Following a formidable two days of competition in Arona, Tenerife, Exeter Harriers’ Sam Talbot went well above the IAAF World Youth Games qualifying standard in the U18 Decathlon and now has to wait for news of his selection for this prestigious event in Cali, Columbia. Approximately 1500 athletes from 156 countries are expected to compete in this 5 day festival of top class athletics in what is deemed to be the biggest World Series athletics event to take place in South America.
Talbot’s performance has been confirmed as a new British U18 Decathlon record, having beaten Daley Thompson’s 1975 U18 score, although there are a few discrepancies. Thompson’s track events would have been hand timed, whereas Talbot’s are electronically timed, and Thompson would have used the old style javelin which was easier to throw.
“I wasn’t in the best of shape” said Talbot. “Injury meant I had to take two weeks off training, which left me with only two weeks to prepare, but these sessions had to be cut short too meaning I couldn’t do much-needed speed work.”
Talbot’s first event was the 100, clocking 11.21 which he considers very much below-par compared to his PB of 10.80, a wind-assisted time from the Somerset Combined Events Championships in April. “However the long jump was surprisingly good” said Talbot following a new lifetime best of 7.15. “The shot was disappointing (12.15) as it was about two metres off what I was hoping for, but the highlight of the day was my high jump. Although it was only a PB by 1cm (1.80) I hadn’t jumped very well in a very long time and it’s really good to know it’s finally going in the right direction.” Talbots final event on day one saw him clock 50.47 in the 400, just over half a second off his best and probably highlighting his lack of recent training, but it kept him on track for the qualifying score.
“By the beginning of the second day my shins were starting to cause me some discomfort and speed was again a problem in the 110 hurdles, leaving me reaching for a couple,” but his performance in this event is always a valuable points-earner for Talbot and a clocking of 14.70 meant he maintained a good position. A new PB in the discus by almost two metres (37.02) followed, with pole vault next. “It was a relief to actually clear a height in the pole vault this time and the end result was a good one.” Talbot had no-heighted in this event at Millfield, abruptly cutting short his attempt at the qualifying standard on that day, but his clearance of 3.20, a PB by 50cm, boosted Talbot’s confidence. “After a long break I was back for the javelin which didn’t start well, a throw of less than 40m put pressure on my next two attempts,” but he managed to push one out to 52.62, another small PB, in the final round.
This put Talbot potentially within grasp of the qualifying standard going into the final event, the 1500. “I simply had to run below 5:20 to archieve the qualifying score, but I wanted to run as fast as possible to try and get into the top eight in the world to ensure selection.” Talbot came away with a 6 sec PB and a final score of 6971, 171 points above the British qualifying standard for Cali and just off the top eight globally. “When back to full fitness and with a decent spell of training behind me I feel I can put more on every single one of my events. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to do this in Columbia next month. This has been a great experience, being my first competition abroad.”
Talbot, now living in Epsom and training under the overall guidance of Eldon Lake, coach to Morgan Lake who herself set a new U18 World Youth Heptathlon record last year, has remained loyal to Exeter Harriers, where he was originally coached by Kevin Skinner. He now has an excellent support team, with throws coached by Jeremy Tigar, pole vault by Nick Phipps and high jump by Richard Aspden.
“Sam did very well at the weekend in Arona and easily exceeded the WYC qualifying score” said Lake, “Sam was able to achieve this despite not having the best of preparations as he missed quite a few weeks of training due to shin splints (we avoided any impact work over the last 3 weeks and he has not been able to do any speed work, etc). His shins are a lot better now and the enforced rest and rehab has paid off. I am very confident that he will achieve a top 6 finish at the World Youth Championships. Sam’s score (while still not at his best due to missed training sessions) broke Daley Thompson’s British U18 Record. I firmly believe that Sam is destined for a very bright future as a “World Class Decathlete”.