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UK Athletics

Combined Events International report

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2 February 2006


Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland made a lightning start to the combined events international against Czech Republic, France and Spain at the EIS Sheffield today.


In the first event of the men’s heptathlon, the 60m, three of the home side’s quartet sprinted faster than at the England Athletics Combined Events Championships in the same arena last month.


Even though he was responsible for a false start, Under 23 Oliver McNeillis (Birchfield Harriers) won the opening heat in 7.05 seconds (865 points).


Louis Evling-Jones (Belgrave Harriers), bronze medallist at the England Championships, was third in 7.12 seconds (840 points), two-hundredths behind runner-up Victor Ruiz (Spain).


Stanislav Sajdok (Czech Republic) won the second heat in 6.96 – but was closely followed by Kevin Sempers (Trafford AC), whose time of 6.99 (for 886 points) was three hundredths of a second faster than when he won the England Athletics silver medal.


Despite appearing to be left at the start, England Champion Ed Dunford (Birchfield Harriers) powered into fourth place in 7.15 seconds (830).


Earlier, all the drama surrounded the Spanish team. Some of their kit failed to arrive on their flight to Manchester so meeting director Kate Channon and her UK Athletics colleague Rob Logan swiftly found them Northern Athletics kit, kindly donated by the area competition provider, and took the athletes shopping for spikes.


Vividly illustrating the importance of the match in development terms, Tomas Dvorak, who stands second to his compatriot Roman Sebrle on the world all-time decathlon list, proved a vociferous member of the Czech management as the day’s drama unfolded.


In the second event, the long jump, all of the GB quartet had problems with their approaches – problems made more critical by the fact that each had only three trials in which to get everything right.


Only final round heroics kept GB in the hunt. McNeillis followed a tentative 6.35m and a foul by reaching 7.21m, which earned him second place behind French No.1 Franck Logel (7.31m).


Unflappable Sempers – who entered the competition with a lifetime best of 7.09m – did not hit the board on any of his take-offs. Yet he followed a foul with two massive leaps from way behind the plasticine: 7.04m and 7.18m – his second PB of the day. This earned him fifth place in the competition.


Similarly, Evling-Jones followed a foul with leaps of 6.99m and 6.97m and a respectable ninth place.


Sadly Dunford had a disaster. Probably still contemplating his slow start to the 60m, he had a foul, 5.72m from a step rather than a jump and another foul. “I jumped 5.74m when I was 13,” he said ruefully of a performance that left him in 16th and last place after two events with 1,357 points.


Heading affairs was Sajdok with 1,749 points, just 6 ahead of Sempers, with McNeillis third on 1,729 and Evling-Jones seventh on 1,651.


In the match, team scores after two events were: 1 Czech Republic 6,584; 2 Norwich Union GB&NI 6,480; 3 France 6,423; 4 Spain 6,391.


The Spainish squad's consolation was that the third event, the shot competition, was delayed by 15 minutes so that they could be reunited with their kit, which ad finally arrived in Manchester and been rushed over the Pennines.