Decathletes of Europe

A Letter to World and European Athletics, 22 March 2021

Posted by GABBY PIERACCINI on 
decathletesofeurope.co.uk/articles/a-letter-to-world-and-european-athletics-22-march-2021/


To: Sebastian Coe, World Athletics President, and Dobromir Karamarinov, European Athletics Interim President

Dear colleagues

We are writing to you to express our concerns about the size of fields for combined events competitions at major championships, and the interaction with world rankings.

Background

The fields for the combined events in major outdoor championships have been reduced from 32 to 24 in recent years, and the fields for major indoor championships are now limited to 12 athletes.

This reduction* in field size has a number of negative impacts which we believe disadvantage the combined events and competitors, and work against our shared objectives to develop and promote our sport. In particular, the combination of reduced fields and the new world rankings system together create a situation where it is disproportionately challenging for combined eventers to qualify for championships.

Example: European Indoors, Toruń

For the recent European Indoors in Toruń, 5 of the 12 places were reserved for the top athletes in the 2019 and 2020 outdoor world lists. In addition, 1 place was reserved for the champion to defend their title, and 1 place was reserved for the host country. We understand, and do not object to, those underlying principles.

However, in a restricted field of 12, that means only 5 places were available for athletes competing in the 2020-21 indoor season. 

Of the field of 12 in Toruń, only 8 athletes finished the heptathlon. Ranking points were available for the top 8 places, and so the ranking points were awarded to the 8 athletes who finished the competition. A similar situation transpired in the pentathlon. Therefore, if an athlete finished the competition, they were almost guaranteed ranking points, regardless of the points score they achieved.

Ahead of the championships 14 eligible athletes, who were not already pre-selected, scored between 5900 and 6100 on the 2020-21 European heptathlon lists. All of those athletes’ season’s bests would have allowed them to fight for medals. While 4 athletes dropped out mid-competition – as is typical in combined events – at least another 4 athletes were left at home denied the opportunity to even compete for ranking points.

In Toruń, there were 8 lanes on the 60m track, and long breaks between sessions. It would therefore have been possible to include a further 2 athletes in each heat of the sprint events in the heptathlon and pentathlon, and/or add an additional heat. Equally, there was ample time for the heptathlon pole vault to include additional athletes.

Impacts of reduced field size.

Combined events are tough disciplines, and it is normal for a portion of the field to fail to finish due to injury, no-marks, and so forth.

This demonstrates how reduced and limited field sizes make it extremely hard to secure world ranking points in the combined events. The demanding nature of combined events means that we can only participate in a limited number of competitions in one season. The different weighting of ranking points for different meetings means that where we achieve our results is as important as the results themselves. But we are increasingly seeing the opportunities available to us to collect ranking points shrinking.

For example, we no longer have the European Combined Events Cup, which was a valuable source of ranking points for European athletes. It was also an important opportunity for the next tier of combined events athletes to benefit from international competition. Now those athletes have neither the European Cup to aim for, nor any realistic prospects of qualifying for championships, thanks to the 25% reduction from 32 to 24 in outdoor fields.

Next steps

We understand that there are many factors to balance when organising a championship. And we understand that a line has to be drawn on numbers participating. But the current restriction on field sizes is not appropriate, and it is unfair relative to other events.

We are asking you to commit to reviewing the field sizes in combined events at European and World Championships. We would like the fields to be increased, to at least 16 indoors, and a return to at least 32 outdoors.

The issues raised in this letter are supported by over 250 combined event athletes from over 40 countries, listed below. We have consulted with the Athletics Association in the preparation of this letter, and the Association has confirmed that it supports and endorses this approach.

Some of us have been successful in qualifying for championships under these rules. Some of us have been unsuccessful. Many of us are experienced athletes, others are at the start of their careers. But on this issue, we speak with one voice – on behalf of all athletes seeking to compete at the highest level in the combined events.

Combined eventers are often described as the world’s greatest athletes. We are all unique, with different strengths and weaknesses, and together we can inspire the next generation to greatness. But we can only inspire if we are seen.

We would welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues with you, and we ask that you acknowledge and reply to our concerns. We would also be pleased to offer our experience to support you in designing schedules that delivers for all of your stakeholders and, in particular, the athletes – without whom there is no sport.

Yours sincerely

FREDRIK SAMUELSSON (SWE)

Supported by:

Australia

  • Tori West: 2020 Australian heptathlon champion
  • Daniel Golubovic
  • Tahlee McVee
  • Christian Paynter
  • Sebastian Reyneke
  • Matt Wecker

Austria

  • Ivona Dadic: 2016 EC bronze, 2017 EIC silver, 2018 WIC silver, Austrian pentathlon NR
  • Sarah Lagger: 2016 WU20 gold, 2017 EU20 bronze, 2018 WU20 silver, Austrian heptathlon U20 NR
  • Dominik Distelberger: 2017 EIC 4th, 2018 WIC 8th, 4 times Austrian champion
  • Chiara-Belinder Schuler: 2018 EU18 bronze, 2021 Austrian pentathlon champion
  • Daniel Bertschler: 2021 Austrian heptathlon champion, Austrian heptathlon U20 NR
  • Matheo Ablasser
  • Hannah Krawanja

Armenia

  • Allison Halverson

Bahamas

  • Ken Mullings: 2019 Panam Games 6th, Bahamas decathlon/heptathlon NR

Belarus

  • Andrei Krauchanka2007 EIC bronze2008 WIC silver, 2008 Olympic silver, 2010 EC bronze, 2011 EIC gold, 2014 WIC silver, 2014 EC gold, Belarus heptathlon NR
  • Yana Maksimava: 2013 EIC Gothenburg silver, 8 times Belarus champion
  • Maksim Andraloits: 2015 EU20 bronze, 2016 WU20 silver, 2021 Belarus heptathlon champion
  • Katsiaryna Netsviatayeva: 7 times Belarus Heptathlon champion
  • Kristina Alekseenko

Belgium

  • Thomas van der Plaetsen: 2011 EIC 6th, 2014 WIC bronze, 2016 EC gold, 2016 Olympics 8th, 2019 EIC 6th, Belgian heptathlon NR
  • Niels Pittomvills: 2017 WIC 7th, 3 times Belgian champion
  • Jente HauttekeeteU20 Heptathlon WR
  • Robin Bodart: 3 times Belgian decathlon champion
  • Jannes Boonen: 2018 Belgian Heptathlon champion
  • Michiel Bienens
  • Jonas Bogaerts
  • Fine Buysse
  • Guillaume Gobin
  • Sander Maes
  • Jean Baptiste Nutte
  • Matthias Nutte
  • Alex Van de Sande
  • Tom Vanmarsenille

Bulgaria

  • Vasil Vlasov: 3 times Bulgarian champion

Brazil

  • Vanessa Chefer: 2009 SA Champs gold, 2011 SA Champs gold, 2015 Pan Am Games bronze, 2019 SA Champs silver
  • Edemar Alves dos Santos: 1999 SA Champs 5th

Canada

  • Georgia Ellenwood: 2018 NCAA heptathlon champion
  • Nathaniel Mechler: 2015 Panam U20 bronze

Croatia

  • Nikola Andjelić: 2 times Croation decathlon champion
  • Fran Bonifačić: Croatian Heptathlon U20 NR

Cuba

  • Santiago Ford: 2016 WU20 4th

Czech Republic

  • Adam Sebastian Helcelet: 2012 WIC 5th, 2013 EIC 4th, 2015 EIC 5th, 2016 WIC 5th, 2016 EC silver, 2017 EIC bronze, 2017 WC 8th
  • Jan Doležal: 2015 EU20 gold, 2018 EC 8th,
  • Kateřina Dvořáková: 2017 Czech pentathlon champion
  • Barbora Zatloukalová: 2018 Czech heptathlon champion
  • Dan Bárta
  • Filip Bartonék
  • František Doubek
  • Pavel Krejča
  • Jakub Mareček

Denmark

  • Jonas Bjerremand: 2020 Danish heptathlon champion
  • Nikolaj Grønberg: 2021 Danish heptathlon champion
  • Nikolaj Graves
  • Christian Gundersen

Estonia

  • Janek Õiglane: 2015 EU23 3rd, 2017 WC 4th, 2019 WC 6th
  • Risto Lillemets: 2020 Estonian decathlon champion, 2021 EIC 5th   
  • Mari Klaup: 3 times Estonian heptathlon champion
  • Taavi Tšernjavski: 2 times Estonian decathlon champion
  • Kristjan Rosenberg: 2016 Estonian decathlon champion
  • Pärl Eelma
  • Katre Sofia Palm

Finland

  • Miia Sillman: 2 times Finnish champion, 2019 Universiade gold
  • Juuso Hassi: 6 times Finnish champion
  • Joni Heikkinen
  • Petri Ihander
  • Juuso Toivonen
  • Ville Toivonen
  • Otto Ylöstalo

France

  • Antoinette Nana Djimou: 4 times European champion, 2012 Olympics 4th, French pentathlon NR
  • Ruben Gado: 2018 WIC 7th
  • Jérémy Lelièvre: 2016 WIC 8th, 4 times French champion
  • Célia Perron: 2021 EIC 8th, 2021 French pentathlon champion
  • Axel Hubert: 2020 French decathlon champion
  • Basile Rolnin: 2019 French heptathlon champion
  • Gaétan Blouin: 2004 French decathlon champion
  • Victoria Binet
  • Leo Chauchard
  • Benjamin Compaoré
  • Florian Daireaux
  • Cihan Elie
  • Diane Marie-Hardy
  • Romain Martin
  • Valentin Charles
  • Arthur Prevost
  • Loic Rodrigues
  • Maxence Yard

Germany

  • Niklas Kaul: 2015 WU18 gold, 2016 WU20 gold, 2017 EU20 gold, 2019 EU23 gold, 2019 WC gold, U20 decathlon WR holder
  • Kai Kazmirek: 2014 WIC 6th, 2015 WC 6th, 2016 Olympics 4th, 2017 WC bronze, 2018 WIC 4th
  • Tim Nowak: 2013 EU20 bronze, 2014 WU20 bronze, 2019 WC Doha 10th
  • Andreas Bechmann: 2018 WU20 8th, 2019 EIC 5th, 2021 EIC 6th
  • Mareike Arndt: 3 times German champion
  • Kaja Bins
  • Christoph Ewinger
  • Daniel Sturma

Greece

  • Angelos-Tsanis Andreoglou: 3 times Greek champion
  • Antonios Andreoglou: 2020 Greek heptathlon champion
  • Mike Kiafas

Hungary

  • Attila Zsivoczky: 2000 Olympics 8th, 2001 WC 4th, 2004 Olympics 6th, 2005 WC bronze, 2006 EC silver, Hungarian Decathlon NR**
  • Gyorggyi Zsivoczky-Farkas: 2015 WC 6th, 2016 EC 5th, 2016 Olympics 8th, 2017 EIC bronze**
  • Galpal Zsombor**

Iceland

  • Ísak Óli Traustason: 2 times Icelandic champion
  • Andri Gíslason

India

  • KR Gokul
  • Mohit Saini

Ireland

  • Brian Lynch
  • Anna McCauley
  • Joseph McEvoy
  • Grace McKenzie

Israel

  • Ariel Atias: Israeli decathlon record holder
  • Itamar Basteker: Israeli heptathlon record holder

Italy

  • Simone Cairoli: 8 times Italian champion
  • Sveva Gerevini: 6 times Italian champion
  • Massimo Bano

Jamaica

  • Maurice Smith: 2006 CG silver, 2007 WC silver, 2007 Pan Am gold, 2008 OG 8th**

Japan

  • Akihiko Nakamura: 2015 Asian champs gold, 2016 Asian indoor champs gold

Latvia

  • Reinis Krēgers
  • Karims Ali
  • Luize Opolā

Lithuania

  • Edgaras Benkunskas: 4 times Lithuanian champion

Luxembourg

  • Lex Damit

Montenegro

  • Darko Pešić: 2017 EIC 6th, 2021 EIC 8th, Montenegrin Decathlon/heptathlon NR
  • Danijela Pešić: Montenegrin Pentathlon NR
  • Dragan Pešić

Netherlands

  • Eelco Sintnicolaas: 2010 EC silver, 2011 EIC 4th, 2011 WC 5th, 2013 EIC gold, 2013 WC 5th, 2014 WIC 4th, 2014 EC 4th, 2015 EIC bronze, 2018 WIC 5th, Dutch decathlon/heptathlon NR
  • Pieter Braun: 2016 EC 7th, 2018 EC 7th, 2019 WC 7th
  • Ingmar Vos: 2011 EIC 5th
  • Rik Taam: 3 times Dutch champion, 2021 EIC Toruń 4th, Dutch U20 heptathlon NR
  • Leon Mak: 2019 EU20 silver
  • Sven Jansons:2018 EU18 bronze
  • Sven Roosen: Dutch decathlon U20 NR
  • Owen Beuckens
  • Marijke Esselink
  • Sri Hollema
  • Lauri Hulleman
  • Arthur van Essen

Norway

  • Martin Roe: Norwegian decathlon/heptathlon NR
  • Markus Rooth: 2019 EU20 bronze
  • Torav Opsal: 2016 WU20 5th, 2021 Norwegian heptathlon champion
  • Sander Skotheim: Norwegian U20 Heptathlon NR**

Paraguay

  • Rocio Chaparro

Poland

  • Paweł Wiesiołek: 2021 EIC bronze, 7 times Polish champion
  • Paulina Ligarska: 2021 EIC 7th, 4 times Polish champion
  • Mikołaj Jakóbczak

Portugal

  • Mário Anibal Ramos: 2000 EIC 5th, 2001 WIC 7th, Portuguese Decathlon NR
  • Manuel Dias: Portuguese Heptathlon U20 NR
  • Edgar Campre: 2021 Portuguese Heptathlon champion
  • Mariana Bento
  • Abdel Larrinaga
  • André Oliveira

Serbia

  • Mihail Dudaš: 2011 WC 6th, 2012 EC 4th, 2013 EIC bronze, 2016 EC bronze, Serbian decathlon/heptathlon NR
  • Aleksandr Grnovic: 3 times Serbian champion

South Africa

  • Nienka De Toit: 2015 African U20 bronze, 2016 African Ch 7th, South African pentathlon NR

Spain

  • Jorge Ureña: 2017 EIC silver, 2019 EIC gold, 2021 EIC silver, Spanish heptathlon NR
  • Maria Vicente: 2019 EU20 gold, Spanish heptathlon/pentathlon NR
  • Jonay Jordan: 3 times Spanish heptathlon champion
  • Bárbara Hernando: twice Spanish champion
  • Bruno Comin: 2021 Spanish decathlon champion
  • Claudia Conte: 2020 Spanish heptathlon champion
  • Pablo Trescoli: 2019 Spanish decathlon champion**
  • Carmen Ramos: 2018 Spanish pentathlon champion
  • Javier Pérez Rasines: 2014 Spanish decathlon champion
  • Sofia Cosculluela
  • Jorge Dávila
  • Pablo Diaz
  • Ines García
  • Ferran Merino
  • Enric Paris
  • Anna Pereiras
  • Eloi Santafe

Sweden

  • Fredrik Samuelsson: 2017 WIC 5th, 2017 EU23 silver, 2019 WIC 4th, 10 times Swedish champion
  • Bianca Salming: 2016 WU20 4th, 7 times Swedish champion
  • Andreas Gustafsson: 2019 EU23 9th
  • Ebba Ahman**
  • Andreas Carlsson
  • Theodor Duver
  • Carl af Forselles
  • Henrik Renz
  • Sophie Reid**
  • Jakob Samuelsson
  • Teodor Sobczyk
  • Philip Stömne
  • Jacob Thelander
  • Simon Thor
  • Emil Uhlin

Switzerland

  • Simon Ehammer: 2018 WU20 bronze, 2019 EU20 gold, Swiss heptathlon NR
  • Annik Kälin: 2019 EU20 bronze, Swiss pentathlon NR
  • Caroline Agnou: 2015 EU20 gold, 2017 EU23 gold
  • Andri Oberholzer: 2 times Swiss champion
  • Ellen Sprunger: 3 times Swiss champion
  • Luca Bernaschina: 2018 Swiss decathlon champion
  • Celine Albisser: 2018 Swiss heptathlon champion
  • Fabian Amherd
  • Leif Bernhard
  • Yves Baur
  • Linda Bichsel
  • Anna Huber
  • Birk Kähli
  • Aline Kämpf
  • Eric Maier
  • Daniel Malach
  • Adrian Rothenbühler
  • Samuel Staub
  • Fabian Steffen
  • Matthias Steinmann
  • Carla Wild
  • Lena Wunderlin
  • Siegfried Zoller

Turkey

  • Ilkay Aydemir: Turkish heptathlon NR
  • Omer Faruk Çanakçi

Ukraine

  • Hanna Kasyanova: 2009 WC 6th, 2012 Olympics 8th, 2013 EIC bronze, 2013 WC gold
  • Oleksiy Kasyanov: 2008 Olympics 6th, 2009 EIC silver, 2009 WC bronze, 2012 WIC silver, 2012 EC silver, 2012 Olympics 7th, 2016 WIC silver, 2017 WC 6th, Ukrainian heptathlon NR

UK

  • Niamh Emerson: 2018 CG bronze, 2018 WU20 gold, 2019 EIC silver
  • Tim Duckworth: 2018 EC 5th, 2018 NCAA gold, 2019 EIC silver, British heptathlon NR
  • Ashley Bryant: 2014 CG silver, 2016 EC 5th
  • Jess Taylor-Jemmett: 2014 CG bronze
  • Julie Hollman: 2002 CG 5th, 2006 CG 6th
  • Rafer Joseph:1994 CG 6th
  • Holly Mills: 2021 EIC 5th
  • Jade O’Dowda: 2018 WU20 7th
  • Duncan Mathieson: 1990 CG 8th
  • Andrew Murphy: 2020 British heptathlon champion
  • Joel McFarlane: Scottish U20 decathlon NR
  • Scott Brindley: Scottish U20 heptathlon NR
  • Theo Adesina
  • Ethan Akanni
  • Niamh Bailey
  • Ellen Barber
  • Howard Bell
  • Ewan Bradley
  • Alice Brown
  • Katie Burr
  • Matthew Chandler
  • Tom Chandler
  • Lewis Church
  • Lauryn Davey
  • Murray Fotheringham
  • Adam Hoole
  • Nicolas Jerome
  • Caius Joseph
  • Philip Kastner
  • Harry Lord
  • Harry Maslen
  • Grace Morgan
  • Becky Owen
  • Jack Phipps
  • Jo Rowland
  • Natasha Smith
  • Ashleigh Spiliopoulou
  • Justin Tarrant
  • Oliver Thatcher
  • Oliver Thorner
  • Jack Turner
  • Lucy Turner
  • Emily Tyrell
  • Freya Witheat
  • Jamie Worman
  • Alex Wort

USA

  • Harrison Williams:2014 WU20 6th, 2015 2015 PanAm U20 gold, 2019 NCCA, Heptathlon champion, 2019 WC 14th
  • Garrett Scantling: 2020 US Heptathlon champion
  • Riley Cooks: 2019 PanAm Games 7th
  • Jordan Gray: US Decathlon record holder**
  • Markus Ballengee
  • Erinn Beattie
  • Hope Bender
  • Harris Helberg
  • Hunter Price
  • Denim Rogers
  • Joe Sheryak
  • Jake Spotswood

Venezuela

Gerson Izaguirre 2019 SA Champs silver, 2019 Panam Games 7th

NOTES FROM EDITOR: 

  • *While the letter makes clear the challenges of a indoors field restricted to 12, the World Indoor Championships field actually only provided for 8 athletes prior to Portland 2016. 
  • ** additional names added in support after letter issued