With six German decathletes who have scored over 8000 points and seven German heptathletes who have gone over 6000 points, the IAAF Combined Events Challenge meeting in Ratingen on Saturday and Sunday (15-16) looks likely be an all-German affair.
However, what might sound boring at first at the Ruhrgas DLV Mehrkampf is actually one of the most anticipated athletics events on German soil this year.
Ratingen is the last chance for the German athletes to qualify for the IAAF World Championships this summer and, so far, only the Decathlon world leader Michael Schrader, who scored 8427 points in Ulm last month but will be a spectator in Ratingen, can be relatively sure to of a ticket to Moscow
US-student Johannes Hock, too, set a good mark of 8293 points in Eugene last month, but the event didn’t count as qualification event and, being only 21-years-old, his main goal will be the European Athletics U23 Championships in Tampere, Finland, next month.
Johannes Hock won’t be competing in Ratingen either, but 2012 European champion Pascal Behrenbruch and Rico Freimuth, sixth at the London 2012 Olympic Games, will.
Neither Behrenbruch nor Rico Freimuth finished their first Decathlon of the season in cold and rainy Götzis three weeks ago, but both have since been striving to get into better shape for Ratingen.
After Gotzis, Pascal Behrenbruch went back to Tallinn in Estonia where he trains with Andrey Nazarov. “He seems to be at a different level than before Gotzis,” said Germany’s Decathlon head coach Rainer Pottel.
Pottel thinks Behrenbruch could be in shape for a personal best, which would mean an improvement to his mark of 8558 points which won him the European title last year.
Schrader snipe may motivate Behrenbruch
The 28-year-old from Frankfurt might also be motivated by some sharp remarks that Schrader made about him. “I think he can achieve the standard for Moscow, but more? He didn’t look in top shape in Gotzis,” said Schrader recently.
“Maybe he only said this to make me angry,” explained Behrenbruch, who added that they actually have a good relationship. “He knows that if I am in a bad mood, I can mobilize all my strengths.”
Freimuth injured his back in Gotzis, but there is no way he would be missing in Ratingen. “My training results are even better than ahead of Gotzis; and in Gotzis, I was in great shape.” Now Freimuth has to hope that his back won’t cause any more problems. “I have received about 40 injections during the last two weeks. At the moment, everything feels okay.”
Another strong contender for a ticket to Moscow is Frankfurt’s Jan Felix Knobel.
Last year, he achieved the standard for the Olympics in Ratingen. With a similar performance, he scored 8228 points 12 months ago, he might be on his way to Moscow and with recent new bests in the 110m Hurdles and Discus, and the former World junior champion will travel to Ratingen full of confidence.
Two German athletes have already proven their fighting spirit in the bad conditions in Götzis: Norman Müller and Kai Kazmirek were the only Germans to finish the Decathlon there.
Kazmirek finished the competition even though he failed to clear a height in the Pole Vault and the 21-year-old might feel a bit less pressure than the others because he is already qualified for the European Athletics U23 Championships.
From overseas, South Africa’s Willem Coertzen will try to challenge the German athletes on their home ground, and has a best of 8244 points; Austria’s Dominik Distelberger is aiming to break the 8000 points barrier for the first time while Gael Querin from France has already broken that barrier when he came fifth in the 2012 European Athletics Championships with 8098 points.
Machtig the Heptathlon favourite
In the Heptathlon, Julia Machtig returns to Ratingen with good memories. Similar to Knobel, it was in Ratingen last year where she qualified for the Olympic Games, scoring a personal best of 6345 points.
With Germany’s best heptathletes of the past few years, Jennifer Oeser and Lilli Schwarzkopf, currently out of action due to injuries. Machtig is the favourite to win in Ratingen.
However, she will be looking for a better start into the competition than in Gotzis where she didn’t even cross the finish line in the 100m Hurdles.
Kira Biesenbach was the German sunshine in Gotzis despite the rain and the cold: The 20-year-old improved her best by almost 300 points to 6134 points.
The 2009 IAAF World Youth Championships bronze medallist has already qualified for the European Athletics U23 Championships, but she wants more.
“With her positive attitude, Kira really did spread a good mood in Gotzis,” said Germany’s Heptathlon head coach Wolfgang Kühne. “She is a very talented athlete, why shouldn’t she try for the A standard for Moscow?”
Claudia Rath and Maren Schwerdtner are aiming for that as well and they have already proven in the past that they are capable of collecting more than 6150 points.
Rath set her best of 6210 points at the 2010 European Athletics Championships in Barcelona while Schwerdtner’s best is 6167 points. The fifth athlete on Kühne’s list of likely Moscow contenders is Carolin Schäfer.
The 2008 World junior champion hasn’t quite been in the shape of last season when she improved to 6072 points, but even if she doesn’t make it to Moscow she can still think about a trip to Tampere.
Two international athletes will be competing against 11 Germans, but they have a good chance to make it into the top five.
Norway’s Ida Marcussen is a regular visitor to Germany and came fourth in Ratingen last year. With her best of 6226 points, she is the second best in the field. France’s Marisa di Aniceto could also challenge the Germans: six times in her career she has gone over 6000 points.
Silke Bernhart for the IAAF