Previews20 Jun 2024

Combined eventers prepared for Pre-Paris test in Ratingen


Combined eventers Carolin Schafer and Karel Tilga (© AFP / Getty Images)

As the final World Athletics Combined Events Tour Gold meeting ahead of the Paris 2024 Games, the Stadtwerke Ratingen Mehrkampf-Meeting on 22-23 June will be an important stepping stone ahead of the Olympics.

Some of the leading contenders in Ratingen are already in a position to qualify for the Games, but several others are on the brink of qualification and so will be looking to boost their world ranking in the German city this weekend.

Karel Tilga leads the decathlon field. The Estonian hasn’t competed since last year’s World Championships in Budapest – where he finished fourth with a PB of 8681 – and achilles and knee injuries kept him out of this year’s World Indoor Championships and the European Championships.

The 26-year-old already has the Olympic qualifying mark, so he won’t have to worry about big scores this weekend in Ratingen. He will, however, be keen to put together a confidence-boosting series, having not competed for 10 months.

Three other athletes in the field – Spain’s Jorge Urena, Australia’s Daniel Golubovic and Rik Taam of the Netherlands – are currently in an Olympic qualifying position in the world rankings, but they’ll need a strong performance this weekend to hold on to those places.

Urena, the 2019 European indoor champion, was second in Ratingen last year with a PB of 8381. The Spaniard has a best this year of 7505, set earlier this month in Arganda del Rey, but he’ll be hoping for a mark nearer to – or even in excess of – 8000 points in Ratingen.

Taam finished one place behind Urena in Ratingen last year, also setting a PB (8326). The Dutch all-rounder went on to finish 13th at the World Championships in Budapest, but he hasn’t completed a combined events competition since then. As the athlete currently in the 24th and final qualifying spot for the Olympics, he’ll be highly motivated going into this weekend.

Golubovic is sandwiched between Urena and Taam in the road to Paris qualifying rankings. The Commonwealth and Oceanian silver medallist will be competing in Ratingen for the first time in what he hopes will be a key performance towards securing selection for his first Olympics.

Two German men – world leader Leo Neugebauer and 2019 world champion Niklas Kaul – already have the Olympic qualifying standard, while a third, Manuel Eitel, is ranked within the qualifying quota. None of these will be competing in Ratingen, but a few other German decathletes will be in action in a bid to move ahead of Eitel in the rankings.

Tim Nowak, runner-up in Ratingen two years ago, set a PB of 8282 in Götzis last month, then went on to finish ninth at the European Championships with 8150. Ratingen will mark his third decathlon within five weeks, but a solid performance certainly won’t harm his world rankings points.

Kai Kazmirek, the 2017 world bronze medallist, was a non-finisher in Arona last month. The two-time Ratingen winner last completed a decathlon in July last year, winning in Bydgoszcz with 8038, but his PB (8580) is the second-best of the field, behind Tilga.

Germany’s Felix Wolter set his PB of 8299 when winning in Marburg last year, and he came close to it in Götzis five weeks ago with 8190. He’ll be aiming to match or improve on his fifth-place finish in Ratingen last year.

Czech decathlete Vilem Strasky is another who’s within sniffing distance of an Olympic qualifying spot, while the likes of Ondrej Kopecky, Australia’s Cedric Dubler and Poland’s Pawel Wiesiolek will also be looking to pull out something special ahead of the Games.

Two-time Ratingen winner Carolin Schafer will start as the favourite for the heptathlon. The 2017 world silver medallist has been in solid form this year and got off to a promising start at the recent European Championships before recording three fouls in the shot put.

If she’s able to hold her nerve this weekend, she could notch up yet another Ratingen victory, becoming just the fourth woman to win three or more times in the German city. But she’ll face strong competition from the likes of compatriot Vanessa Grimm, Austria’s Verena Mayr and China’s Zheng Ninali.

Grimm came within 16 points of her PB to finish fifth in Götzis last month with 6307. She is currently within the qualifying quota for Paris, but only just as she’s in 23rd place – one place behind Mayr and one place ahead of Zheng.

Mayr won in Ratingen in 2019 with a national record of 6591 then went on to claim bronze at the World Championships later that year. More recently she was eighth in Götzis with 6196 but then, like Schafer, did not finish at the European Championships.

Zheng, the Asian Games champion, currently sits in the 24th and final qualifying spot for Paris. Earlier this year she scored 6164 in California, so she’ll be keen to improve on that to climb into a safer position in the world rankings.

Several other women heading to Ratingen are just outside of the top 24 qualifying positions.

Australia’s Tori West set a PB of 6245 to finish sixth in Götzis and is now just two places behind Zheng on the road to Paris list. Ireland’s Kate O’Connor and Ukraine’s Yuliya Loban are close behind West, while Sarah Lagger and teenager Jana Koscak are also in the top 32.

The likes of French duo Esther Conde-Turpin and Celia Perron will also be highly motivated, with a home Games on the horizon, so too will Austria’s Ivona Dadic, a two-time runner-up in Ratingen.

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