Ottawa. – Nicole Oudenaarden and Pierce Lepage want to bring the Pan American Combined Events title home as they get ready to take on athletes from 11 countries at the Terry Fox Athletic Facility in the nations’ capital.
The continental event, held over three days with youth, U20 and senior athletes, also serves as the Canadian Combined Events Championships and is the eighth stop of the IAAF Combined Events Challenge.
Oudenaarden, 23, has had a great season so far. A month after winning the Canadian University Championships, the University of Calgary student improved her 4-year old personal best to 5927 to put herself in a favourite position for the medals this week.
The 23-year old will be challenged by Jamaica’s Salcia Slack, the only athlete with an individual best over 6000 points (6141), from 2015.
Other medal favourites include Sarnia’s Jillian Drouin, the 2014 Pan Am Cup winner, who will be competing in her first heptathlon since the 2016 edition of the Ottawa event.
The USA contingent is led by Kelsey Herman, who has a personal best of 5820 points.
In the men’s decathlon, Pierce Lepage hopes to keep is solid Day 1 performance through the second day of competition.
Lepage had a comfortable 200-point lead after Day 1 in Ottawa last year but performed poorly on the second day and finished a distant tenth. He finished the 2016 season breaking the 8000-point barrier (8027) in Talence, France.
Tin 2017, the 21-year old Ontarian has set four personal bests and trailed his fellow Canadian, World and Olympic finalist Damian Warner for second after Day 1 in Gotzis, considered as the unofficial Combined Events World Championships.
The challenge from USA’s Solomon Simmons, Thomas Fitzsimons and Robert Robinson, Cuba’s Santiago Ford and Briander Rivero and fellow Canadian Rostam Turner, runner-up in Ottawa in 2016, could push him beyond the 8000-point mark.
Fast-improving Jose Miguel Paulino could be in contention for medals. Second in the junior category in 2016, Paulino set a new national record for the Dominican Republic with 7518 points.
Youth and U20 athletes will compete Monday and Tuesday, followed by the senior athletes on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Cup kicks off a week of intensive athletic action at Terry Fox with the International Para-Athletics Challenge scheduled also Monday to Wednesday before the Canadian Track and Field Championships, to be held Thursday through Sunday.
By Javier Clavelo