Carolin Schafer en route to a 200m personal best and meeting record in Ratingen (© Gladys Chai von der Laage)
Rico Freimuth and Carolin Schafer of Germany are the overnight leaders at the Stadtwerke Ratingen Mehrkampf-Meeting, part of the IAAF Combined Events Challenge, which commenced on Saturday (24).
In a tight men's decathlon contest, Freimuth ended the day with 4417 points, just two ahead of Grenada's Kurt Felix. Kai Kazmirek is sitting in third with 4402.
It's a different picture entirely in the heptathlon, where Schafer ended the day with 3978, nearly 200 points ahead of Dutchwoman Nadine Visser, who has tallied 3787. Further back, Mareike Arndt of Germany is sitting in third with 3665.
Another solid start for Schafer
Schafer, the 2016 Combined Events Challenge winner, illustrated her fine early season form by nearly duplicating her showing from last month's Gotzis meeting where she upped her lifetime best to 6836.
The 25-year-old began on a strong note, clocking a 13.07 personal best in the 100m hurdles, 0.02 better than the mark she set in Gotzis in May.
She sailed clear at 1.84m in the high jump, two centimetres shy of the personal best she set last month, also in Gotzis. She took one attempt at a would-be PB of 1.87m before deciding to move on to the shot put, which would be by far her weakest event of the day. She reached a modest 13.84m, falling nearly a metre short of her 14.76m toss in Gotzis.
Schafer bounced back to end the day on a high however, clocking a meeting record 23.27 in the 200m, another personal best, for 1052 points and a 191-point lead heading into day two.
Visser clocked 12.93 in the hurdles, the fastest of the day and a competition record, topped 1.72m in the high jump, and reached 13.64m in the shot put before ending her day with a 23.77 dash in the 200m, the second fastest of the competition. Her 3787 day one total leaves an assault on her 6447 lifetime best set in Gotzis two years ago well within her capabilities.
Germans take up the next six spots, with Mareike Arndt and Anna Maiwald looking strongest, with 3665 and 3619 tallies, respectively. Arndt won the shot put with 14.75m while Maiwald's best effort came in the 100m hurdles, where she clocked a personal best 13.43.
Jennifer Oeser's ambitions to make a fifth World Championships appearance will prove an uphill battle on day two. The two-time world silver medallist is currently a distant fifth with 3478 and three compatriots in front of her.
Freimuth heads a fierce decathlon battle
On the men's side, world bronze medallist Freimuth got off to a solid start with a wind-assisted 10.44 win in the 100m. He extended his lead after the long jump where he reached 7.60m, adding five centimetres to his personal best with the second-best leap of the day.
A 14.87m toss in the shot put – again the second best of the competition – followed, paving the way for another PB in the high jump, his 2.01m clearance his first above the two-metre mark. He ended the day with a 48.76 dash in the 400m to carry a narrow two-point lead into the second day.
Felix, who tallied his 8323 career best in the Rio Olympics where he finished ninth, also performed well. Opening with a 10.91 in the 100m, the 28-year-old reached 7.68m in the long jump, just six centimetres shy of his personal best.
He then won the shot put with 15.31m, a personal best by eight centimetres, and cleared 2.07m in the high jump – one of two to top that height on the day – before finishing off with a near-PB 48.67 in the 400m.
Kazmirek meanwhile got off to a somewhat sluggish start in his season's debut, opening the day with a 10.85 dash in the 100m and a 7.50m best in the long jump, both well outside his lifetime bests.
But he got on track in the shot put with a 14.63m effort, the second best of his career, and a 2.07m clearance in the high jump, equalling Felix for the best of the day. He closed with a 47.40 run in the 400m for 938 points, the day's quickest.
A pair of notables won't be starting the second day; indeed neither completed the first. Germany's Arthur Abele, the winner here last year with a personal best of 8605, was forced out of the competition after the high jump where he was hit by an injury to his right achilles tendon.
Leonel Suarez, Cuba's two-time Olympic bronze medallist, made his exit even sooner when an injury sustained in the long jump relegated him to the sidelines for the rest of the weekend.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF