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One Step At A Time

Germany’s Niklas Kaul is the only athlete in history to hold decathlon world titles at both U18 and U20 levels. He talks to Ato Boldon for the latest episode of IAAF Inside Athletics.

At the tender age of 18 Niklas Kaul has already achieved historic feats. In 2015 he set the championship record to win decathlon gold at the World U18 Championships in Cali, Colombia. He was on the podium again later in the week to collect the silver medal in the individual javelin.

The summer of 2016 saw him win decathlon gold at the World U20 Championships, once again totting up a championship record points haul. This was in spite of him being one of the youngest athletes in the field.

Though he is an athlete of great promise, Kaul is determined not to get ahead of himself. In the latest episode of IAAF Inside Athletics, he is quick to temper any heady expectations of what he can achieve.

“No,” he tells Ato Boldon, flatly, when asked if he considers himself someone who will go on to rack up world records on the senior circuit in the future. “I think I have to progress from every year to the next year, then we’ll see how many points I can score.”

Indeed, when SPIKES spoke to the German ahead of the Bydgoszcz U20s, he insisted he had no medal ambitions. His aim, he said, was to gain experience ahead of the European Junior Championships due to take place in 2017.

The goalposts shifted as the decathlon competition in Poland wore on. Kaul was in medal contention all along; then personal bests in each of the final three events saw him grab gold at the last with a record score of 8162 points.

“It was really good,” Kaul says in his modest, assured style. That mindset extends to his attitude to pressure, which is underpinned by his determination to keep ambitions in check.

“I don’t feel so much pressure,” he insists. “I concentrate on myself. When I’m good in a competition that’s really good. But I don’t think that when I’m bad in a competition then others will think that I’m not as good as they expected. It’s me, and I must be good for me.”

In March, Kaul benefited from training with the decathlon world record holder Ashton Eaton, who had picked him to join him On Camp… after his performance in Cali. It was, Kaul says, “a great experience” that allowed him to see up close how an elite athlete builds towards a big competition. “That helped me to prepare for this score in Bydgoszcz,” he adds.

It’s an impressive CV, yet his goals remain incremental as he looks to his multi-event future.

“I want to score next year, like 8200 or 8300 points with the junior [U20] weights,” he says. “Then we will see in the senior class how many points I can score.”

In the full episode Kaul discusses his handball background, his javelin ambitions and how much he loves to sleep. Watch it below: 

RE-READ: How Niklas Kaul turned a 370-point deficit into a 116-point winning margin