Grenada’s Kurt Felix leads from defending champion Yordani Garcia in the decathlon at the NACAC Capital Cup Combined Events Invitational, while two-time winner Yorgelis Rodriguez and Nigeria’s Uhunoma Osazuwa share the heptathlon lead after the first day.
The event is part of the IAAF Combined Events Challenge. Both Cuban athletes have better personal bests that their main opponents and look set to defend their titles successfully on the second and final day on Saturday.
Garcia took the lead after running the fastest time in the 100m with 10.94, but Felix moved to the front with 7.44m in the long jump, the only man to surpass seven meters among all 22 contestants. Two-time World and two-time Olympic medallist Leonel Suarez of Cuba hurt his left Achilles and decided to stop.
Felix, the 2014 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist, held the overall lead after the third event with a PB of 13.80m in the shot. He extended his advantage with an excellent 2.10m in the high jump, nine centimetres higher than the next best athlete: his brother Lindon Victor.
Garcia was again the fastest in the 400m with 48.37, but Felix finished not far behind with 49.04 to total 4215 after the first day, followed by Garcia (4031) and Juan Carlos de la Cruz of the Dominican Republic with 3872.
“I wanted a little bit of more points. I didn’t have a good start in the 100m. The long jump was not as good as I wanted it to be, but I had a PB in the shot, had a pretty good high jump and finished strong in the 400m. It is good to get some competition in before the Pan American Games and it is also fun to compete with my brother (Lindon Victor) to motivate and push each other. For Day 2, I hope to be able to do well in all events, especially in the hurdles, one of my week events,” said Felix.
The 27-year old Grenadian is just 13 points shy of his day-one score from the 2014 Commonwealth Games, where he took bronze with a national record of 8070.
In the heptathlon, Olympic finalist and Commonwealth silver medallist Jessica Zelinka as expected dominated the 100m hurdles, an event in which she is also an Olympic finalist. She clocked 13.39. Nigeria’s Uhunoma Osazuwa, competing as a guest as she did when she won this competition in 2012, was just 0.02 behind.
Cuba’s 2012 world junior champion Yorgelis Rodriguez, who had clocked 14.00 in the 100m hurdles, equalled her PB of 1.86m in the high jump. But Osazuwa was close behind with 1.83m and held on to the overall lead.
Rodriguez then produced his best toss outside of Cuba in the shot with 13.53 to move to the top as Osazuwa only managed 12.03m. Canadian national champion Jillian Drouin extended her margin over compatriot Zelinka, throwing 13.22m to maintain her third place.
Osazuwa ended the day by posting the fastest time in the 200m, 24.21. Rodriguez finished with 24.77 and they both concluded Day 1 with the same tally: 3703.
For the remaining three events on Saturday, Osazuwa is a better long jumper than Rodriguez, but the Cuban is far stronger in the javelin and 800m. If she equals her season’s bests in the last three events, Rodriguez could even challenge the competition record of 6063.
“My no. 1 goal was to improve my tally from Gotzis. I am feeling well. I am tied in the lead and I will do my best in the remaining three events. It is important to be here and regain the title I won twice. For Day 2, I will change my takeoff foot in the long jump and I am hoping for a good result there,” said Rodriguez.
Zelinka, who completed her first heptathlon ever in Ottawa in the 1990’s, was almost a second faster than Drouin in the 200m and so ended the day in third place with 3518.
“I wanted to open up in Gotzis this year, but I sprained my ankle so I had to find a second meet. It is great to compete in Canada and use it as a test event to see where I am at. I have had Achilles and ankle problems so I was coming here not with a lot of confidence, but I am excited to compete again. I am building for the Pan American Games and the Worlds this year. I have been doing this event for many years and I am still trying to learn and understand my health is no. 1 priority,” said Zelinka.
“Training has been fun, but I want to compete again. I am a competitive person. I have become a bit complacent in my competition because I have so used to training. I just need to get out there and start competing. I am so happy Canada has an IAAF meet at this level,” she added.
The NACAC Capital Cup Combined Events Invitational –now in its fourth edition, has attracted more than 40 athletes from nine countries in the youth, junior and open categories.