2.7) in 15.02 seconds, his quickest time so far; and Hazell also clocked 15.02 seconds for seventh place in the top heat, which was run into a head wind (-0.3).
In the discus, Skedd threw 44.75m for fourth place overall, Dunford was ninth with 42.17m, Hazell 12th with 41.28m and Showler-Davis 28th with 30.92m. All of which lifted the team up to third place. Points after seven events: 1 Belgium 16,664; 2 Poland 16,285; 3 Norwich Union GB&NI 16,195; 4 Ukraine 16,103; 5 Finland 15,890; 6 Sweden 15,783; 7 Latvia 14,429; 8 Greece 13,564.
The team suffered a severe setback in the pole vault when Skedd suffered such a painful shin injury that he had to withdraw from the remainder of the competition. Skedd cleared a PB of 4.00m before injury struck, Hazell 4.20m, Dunford 4.10m and Showler-Davis 3.70m. Overall, Dunford was 11th with 6147 points, Skedd 14th with 6019, Hazell 18th with 5964 and Showler-Davis 26th with 5481. The loss of Skedd’s points pushed the team down to fifth. Points after eight events: 1 Belgium 19,155; 2 Poland 18,651; 3 Finland 18.408; 4 Ukraine 18.267; 5 Norwich Union GB&NI 18,130; 6 Sweden 17,948; 7 Latvia 16,711; 8 Greece 14,916.
In the javelin, there was more drama for the team: Dunford threw 54.73m to stay in the competition after two fouls. It turned out to be the GB throw of the day: Hazell reached 53.43m and Showler-Davis 47.66m. Points after nine events: 1 Belgium 21,385; 2 Poland 20.645; 3 Finland 20,353; 4 Ukraine 20,032; 5 Sweden 19,854; 6 Norwich Union GB&NI 19,445; 7 Latvia 18,382; 8 Greece 16,023.
Hazell ended his hectic weekend by winning his 1500m heat in 4:31.20; Showler-Davis was fifth in 4:43.13 and Dunford eighth in 4:49.17.
It meant that Dunford finished 11th overall with 7430 points, Hazell was 15th with 7341 and Showler-Davis 24th with 6696. Winner Hans Van Alphen (Belgium) scored 7930.
The final result of the men’s match was: 1 Belgium 23,712; 2 Poland 22,520; 3 Finland 22,145; 4 Ukraine 22,096; 5 Sweden 21,913; 6 Norwich Union GB&NI 21,467; 7 Latvia 20.149; 8 Greece 17,078.
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- Fifteen overseas athletes from nine nations will stimulate a compelling battle in the men’s decathlon and women’s heptathlon at the 11th International Combined Events Meeting at Hexham on 21-22 July.
The domestic field is led by UK No.2 Ed Dunford, who made a huge improvement to finish second at the England Championships last month with 7500 points. He will be up against Belarus star Alexander Korzun who has the potential to make the first ever 8000 point score witnessed at Hexham. Korzun will also have to contend with William Frullani (Italy) who was the runner up after losing a lead of over 200 points to Dean Macey at the end of the first day at Hexham in 2004. Joost Van Bennekom of the Netherlands will also pose a threat (PB 7700 points).
The women’s heptathlon will feature some of Europe’s leading heptathletes, with three 6000 points scorers in the line-up. Michaela Hejnova (Czech Republic), the runner up in 2000, and Magda Szczepanska (Poland), who was runner up in 2003, will be up against 2003 winner, Lyudmila Kovalova (Ukraine), who after giving birth, has returned to the combined events with a season’s best of 5840 points (PB of 6230 in 1999).
“With seven of the starters also starting the European Cup this weekend, it promises to be very competitive and a top quality event once again,” adds Richard Hunter, the event organiser.
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