The mushroom of opportunity provided by the UK Challenge is set to spread to inspire more all-rounders to follow in the footsteps of Dean Macey, Kelly Sotherton and Jessica Ennis.
For the UK Combined Events Challenge has now been evolved to provide British athletes just below international standard with effective, professional competition throughout the summer.
The UK Combined Events Challenge for 2007 involves a total of six events, all of which are already well established in their own right:
- Woodford Green, 19-20 May;
- England Championships and Territorial Championships, 9-10 June;
- European Cup of Combined Events, 7-8 July;
- Hexham, 20-21 July;
- Norwich Union Under 20 / Under 23 International and Southern Championships, 4-5 August;
- Home Countries International, 7-8 September.
“The prime objective is to provide a structured and progressive quality competition programme that increases the opportunities for participation in Combined Events,” said UK Challenge Organiser Paul Aldridge. “We are also confident it will provide wider competition opportunities for aspiring combined events athletes and give non-combined events athletes opportunities to get involved.
“Throughout the season athletes will have the chance to register their three best performances, using the standard IAAF scoring tables. The athletes’ combined events points total will be added together and displayed in the rankings. If an athlete competes more than three times in the six qualifying events then only the three best scores will be added together.”
Series prizes for athletes will be:
In addition, all 12 will be offered a pair of adidas Technical shoes.
And the coaches of the winning athletes will have access to £500 bursaries and a pair of adidas trainers providing they are not UK Event staff.
The senior man and woman with the highest single combined events score during the series will receive adidas kit packages. The junior man and woman with the highest single combined events score during the series will receive a pair of adidas trainers. To qualify for these prizes, the athletes must compete in at least three events in the Series.
To help encourage performances in certain individual events, there will also be prizes for the leading women (seniors and juniors) in javelin and shot and men (seniors and juniors) in pole vault, discus and javelin.
In addition, a bottle of Heidsieck & Co Monopole Champagne will go to the winning seniors at each of the six events – in the case of the Woodford Green meeting, to James Wright (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies) who won the decathlon with 6820 points and Nicola Cahill (Sale Harriers Manchester) who won the heptathlon with 4645 points. The top Juniors at Woodford were Daniel Awde (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies), whose 7256 points took him beyond the qualifying standard for this summer’s European Junior Championships, and Jenny Lumley (Leeds City AC), whose 5238 points left her just 62 short of the qualifying standard.
UK Athletics’ Combined Events Management Group Chair Toni Minichiello, whose coaching quad includes the in-form Ennis, said: “The main reasons for the UK Combined Events Challenge are to increase participation and provide a spaced-out series of events that allow athletes to have a long and meaningful season. In the past most combined event competitions were finished by July and athletes were left feeling that they had better performances to come but nowhere to perform, as a result of which I think there has been a decline in numbers participating. So the Challenge gives more focus to combined event athletes.
“In addition the international competitions are included, which I don't think happens in any of the other Challenges. This is imperative as an athlete will normally do only two to four combined events meetings in a summer.
“Another important aspect is that in the past there were combined events competitions in Cleveland, Mansfield and other places that over time have ceased to exist. So there is little opportunity for athletes to try combined events outside championships. My hope is that as the challenge expands that this will again be the case.
“More competition, more opportunity, more participation – that's the Challenge!”