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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 August, 2003, 08:43 GMT 09:43 UK
A Parisian decathlon

By Tom Fordyce
At the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, the Bois de Boulogne...

Tom Fordyce tries his hand at the javelin
Using my loaf to complete all the disciplines...
The decathlon at these Worlds in Paris has been all very good and exciting, but it's been pretty much the same as all other decathlons.

Surely it would be good to add a little local flavour to proceedings? Make things a little spicier, more unique, more French?

With that in mind, I set out on Tuesday to attempt the perfect Parisian decathlon. The points system needs a bit of working on, but who knows - maybe the idea could catch on...


The rush-hour traffic is hammering round the Arc de Triomphe as your correspondent rocks up.

I wait minutes for a gap in the honking flow, see my chance and sprint across to the shelter of the pavement.

A dash of 5.6secs and no loss of life - that's a splendid start and one worth at least 620 points.

Long jump

Next stop is Pont Neuf, the ancient bridge across the Seine which is famous for its romantic atmosphere.

Love-struck couples are indulging in light to medium petting as I mark out a short run-up, clap at the imaginary crowd and attempt to leap from one side to the other.

I stumble on take-off, fail to get sufficient air and then struggle with the leg-shoot. It's a horror-story and one worth a sorry 372 points.

Shot put

The plan was simple - find a bunch of old French fellas playing boules, interrupt with garbled explanation and launch one of their boule from my shoulder before they know what's hit them.

Trouble is, no-one seems to be playing boules in Paris any more. I walk the backstreets and gravelly car-parks for at least half an hour and fail to find a single game in progress.

Maybe the game is dying out. There could be a story in that. Anyway. The lack of boules necessitates a temporary postponement of this particular discipline.

High jump

Tom Fordyce
In the discus Fordyce's technique (and equipment) stank

No problems with this one. Alighting from the RER train at the station in St Denis, I adopt a bounding stride and waltz clear over the ticket barriers, foregoing the Fosbury Flop in favour of the less widely-used 'hands on barriers' technique.

In the blink of an eye I am set upon by a pair of French officials. Their angry accusations somewhat take the edge of a pleasing clearance that is worth a good 570 points.

They seem intent on disqualifying me with immediate intent, but like Jon Drummond I refuse to budge. My press pass comes to the rescue before I am forced to lie down on the floor with my hands under my head.


The grassy area beneath the Eiffel Tower is a sea of picnics and neck-craning.

No matter. Having gone through a vigorous stretching programme and got inside the zone, I sprint a complete lap of the tower's base.

The time is not quite what I had hoped for, but having drawn myself in the difficult inside lane and being forced to swerve twice to avoid Japanese tourists, it's no disaster.

The 496 points leave me well placed at the halfway stage.

110m hurdles

Relocating to the enormous expanses of the Bois de Boulogne, I wander around in search of a decent stretch of grass broken up at regular intervals by prone sunbathers.

Voila - there we are. Pausing only to throw my BBC notepad and pen to one side, I storm over the human hurdles in what I imagine to be a graceful, fluid study in perfect technique.

Apologies to the chap I trod on and everything, but I'm having 860 points for that hurdling clinic.


Believe you me, a soft camembert on a hot day is not an easy thing to throw.

Try to take any sort of grip on it and the crusty surface soon breaks up, allowing stinky white cheese to ooze through your fingers.

As a result your first throw has to be something special. There are no second round attempts in this game.

The cheese lands in a bush at least the length of a bus away. Another 440 points add on to the tally.

Pole vault

Tom Fordyce gets to grips with his inadequate baguette
'I camembert it', says frustrated Fordyce

It had to happen, and it does - my run of personal bests comes to a shuddering halt as my attempt to vault the exterior wall at the Jardin des Plantes ends in shameful failure.

I know a bad workman blames his tools, but you have to believe me when I say that a baguette, no matter how grande or fresh, makes a rubbish pole.

Did Daley Thompson ever have to vault with a pole that bent in half as soon as he put any weight on it?

Did he hell.


Still, all is not yet lost. With a touch of straightening, the baguette lives to fight another day. And so do I.

The crowds outside the Hotel de Ville watch on with interest as I seize the bread baton, take a few sideways steps and launch it high into the summer sky.

This of course being the re-designed rough-tailed baguette, as introduced in 1990, it does not fly clean out of the square.

Who cares? It's a monster - 912 points, and I'm back on track.


The final event, and exhaustion is tugging at my trouser legs.

Staggering over to Montmartre with feet made of lead, I position myself at the bottom of the steps leading up to Sacre Coeur and give it all I have.

Step by step I force myself on until I reach the summit, both real and metaphorical. It is over - but what will the final tally read?

Let's see - add a generous 735 for that epic last event - sweet heavens above, it's 5005, a new world, European and British record!

If it hadn't been for that no-jump in the pole vault and no-throw in the shot, who knows what I could have achieved?

Links to more World Athletics 2003 stories





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How to survive Paris
18 Aug 03  |  Fun and Games


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