The annual Hypomeeting is the perfect example of how to showcase sporting brilliance and also highlights why combined events are worthy of greater celebration, writes Gabby Pieraccini
“When I look at the World Athletics Competition Performance Ranking,” says Walter Weber, Sporting Director of the annual Hypomeeting Götzis, “I see that Hypomeeting is ‘only’ in third place. But only Combined Events at the Olympic Games and World Championships are better than at Götzis.”
The annual celebration of combined events in the small Austrian town of Götzis at the end of May provides a masterclass in how to showcase world-class athletics.
Every detail of the meeting is designed to create the conditions for athletes to perform at their best, with no requirement for ill-thought-through gimmicks to generate artificial theatre. And therein lies the secret.
When that singular focus on the athlete is enhanced by an understanding of how to narrate the ebb and flow of the multis, and combined with a relaxed environment for fans, the result is the richest two days of athletics on the competition calendar. “The best athletics event you will ever attend,” former Telegraph athletics correspondent Ben Bloom wrote in AW a few weeks ago.
Since 1975, all but three Olympic and World champions have competed at Götzis. For current Olympic decathlon champion Damian Warner of Canada, this will be his 10th edition. He has won on seven occasions, more than any other athlete.
Warner won his Olympic title in the sequestered, mid-pandemic conditions of Tokyo, and his victory in Götzis that year was also muted, given the limited attendance due to public health measures. This year, Warner is bringing his extended support system to Austria, including his two-year old son Theo.
“Almost every year for the past 10 years I’ve come home raving to my family about Götzis,” Damian recalls. “About how this small town transforms into this amazing competition with an unparalleled atmosphere, and how the fans at Götzis are more knowledgeable and dedicated to the decathlon/heptathlon than anywhere else in the world.
“I want my family to experience this amazing atmosphere and this love for combined events first hand.
“For me it’s simple. From day one I have been welcomed to Götzis with open arms and treated with love and respect. I have met so many incredible people over the years and developed relationships with people there. In a lot of ways, it feels like a home away from home. I hope that I have the opportunity to compete in Götzis every year, for the rest of my career.”
In contrast Warner’s training partner, fellow Canadian Nate Mechler, is making his Götzis debut.
“In 2012 I was looking for a new sport after my hockey career. It was around then I first learned about the decathlon,” he says. “I went onto YouTube and was met by [Roman] Šebrle’s world record decathlon at Götzis in 2001. From then on it quickly became my sport, and Götzis is my dream decathlon. I’m very excited and incredibly grateful to get this opportunity.”
» This is an abridged version of a feature that appears in the May issue of AW magazine, which you can buy here
» Gabby Pieraccini is a combined events writer and analyst, as well as the founder of Decathletes of Europe – decathletesofeurope.co.uk