When Ratingen, a German city located within 15 kilometres of Dusseldorf, welcomes the third leg of the 2003 IAAF World Combined Events Challenge, this forthcoming week-end, the spectators will try to answer some of the following questions.
-Will a contender break the meet record of 8701 points set by Czech Republic's Roman Serble last year?
-Will Tomas Dvorak, another member of the Czech dream team of Decathlon, prove he is ready to defend his World title in Paris next month?
-Will Germany's Sonja Kesselschlager confirm her form shown in Gotzis earlier this year when she scored 6175 points?
-Who will be crowned German champion as this event serves as the national multi-events championships?
Regarding the first question, the onlookers will certainly be kept on the edge of their seats for the entire week-end. Roman Serble, who just scored a season best of 8807 in Gotzis, where he had previously established his current World record, is ready for another dress rehearsal less than fifty days before the Paris World Championships.
In Germany, he will face his fellow countryman, Tomas Dvorak, who holds a record of three consecutive world titles in Decathlon. Dvorak, who had not been able to compete in the Austrian Mecca of multi-events, will tune in for his final preparation.
The two Czech athletes will have to hold off a minor opposition as only Jon Arnar Magnusson of Island managed to break the 8000 points barrier so far this season with 8222 in Gotzis.
Neither Mike Maczey, sixth at the last European championships in Munich (8158 pts), nor Klaus Ambrosch, who is currently ranked outside the top ten, should pretend for a spot on the top of the podium.
On the women's side, in the absence of Sweden's Carolina Kluft, Great-Britain's Denise Lewis, France's Eunice Barber and Germany's Sabine Braun, Sonja Kesselschlager of the SC Neubrnadenburg should claim the event.
The young German athlete -she was born in 1978- scored 6175 points in Gotzis and is therefore the strongest contender in the women's field. Italy's Gertrud Bacher, who had a total of 6097 in Austria last month, seems to be the only one who could create a surprise and upset the German crowd.
In any case, Sabine Braun can rest happy in the knowledge, her record of 6787 points set in 1997, is not in jeopardy.