Previews15 Jun 2023

Combined events stars look to make a mark in Ratingen


German heptathlete Sophie Weissenberg (© AFP / Getty Images)

Some of the world’s leading combined events athletes will be in action at the Stadtwerke Ratingen Mehrkampf-Meeting this weekend (17-18) when the World Athletics Combined Events Tour Gold event returns to the German town.

Germany’s Sophie Weissenberg defends her heptathlon title, 2019 world champion Niklas Kaul contests his first full decathlon of the year, and multiple world and Olympic gold medallist Nafissatou Thiam tests herself in some of the disciplines as athletes look to make their mark in the lead up to the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23 in August.

Weissenberg returns

Weissenberg, the 2019 European U23 silver medallist, heads back to the Stadionring where last year she won with 6273 points ahead of her German compatriot Carolin Schafer (6170), who also returns to compete in front of a home crowd.

Both athletes competed in Gotzis last month, Weissenberg finishing fifth with a PB of 6375 points and 2017 world silver medallist Schafer also surpassing 6300 points with 6312. They will be looking to build on those performances in Ratingen, as they go up against their compatriot Vanessa Grimm, Netherlands’ Olympic bronze medallist Emma Oosterwegel, Austria’s 2019 world bronze medallist Verena Mayr and Canada’s Georgia Ellenwood, the 2021 winner in Ratingen.

Grimm continues her return after injury, following the 6035-point performance she achieved in Gotzis. Mayr – who set her 6591 PB when winning in Ratingen in 2019 – is also on the comeback trail after thigh problems and will contest her first heptathlon since the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Other athletes to have surpassed 6000 points and who are in action in Ratingen are Ireland’s Kate O'Connor, Esther Turpin of France, Marijke Esselink of the Netherlands, USA’s Shaina Burns, Australia’s Tori West and Taneille Crase, and of course Thiam, Belgium’s two-time Olympic and two-time world gold medallist, who set her PB of 7013 points in Gotzis in 2017.

Thiam does not intend to contest a full heptathlon until the World Championships in Budapest and will be using the meeting in Ratingen as an opportunity to test her fitness in certain events.

The 28-year-old last competed at the European Indoor Championships in Istanbul, where she broke the world indoor pentathlon record with her score of 5055 points.

Kaul leads decathlon field 

Kaul achieved the World Championships qualification standard of 8460 points when winning the European decathlon title in Munich last year and in Ratingen his aim will be to surpass that mark again to achieve the standard for the Olympic Games in Paris.

The 25-year-old – who set his PB of 8691 points when winning his world title in 2019 – will also be looking to make a statement after his compatriot Leo Neugebauer broke the long-standing national record with a 8836-point collegiate record at the NCAA Championships last week.

Kaul is among eight athletes with PBs over 8000 points who are competing in Ratingen. Belgium’s Thomas Van der Plaetsen set his lifetime best of 8430 in Gotzis in 2021 and continues to work towards a return to top form following injury sustained at the Olympics in Tokyo. He competed at the Multistars in April before withdrawing with a niggle. Spain’s Jorge Urena also set his PB of 8322 in 2021, that performance coming at the Olympic Games, while Netherlands’ Rik Taam had the competition of his career so far in Gotzis last year, scoring 8246 ponts.

Czechia’s Adam Sebastian Helcelet contests his first decathlon of the season, as does Estonia’s Risto Lillemets.

Looking to join their compatriot Kaul in Budapest are Tim Nowak and Felix Wolter, and they are both in action in Ratingen.