"Simply done with the world": Abele turns moments of horror into tears of happiness

Arthur Abele just wants to enjoy his last decathlon.

"Simply done with the world": Abele turns moments of horror into tears of happiness

Arthur Abele just wants to enjoy his last decathlon. But the second day of the European Athletics Championships in Munich couldn't have started worse for the defending champion. The 36-year-old withdraws crying, gets a second chance and is just overjoyed in the end.

Arthur Abele just stood there and didn't know what to do with his emotions. Overwhelmed by the applause of the around 40,000 spectators in Munich's Olympic Stadium, he put his hands on his knees in the late evening to first take a few deep breaths and then let the tears of joy run their course. A moment that seemed impossible some 12 hours earlier after the second day of the decathlon at these European Athletics Championships had started in the worst possible way for Abele.

"I cried because I didn't know what was going on," says the 36-year-old about his personal horror moment early in the morning. When he was shown the red card in the 110 meter hurdles, the internationally valid sign for a serious violation that deserves disqualification. The verdict of the judges was a false start, instead of a time there was just the unmistakable abbreviation "DQ" next to his name in the result list. Zero points in the sixth discipline, the end of all hopes of a satisfactory farewell that Abele had planned for Munich.

It would eventually be the last major decathlon for the man who had always hinted at great potential but was all too often stopped by his own body rather than vying for titles and records. In 2007, at the age of 21, he qualified for a world championship for the first time, where he finished promising ninth. After that, however, an injury misery began, which on average did not even let him finish a decathlon per season. Redemption only followed in 2018 after years of returning again and again. European champions, in Berlin, in front of a home crowd.

Before Munich, Abele had announced his departure from competitive sport, wanted to step onto the big stage one last time, give his best one last time - and was now sitting behind the advertising board like the much-quoted heap of misery. It seems impossible that he would say afterwards that he will "never forget this competition in life" and mean that in a positive way. Usually decathletes get out after such a zero number because the loss of points is so large and therefore the chance of a respectable result is so small.

Abele, however, continues. "The coaches told me not to give up under any circumstances, "it's our turn to protest, you might get another chance." Because, as in this case, the automatic false start detection measures that the 36-year-old releases the pressure from the starting block too early, but not why. Abele and the German Athletics Association apparently argue that it was just a shift in weight, not pushing forward too early, i.e. not an unfair advantage that is therefore subject to sanctions.

The explanation is accepted, the protest is upheld, and the disqualification is lifted. However, the decathletes have long since moved on to the seventh discipline, discus throwing. According to experts, the most difficult change is from the straight movement over the 1.067 meter high hurdles to the rotational movement with the two kilogram disc. Abele has just completed his first attempt when one of the judges texts him. "You can run right away," he was told, and only answered "yes, mhh, sure," as he reports with a big smile. But the statement is correct: the protest was successful, the disqualification has been lifted, Abele gets a second chance over the hurdles. "I've never had it like that [the change of discipline; editor's note], that doesn't necessarily make it any easier."

Loud cheers erupt as the fans, many of whom have come to the stadium for the decathlon, move from discipline to discipline with the athletes. "Then my trainer threw my sprint spikes in," Abele recounts the unique moments late in the evening, "and then you have to go over there and start running." Three lanes with ten hurdles each are set up, but the German runs alone, the two outer rows of hurdles are only for orientation.

With the starting gun, cheers break out again, it almost seems as if the applause alone pushes Abele forward from the ranks. Time becomes irrelevant. "I just enjoyed it from the back," says the 36-year-old, who realizes at the latest when he looks at the scoreboard that his own best performances from earlier days are now unattainable. But "I knew I could get my decathlon together" without the dreaded pointless gap.

"That's what I wanted at the end," he reveals afterwards that it was just about leaving with a good feeling. Again and again during the two days, Abele can be seen how close he is to the audience's affection, which always seems to cheer him on a bit more than other decathletes. In the final discipline, the 1500 meters, Abele gets his last big moment of these two days of competition. On the way to the European title Niklas Kaul overtakes his predecessor on the continental decathlon throne, applause breaks out again.

"Incredible," says Abele afterwards about "the people" who repeatedly touch him deeply. After the repeat run over the hurdles, tears are already in his eyes, and again and again you can see what he then puts into words himself: "You're just done with the world." The fact that he finished 15th and clearly missed the target 8000 with 7662 points is completely irrelevant. Instead, Abele even explains that this decathlon in Munich surpasses the title in Berlin 2018 in purely emotional terms.

This is certainly also due to the circumstances of his hurdle race, which fits into the "emotional roller coaster ride" that Abele is going through. Above all, however, to the fans of athletics, who are giving the 36-year-old a fitting farewell. At the end of the lap of honour, which the decathletes traditionally do together, the competitors gather at the finish line and line up in a trellis. For the German, who takes a few more deep breaths and then walks through it to great cheering before everyone gets a hug and a few warm words. After a decathlon that Abele quite rightly sums up as "absolutely unbelievable".

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