Let me start out by saying - By no means is any of this article meant to shift focus away from the Decathlon & Heptathlon. It should be seen as a way to elevate competition across the world, help develop multi-event athletes on the rise and provide interesting opportunities for multi- event athletes.
I have an idea, and I think this really can work. I haven't ironed out the name just yet, but I have many of the details ready to go. For now, let's call this event...
"The Diamond League Decathlon"
A run, jump, throw "triathlon" offered at all, or most, Diamond League meetings. Triathlons will host Decathlon and Heptathlon events, that will be different throughout the series of meetings.
Decathlon Example: Long Jump, Discus & 400m at one meeting and then Pole Vault, Shot Put & 1500m at the next. Always two field field events, one throw and one jump, finished off by a race on the track.
This will be one way to increase the frequency that multi-event athletes compete internationally at the highest levels of competition. Multi-event athletes would now be able to compete in front of enthusiastic and knowledgeable crowds, more often than the usual twice a year. Along with promotion and exposure for multi event athletes, these Diamond League competitions will serve as high level competitions and tune up meets for decathletes and heptathletes, as they still focus on the Combined Events Challenge. The focus should always be on the major championship decathlon and heptathlon of the given year.
Combined Events Challenge: https://www.iaaf.org/competitions/iaaf-combined-events-challenge (Regular Season Invitationals, National Championships, World Championships & Olympic Games)
With such a program in place, I believe decathletes/heptathletes that are still developing and multi-event athletes without the World or Olympic standard will be able to excel at such meetings. They'll be given a chance to gain invaluable experiences versus the highest levels of competitions during these triathlon competitions. These experiences will potentially propel developing multi-event athletes in their decathlon/heptathlon careers for future Olympic Games.
When I say "developing decathlete/heptathlete," I don't mean a 7400 point decathlete. Imagine Ashton Eaton in 2010, when he was still figuring out the throws, but could run 46 in the 400m or Long Jump 26 feet. We have multi-event athletes all over the world that are not even close to being medalists at the world level, but have three or four KILLER events, that shows they are on their way. Georgia University Decathletes Devon Williams and Garrett Scantling did not make the 2016 Rio squad, but Devon's Long Jump & 110m Hurdles are WORLD CLASS. Garrett Scantling can out throw almost any decathlete worldwide in the Shot Put or Javelin. These are the type of athletes I'm proposing as "developmental."
Individual Meeting winners would be determined after every triathlon, with standard Multi-Event Scoring Tables. The athlete with the most points tallied after the three set triathlon events are completed is the winner, just like in a full decathlon or heptathlon.
There is also a full season component. The overall Diamond League Decathlon/Hepathlon champion is determined by putting together a "paper decathlon" for the entire season. To compile the paper decathlon, the marks achieved throughout the Diamond League Meetings will be put into the Multi-Event Scoring Tables. To be in the running Diamond League Decathlon Champion, athletes must complete a minimum of 4 triathlons throughout the year, covering all 10 decathlon or 7 heptathlon events at least once throughout the season.
Hypothetical Diamond League Decathlon 2017
High Jump, Discus, 400m
2.02m, 40.70m, 48.38s
Shot Put, Long Jump, 100m
13.18m, 7.16m, 10.90s
Pole Vault, Javelin, 1500m
4.80m, 61.20m, 4:10.80s
Shot Put, High Jump, 110m Hurdles
13.07m, 2.00m, 14.70s
Best Marks Total: 8172
Even for the best decathletes and heptathletes in the world, certain individual meetings will be difficult to win due to varying triathlon events. If the meeting strings together the High Jump, Discus and 400m at one meeting and it will be anybody's game!
Potential Triathlon Theme Ideas:
Pole Vault (Usually well over three attempts) Javelin (longest approach for a throw) 1500m (longest running event in decathlon)
Curtis Beach will go sub 4:00 and Larbi Bourrada won't be far behind, but will they be able to hold off the javelin throw and pole vault of Kevin Mayer?
Long Jump, Shot Put, 100m (Pretty straight forward)
Ashton Eaton vs Damian Warner vs Oleksiy Kasyanova. Boom.
Discus, High Jump, 400m
Team USA would have a battle between Zach Ziemek & Jeremy Taiwo!
Take Flight (Heptathlon)
High Jump, Javelin, 100m Hurdles
Imagine Barb Nwaba vs Nafiassatou Thiam vs Katarina Johnson-Thompson fighting to the finish in this triathlon, or would someone else be able to outshine them in this three part contest?
Not every, or any, Triathlon needs a theme, but athletes who wish to contest in the season-long Diamond League Decathlon must plan their appearances accordingly. Athletes would be required to contest each of the Decathlon / Heptathlon disciplines throughout the Diamond League season.
If desired, the Top 8 Diamond League Decathletes/Heptathletes throughout the season would be invited to the final, which works with the new Diamond League format. In the final, athletes would look to win the meeting's individual title, while potentially improving upon some marks achieved earlier in the year.
The disciplines contested at the final will be determined two weeks prior to the actual competition. In "off" years like 2018, 2022, 2026, with no Olympic Games or World Championships, the Diamond League can potentially host a two day final, with a full Decathlon & Heptathlon.
I have no relationship with the Diamond League at all, these ideas just involve the integration of multi-events in existing meets worldwide. I want to see the multi events gain exposure, grow and thrive in the coming years. Through development, quality competitions and giving the present and future of the sport more opportunities, I believe competition worldwide will elevate. Who will be the fourth woman to crack 7000 and the third man to break 9000? These athletes are out there, and maybe this is a way to find them...
I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Athletic Experience Podcast
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I first spoke about this idea with Martin Bingisser, of HMMRmedia.com, on the Episode 029. You can listen to Episode 029 of The Athletic Experience with Martin Bingisser here: www.SoundCloud.com/athleticexperience/ep029
Tom FitzSimons is a professional decathlete who represents the Santa Barbara Track Club. Over the course of six USA National Championships / Olympic Trials appearances, Tom has placed himself on the podium once, placed 4th overall in the 2015 US Championships and competed for Team USA internationally twice. Less important, but just as entertaining, Tom holds a Guinness World Record - Check it out here. He is the host and owner of all things related to The Athletic Experience.