Defending champion Bryan Clay faces a big challenge to retain his title.
The American has been plagued by injury problems since winning gold in Helsinki and did not even complete the 10 events at the US Championships because of knee and elbow problems.
But the 27-year-old has registered a mark of 8493 in Gotzis and should his body hold up to the demands of the event he has enough talent – with a lifetime best of 8820 points from 2004 – to triumph in the battle to find the “World's Greatest All Round Athlete”.
Czech decathlon master Roman Sebrle may be reigning Olympic and European champion and the World record-holder but he is still not landed an elusive World title.
The 32-year-old heads the 2007 world lists with a 8697 score in Kladno – but he is vulnerable and had to settle for second in Gotzis to the new kid on the block, Andrey Kravchenko.
Kravchenko, the 21-year Belarussian, is a former World Junior champion but his major breakthrough in Gotzis, where he scored a lifetime best of 8617, marks him down as a potential champion.
Dmitriy Karpov, of Kazakhstan, stands third on the world lists with a 8553 points haul for second in Kladno behind Sebrle. Karpov, who won World bronze in 2003 and the same colour medal at the Athens Olympics the following year, is one the world’s finest day-one decathletes and if he can hold it together on his weaker second day, expect him to figure prominently.
The 2003 World champion Tom Pappas (USA) could also prove a factor. The resurgent Pappas has been riddled with injury problems since the Athens Olympics but a 8352 total to win the US Championships for the fifth time hints he could slowly be returning to his best.
European bronze medallist Aleksey Drozdov of Russian with 8373 this season is another podium possible, as is World Indoor Heptathlon champion Andre Niklaus of Germany.
Osaka 2007 News Team/sl