Rico Freimuth and Carolin Schafer hold the overnight leads at the end of Saturday (28) at the IAAF Combined Events Challenge meeting in Ratingen.
Freimuth is currently leading the decathlon field by 80 points on 4285 ahead of France’s Kevin Mayer, while Schafer is leading the heptathlon with 3739 ahead of Poland’s Karolina Tyminska.
Just like in Florence at the beginning of the season, it was another combined events meeting that challenged its competitors with continuous light rain mixed with heavy downpours, so much so that even leaf blowers spontaneously had to be re-invented as shot circle dryers.
Decathlon leader Freimuth opened the day with a meeting record of 10.40 in the 100m – improving his PB by 0.12 – to take the lead ahead of Arthur Abele, who ran a personal best of 10.67 after years of injury. Dutchman Ingmar Vos finished third, having been unsure of what to expect today after several injury niggles earlier this season.
The long jump was a close one with the top four decathletes only separated by six centimetres, but Vos’s season’s best of 7.38m was the best jump, moving him into second in the overall standings. He was closely followed by Freimuth, who jumped 7.34m on his first attempt to maintain his overall lead before opting to miss his two other jumps to save energy for the remaining eight events, while Mayer followed with 7.33m.
European champion Behrenbruch off to mediocre start
Defending Ratingen champion Pascal Behrenbruch was off to a moderate start, and not even 15.07m in the shot could secure an individual win as 15.08m from Abele beat the reigning European champion by one centimetre.
Abele improved his personal best by more than half a metre and prior to the event confidently announced he was in great shape after many years of injury setbacks.
“15.08m,” said Abele with a laugh after his convincing performance. “And I won the shot, that’s normally quite unusual for me. The high jump will be tricky with the rain, but I’m currently on a roll, so we shall see.”
Mayer and Rene Strauss celebrated great heights in the high jump with first-time clearances of 2.07m with Strauss then clearing his 2.10m on his final attempt, moving him up to fifth going into the 400m.
Vos and Behrenbruch both battled the elements in the high jump, clearing 1.98m, while Freimuth had to settle for 1.92m, but maintained a close lead of 14 points ahead of Mayer.
“I wanted to clear 2.10m, but I am happy with the 2.07m,” said Mayer. “I like it when it rains; it motivates me to do extra well.”
Freimuth ran a solid race in the 400m, leading the rest of the field by nearly a whole second with 48.23. Mayer is now 80 points behind the German going into day two.
“I’m fairly happy with today,” said Freimuth after the 400m. “It started pretty well with the 100m and the long jump, the shot wasn’t great. I should have maybe competed in a few more events ahead of today, but it could have been a lot worse.
“The weather forecast for tomorrow is looking like doomsday, but for me it’s all about going to Zurich, which is looking quite good at the moment.”
Second-placed Mayer summed up day one as “a good day”. “I’m not on pace for a PB. I am expecting to do a strong second day. I want to win this meet. With Freimuth, Behrenbruch and the others it will be difficult, but that’s my aim.”
Schafer leads with Schwarzkopf in pursuit
In the heptathlon, German No.1 Carolin Schafer, currently seventh on this year’s world lists, followed her great form of Gotzis with a personal best over the hurdles of 13.21.
However, it didn’t come as a surprise that former hurdles specialist Cindy Roleder opened the day with a meeting record of 12.96. She has already qualified in the individual event for the European Championships in Zurich in August, but is keen to find out what she can do in the heptathlon.
In the high jump it was third-time lucky for Schafer, as she cleared both 1.75m and 1.78m on her third attempts. Olympic silver medallist Lilli Schwarzkopf, on the other hand, jumped all of her heights up to 1.81m with first-time clearances before setting a personal best of 1.85m on her second attempt with rain pouring down, leaving her only 13 points behind Schafer.
As the rain slowly cleared away, Schwarzkopf continued her triumphant comeback following her achilles tendon rupture in 2012 with a 14.45m shot put season’s best, moving her into the overall lead.
And where others struggled, Poland’s Karolina Tyminska performed convincingly in the wet and slippery circle with 14.81m, narrowly missing her personal best from 2008 by a mere centimetre. Schafer’s 12.78m was enough to keep her in second position going into the 200m, trailing Schwarzkopf by 98 points.
In the final event of the first day, Schafer then moved back into the lead with a convincing 24.01 in the 200m, leading the competition by 35 points ahead of Tyminska. The Pole clocked 24.26 in the half-lap sprint, while Schwarzkopf was further behind with 25.68.
Later in the evening, Schafer announced that she has withdrawn from the second day of competition due to a minor back injury.
Schwarzkopf improved all of her results from Gotzis a month ago and remains in third on 3682 points ahead of Claudia Rath with both having a good record of strong second-day performances.
Michelle Sammet for the IAAF