Kai Kazmirek in Ratingen (© Gladys Chai von der Laage)
In the sunshine of the IAAF Combined Events Challenge in Ratingen, German’s Kai Kazmirek was in superb form, less than 100 points behind his score from Rio at the end of day one and entertaining his home crowd with a lifetime best long jump, and a new meeting record in the 400m. He was pushed all the way by France’s Basile Rolnin, who set personal bests in four of his events. As did Verena Preiner, who at the end of the first day leads her compatriot Ivona Dadic in the heptathlon.
Kazmirek hones in on a ‘perfect day’
The decathlon started with a flurry of personal bests from the German contingent: 10.90 for Ulm’s Fynn Zenker as he went under 11 seconds for the first time in the first heat, 10.90 for Felix Wolter in the second, and Jannis Wolff just a hundredth of a second behind him, also dipping under 11 seconds for the first time. But the lifetime bests were not just for the home participants, and France’s Basile Rolnin – having pulled out of Talence with an ankle injury – raced to 11.03, 0.01 ahead of his previous best from 2016. Zenker, Wolter and Wolff were among the fastest of the day, exceeded only by Germany’s World bronze medallist, Kai Kazmirek, in 10.85.
There was an early casualty as Montenegro’s Darko Pešić pulled up in the first heat of the 100m with a hamstring problem.
It was clearly the day for revising bests from 2016, as Kazmirek leaped to the longest jump of the day in the first round, improving the 7.69m from his fourth place in the Rio Olympics to 7.74m, and extending his early lead to 130 points over Rolnin. Rolnin scored his second personal best of the day in the long jump, by 2cm to 7.37m, and South Africa’s Fredriech Pretorius had the third longest jump with 7.29m. Further down the field, Jannis Wolff also had his second lifetime best of the day as he broke seven metres for the first time with 7.05m.
Two personal bests in two events is not bad going, but there was more to come from the French indoor heptathlon champion. Rolnin threw over 15 metres for the first time with a 61cm best of 15.38m to make it three out of three. Behind him, the big throws rained down from the German field, as Lennard Biere threw 15.12m and Dennis Hutterer 14.98m. Kazmirek threw a solid 14.72m, but perhaps the most pleasing result was for 32-year old Frenchman Gael Querin who extended his shot PB from 14.02m – set during the 2014 European Championships - to 14.10m. And with 14.56m, Zenker’s clubmate Mathias Brugger moved up the scoreboard to sit in third place behind Kazmirek and Rolnin after three events.
On to the high jump, where at the start of the day Rolnin had a lifetime best of 2.04m, and Kazmirek 2.15m. But Kazmirek has had to recalibrate his expectations for the high jump this year, clearing just 2.00m in Götzis and this weekend just 1.99m in Ratingen. As was becoming the theme of the day, it was another lifetime best performance for Rolnin, clearing 2.05m and 2.08m before retiring at 2.11m. Further down the field, there were several strong German performances as Tom-Lucas Greiner equalled his best with 1.99m, Jannis Wolff improved his with 1.96m, Niklas Ransiek equalling 1.93m and Fynn Zenker surpassing his previous best of 1.83m to clear 1.84m and 1.87m. Austria’s Dominik Distelberger retired in his final attempt at 1.93m and did not complete the first day.
After four events, Rolnin had narrowed the gap behind Kazmirek to just 7 points. But Kazmirek’s 400m is much stronger than Rolnin’s, and indeed stronger than most others’ in the field. On this occasion it was the strongest performance ever seen at the Ratingen Mehrkampf meeting. Kazmirek broke Erki Nool’s record of 47.11 from 2002 with a stunning 46.81, just 0.06 outside his own personal best.
At the end of the first day, Kazmirek leads with 4423 points, ahead of Rolnin with 4254 and Brugger with 4158.
As Kazmirek headed off for treatment after the 400m, his coach Jörg Roos reflected on his athlete’s day.
“It was a hard day because of the high jump. He had to work a lot on the Achilles, which has been a problem for three or four months now. And the rest was just perfect. 2.00m is always a good result but today it was not possible. The plan was to cut off at 2.00m, so 1.99 was ok. The long jump…was a long jump! And to have the 400m stadium record… It is 4423 on the first day - the best mark is 4500 from Rio, so it’s close. It was a perfect first day and we have to work for the technical day tomorrow.”
Preiner leads an Austrian 1-2
The heptathlon started in similar fashion, with a host of personal bests in the hurdles in the German field: 14.25 for Janina Lange, 14.33 for Mareike Rösing, 13.65 for Caroline Klein and 13.66 for Abigail Adjei. But again it was one of the big names who also had a big start, as Arona winne Preiner clipped 0.08 from her best time to 13.42, followed by Mareike Arndt (13.53) and Anna Maiwald (13.61) with Austrian record holder Ivona Dadic finishing sixth in 13.71.
Preiner continued her good form in the high jump, clearing a lifetime best of 1.80m to finish first, the same height as Dadic. Adjei equalled her lifetime best in the parallel group with 1.65m. The Netherlands’ Nadine Broersen cleared 1.77m, and Maiwald 1.74m.
On to the shot and there was a third best of the day for Preiner with 14.27m, finishing third in the event won by Arndt with 14.54m, and Dadic second with 14.44m. After three events Preiner led Dadic by 36 points, with Broersen in third. Caroline Klein retired during the high jump and did not start the final two events.
In the final event of the day, run in searing 35 degree heat, Adjei finished the second heat of the 200m with a new best of 24.59, but – like Rolnin in the decathlon – it was four personal bests out of four for Preiner as she improved her lifetime mark to 23.96. The final heat was won by Arndt in 23.71, with 23.87 for Dadic and a personal best of 23.93 for Maiwald in third, ahead of Preiner.
Preiner tallied 3842 to take the overnight lead with Dadic second with 3814. Maiwald is third with 3727.
While on paper Dadic has the stronger second day, given Preiner’s form this season her personal best of 6472, set just a few weeks ago in Arona, may well be under threat as she continues to do battle with Dadic.
Gabriella Pieraccini for the IAAF