A rainy day's work - Kai Kazmirek in Ratingen (© Gladys Chai von der Laage)
The IAAF Combined Events Challenge rolls from France into Germany this weekend for the fifth stop on the tour at the 23rd Stadtwerke Ratingen Mehrkampf Meeting, on 29 and 30 June.
The fields are led by the big names of combined events: Germany’s 2017 World Championships bronze medallist Kai Kazmirek and 2016 world indoor bronze medallist Mathias Brugger, Austria’s Dominik Distelberger and Ivona Dadic, France’s Gael Quérin and Basile Rolnin and the Netherlands’ 2014 world indoor champion Nadine Broersen. The fields are also a mix of established and up and coming talent, with the opportunity for young German combined eventers to compete against the stars as they pursue and attempt to consolidate qualification for the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019. The qualifying score for the decathlon in Doha is 8200 points, and the heptathlon 6300.
Job No. 1: make the German team
Kazmirek already has scores in excess of 8200 with his 8224 sixth place finish in Götzis, and his 8329 from 2018. But such is the strength of German decathlon, it will be a feat in itself to make the Doha team, and Kazmirek will be looking for another strong performance this weekend to cement his place.
The challenge for Kazmirek and Brugger is significant. World U20 record holder Niklas Kaul and Manuel Eitel will not compete in Ratingen but instead at the European U23 Championships in Gävle in July. Kaul scored a personal best of 8336 in Götzis to streak past 8200, and the fast – and fast improving - Eitel is only 72 points away with his lifetime best of 8128 set at the Hypomeeting.
While 2017 world silver medallist Rico Freimuth is out for the season, and it’s uncertain whether 2018 European champion Arthur Abele will recover from injury in time, there are still other decathletes in play. Tim Nowak has the qualifying mark but currently avoiding further aggravation of a shoulder injury incurred in the javelin while recording 8209 in Götzis. European indoors fifth placer Andreas Bechmann has been sidelined with injury but is in the form of his life so far this year.
And so, Brugger, in his third decathlon of the year - and just a few days after his wedding - will be hoping to build on his 8304 personal best from Götzis in 2018 and make a strong bid for one of the coveted spots on the German team.
Speaking about the strength in depth of German decathlon, and the younger athletes now challenging him, Kazmirek said:
“It is really nice, it’s good for decathlon, it’s good for German decathlon. If you look at other nations, they just have one competitor – we have ten. You’re always under pressure – but it’s good.”
The field is stacked with the next tranche of German combined eventers, seeking to follow in the footsteps of Kazmirek, Brugger and co. Among them are Lennard Biere, Felix Wolter, Jannis Wolff, Tom-Lucas Greiner and Jannik Otto. All are under 23, and between them have set over 30 personal bests this season, moving ever closer to 8000 points.
But the German stars will not have things all their own way. Fresh from delighting his home crowd at the Hypomeeting, Distelberger will start in Ratingen, as will Rolnin, the French indoor champion. Rolnin was a late withdrawal from Talence with an ankle problem and will be looking to secure his place on the French team for Doha. He is joined by Quérin, a two-time French decathlon champion. South African Fredriech Pretorius comes to Europe following his suite of PB performances this year in the southern hemisphere, and the field is rounded off by Darko Pešić, after his haul of individual medals at the Games of the Small States of Europe in his home country of Montenegro.
Dadic heptathlon opener, with an Olympic perspective on long jump
Pursuit of a qualifying mark for Doha will also be a feature in the heptathlon, as the Netherlands’ Broersen seeks to improve her 6297 from Götzis. She is enjoying a strong first season back after a long period of injury. Austria’s Verena Preiner has the best performance of the year in the field, bringing her 6472 from first place at the Combined Events Challenge meeting in Arona.
But for the first time this year we will see Austrian record holder Dadic in action in a heptathlon. Dadic has been working on her long jump with 2004 Olympic champion Dwight Phillips and will be aiming to set a strong score in Ratingen. In contrast to Dadic’s sparing approach to competition, Japan’s Yuki Yamasaki has her second heptathlon in two weeks, and her third in a month, after finishing 11th at Decastar last weekend.
Turning to the Germans, as for the decathlon, preparation for Doha is taking place in different locations in the coming weeks. 2017 world silver medallist Carolin Schäfer is sitting out competition after her 6426 in Götzis to address a few niggles but intends to be in Ratingen as a spectator. The number two German Sophie Weissenberg will be in Gävle seeking to remedy – like Broersen - a near miss of less than ten points (6293) in Götzis from automatic qualification.
The leading Germans on the Ratingen start lists are Anna Maiwald and Mareike Arndt, both of whom set their lifetime best scores (6116 and 6169 respectively) in Ratingen in 2018. Both are twice German heptathlon champions, and both had aborted competitions in Götzis. Arndt lost valuable points after a stumble in the hurdles and did not compete in the 800m, and Maiwald withdrew after the high jump, and so the duo will be looking for solid scores this weekend.
Behind them is a cluster of young and improving German heptathletes, including Caroline Klein, Lisa Maihöfer, Laura Voss, Anna-Lena Obermaier and Mareike Rösing, signalling a continuing bright future for German combined events.
Gabriella Pieraccini for the IAAF