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UK Athletics

Combined events international a thriller

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Grace Clements
Grace Clements
Kevin Sempers
Kevin Sempers

3 February 2008


Kevin Sempers and Grace Clements produced lifetime best performances for Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the combined events international against the Czech Republic, France and Spain at the English Institute of Sport, Sheffield, today.


GB won the men’s match, for the first time in the history of this annual competition, in the most enthralling fashion imaginable. When the scores of the teams’ most successful three athletes were added up, GB and the Czech Republic tied on 16,609 points, the highest-ever score by a GB team, with France third on 16,446 and Spain fourth with 16,269. Under European AA rules, organisers then added up the finishing positions of the athletes in each of the seven events – and announced that GB had won.


Sempers (Belgrave Harriers) totalled 5749 points – 28 more than when he won the silver medal at last month’s England Athletics Combined Events Championships – to earn second place to Stanislav Sajdok (Czech Rep), who scored a lifetime best of 5781 to the delight of his team manager, the legendary Tomas Dvorak.


But Dvorak’s delight was nothing as compared with the pleasure of the GB leadership, Kerry Jury, Ian Grant and Darrell Bunn who have played massive roles – one initially as an athlete and more recently as advisor, the other two as coaches – in raising the quality of combined events in the UK.


Sempers, who is now seventh in the current world heptathlon rankings, is in Grant’s coaching group at Brunel University. He achieved personal bests in the 60m (6.99 seconds), long jump (7.18m) and 1000m (2:49.98), equalled his previous bests in the 60m hurdles (8.14 seconds) and pole vault (4.70m). His shot, 12.90m, was within 3cm of his best so his only disappointment over the two days came when he high jumped only 2.01m, having cleared 2.10m last month.


Louis Evling-Jones (Belgrave Harriers), bronze medallist at this winter’s England Championships and the 2006 Champion, moved up from sixth overnight to fourth with 5500 points. His performances: 60m in 7.12, long jump 6.99m, shot 12.65m, high jump 1.95m, 60m hurdles 8.56, pole vault 4.40m and 1000m in 2:40.53.


Ed Dunford (Birchfield Harriers) recovered from last place after a disastrous long jump of 5.72m to finish 10th with 5360 points, a pale comparison with the 5722 with which he won the England Athletics Indoor Combined Events title last month. His other performances: 60m 7.15, shot 14.95m, high jump 2.01m, 60m hurdles 7.99m, pole vault 4.00m and 1000m in 2:46.55.


20-year-old Oliver McNeillis (also Birchfield) was 13th with 5334 points, a PB by 242 points elevating him to 20th on the UK all-time senior men’s list and 10th among UK all-time Under 23s: 60m in 7.05 seconds, long jump 7.21m, shot 10.67m (a PB by 33cm), high jump 1.89m, 60m hurdles 8.08 seconds (a PB by six-hundredths of a second), pole vault 4.30m (a PB by a massive 25cm) and 1000m in 2:55.36 (a PB by 4.29sec).


The women’s pentathlon – in which GB fielded arguably their least-experienced team ever – was vividly illuminated by Grace Clements (Dartford Harriers) celebrating her GB debut in sensational style by improving her lifetime bests in all five events.


She spent Saturday evening entertaining guests at the teams’ hotel by playing requests on the piano – and then proved she is perfectly in athletics tune. She lowered her 60m hurdles best from 8.93 to 8.77 seconds. She improved her high jump incredibly by five increments from 1.64 to 1.78m. She increased her shot from 12.52m to 12.66m. She extended her long jump from 5.77m to 5.87m. And she ran 800m in 2:21.03, her quickest by 2.11 seconds.


All of which meant she improved her pentathlon best points score from 3876 to 4237, lifting her from 37th to seventh in the UK all-time senior women’s behind Kelly Sotherton (4927), Jessica Ennis (4716), Julie Hollman (4498), Kim Hagger (4363), Julia Bennett (4297), Vikki Schofield (4238).


Her heroics earned her second place behind Denisa Scerbova, who increased the Czech national record to 4632 in repeating her success of 12 months ago in this match.


Of Clements’ team mates…


Gemma Weetman (Oswestry Olympians) was ninth with 3826 points (60m hurdles in 8.97 seconds, high jump 1.60m, shot 10.09m, long jump 5.85m and 800m heat victory in 2:19.18, a PB by 0.56sec.


Catherine Holdworth (Colchester Harriers) was 10th with 3806 points (60m hurdles in 8.65 seconds, high jump 1.60m, shot 11.15m, long jump 5.83m and 800m in 2:19.18).


Kate Cowley (Havering Mayesbrook AC), the new England Athletics Indoor Combined Events Champion, began the competition despite being ill but withdrew after sprinting the 60m hurdles in 8.90 seconds, high jumping 1.66m and putting the shot 9.33m.


The women’s match ended: 1 Czech Republic 12,853; 2 France 12,001; 3 Britain 11,869; 4 Spain 11,185.


So the overall match result was: 1 Czech Republic 29,462; 2 Britain 28,478; 3 France 28,449; 4 Spain 27,454.