Lilli Schwarzkopf on her way to victory in the heptathlon in Ratingen (Gladys Chai von der Laage) © Copyright
Report Ratingen, Germany

Freimuth and Schwarzkopf victorious in Ratingen

Rico Freimuth and Lilli Schwarzkopf came out top at the IAAF Combined Events Challenge meeting in Ratingen with 8356 and 6426 points respectively on Sunday (29).

The weather started where it left off yesterday – cold and wet – but the competitors bravely battled on in their quest to qualify for the European Championships in Zurich in August, and were rewarded with blue skies towards the end of the day.

Overnight leader Freimuth opened his second day on a high with a 110m hurdles personal best of 13.78. It was a close race between him and fellow Zurich ticket-chaser Arthur Abele who pushed Freimuth right up to the line in 13.82 to take second place in the overall standings, 23 points from Kevin Mayer. The Frenchman narrowly missed his personal best by seven hundredths of a second in 14.28.

In the discus, Freimuth then followed with another personal best, coming close to the 50-metre line with a strong first-round throw of 49.61m, extending his lead to 239 points. Abele cemented his second place with 43.89m, while Mayer had to suffice with 38.41m, trailing the leader by 374 points.

Rain makes way for more top performances

With the officials doing their best to dry the pole vault runway from the continuous rain, the weather gods eventually decided to do the competitors a favour and allowed the sun to shine through the continuously present clouds.

In the pole vault it was all about Frenchman Mayer as he made up for his mediocre discus with a superb 5.20m clearance, moving him back to second, 221 points behind Freimuth. European champion Pascal Behrenbruch bowed out at 4.90m, sitting 336 points behind the leader, while competition leader Freimuth cleared 4.70m.

“The rain has finished now, but it was difficult with the wind,” explained Mayer after his great vault. “I’m very tired now, but decathletes are always tired after the pole vault [laughs]. We’ve only got two more events left, so we’re nearly there.”

Close battle for remaining Zurich ticket between Abele and Behrenbruch

With Kai Kazmirek’s 8471 points from Gotzis giving him a guaranteed spot on the German team for Zurich and Freimuth in the lead in Ratingen, it was a close battle for the remaining spot between Abele and Behrenbruch.

Both strong in the javelin, Abele’s second-round throw of 66.29m put pressure on Behrenbruch, who landed the javelin at 64.83m. The two were separated by merely 31 points going into the final event, with Abele known as a strong 1500m runner and the meeting record-holder.

Mayer celebrated 64.01m, improving his season’s best by one centimetre, while Freimuth was more than happy with 60.08m and still a comfortable 162-point lead.

Belgium’s Frederic Xhonneux stormed to a 1500m start-to-finish win in 4:20.51, with Mayer running a courageous race moving him within 33 points of overall winner Freimuth, who finished with 8356 points, ranking him second in Europe this year behind Kazmirek.

With Abele finishing 10 seconds ahead of Behrenbruch’s 4:51.30, the reigning European champion won’t be able to defend his title, as Abele beat him by 84 points overall to secure his spot on the team for Zurich.

“I am incredibly relieved,” said Abele. “Last year I managed to come back after years of injuries, but to qualify for the Europeans here in Ratingen was a massive confidence boost.

“It was very close with Pascal in the end, but I knew the last two events were mine. The overall points aren’t as great as I’d hoped, but hopefully that can be changed in Zurich.”

Moral support for Rath works wonders

After overnight leader Carolin Schafer pulled out of the heptathlon having already booked her ticket for the European Championships with 6386 points in Gotzis, it was a battle between Germany and Poland for the Ratingen victory.

Schafer did, however, stay to watch training partner Claudia Rath compete in the long jump after the German ended up with three fouls in Gotzis. “It’s a shame I had to pull out,” says Schafer about her decision from last night. “But I don’t want to risk anything ahead of Zurich.

“I’m just staying for the long jump for Claudia now, just to make sure she gets a definite ‘yes’ for Zurich.”

Her moral support seemed to work wonders as Rath recorded a strong series of jumps with a leading 6.41m in the pouring rain, taking the overall lead by 50 points. Olympic silver medallist Lilli Schwarzkopf had every reason to celebrate with another season’s best of 6.20m leaving her 10 points ahead of Poland’s Karolina Tyminska.

In the javelin – and supported by the deafening sounds of her fan club’s bass drums – Schwarzkopf threw a strong 51.82m to take the overall lead, while Ida Marcussen of Norway had a season’s best third-round throw of 46.82m.

With the javelin being her weakest event, Rath was pleased to throw 41.39m, but had to watch Schwarzkopf take the overall lead by 165 points going into the final event, the 800m.

Schwarzkopf and Rath celebrate German double

Marcussen set a good pace for the first lap of the race, leading the field through 400m in 1:03.35, but it was Tyminska who took over on the second lap, taking the win in 2:08.81, while Rath followed closely in 2:09.20.

In the end it was Schwarzkopf who celebrated a victory and successful comeback from injury. Her final result of 6426 now puts her on eighth on the 2014 world season list, while Rath, who finished fourth at the World Championships last year, was relieved to have secured her ticket for Zurich with 6314 points and a second place.

“In the heptathlon the European Championships are almost like a small World Championships,” said Rath. “But our coach is normally quite good at having us peak at major events and my mum always says, ‘just do your best, no more, no less’ and that’s what I’m planning on doing in Zurich.”

Equally happy as Rath were Tyminska, Marcussen and Sweden’s Jessica Samuelsson who all secured their qualification for the European Championships.

Michelle Sammet for the IAAF