Jessica Ennis-Hill in action in Ratingen (Gladys Chai von der Laage) © Copyright
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Ennis-Hill and Kazmirek the overnight leaders in Ratingen

Jessica Ennis-Hill and Kai Kazmirek are the overnight leaders after the first day of action at the Stadtwerke Ratingen Mehrkampf-Meeting, an IAAF Combined Events Challenge meeting, on Saturday (25). 

Competing under dark rainy skies that witnessed both fields thinning dramatically over the course of the first day, Ennis-Hill tallied 3990 points in the heptathlon while Germany’s Kazmirek leads the decathlon with 4391.

Ennis-Hill impresses in first heptathlon since Beijing

In true British fashion and probably used to the weather from her native Sheffield, world and Olympic champion Ennis-Hill battled the elements admirably, opening her competition with the fastest 100m hurdles time of the day clocking 13.13. Behind her was Germany’s Carolin Schafer with 13.48, leaving Ennis-Hill with 1105 points and a 52-point lead after the first event. The pair was trailed by the Swiss duo of Michelle Zeltner and Linda Zublin, who clocked 14.00 and 14.01 respectively.

While the two favourites produced promising results despite the conditions, others struggled from the start.

Jennifer Oeser, who is still chasing the Rio qualification standard of 6200 points, almost crashed out of the competition before it even started. The German took a tumble but managed to stay on her feet to finish in 15.21 for 814 points, more than 200 down from her result in Gotzis last month. Cuba’s Yorgelis Rodriguez had an even worse start, forced out after two false starts.

The weather took no mercy during the high jump either. Rodriguez, who decided to continue despite her zero point tally in the hurdles, turned frustration into motivation as she equalled her personal best of 1.87m, a good performance given the rainy conditions.

Meanwhile, Ennis-Hill extended her lead over Schafer with a third time clearance at 1.84m (2134 points), while Schafer had to settle for 1.75m.

Oeser bettered her season’s best to 1.81m to move back within reach of compatriot Lilli Schwarzkopf and the Olympic qualifier. Schwarzkopf’s 1.72m meant that after two events the German pair were sitting tight with 1805 and 1845 points respectively.

In the shot put, one of Schafer’s stronger disciplines, it was the German’s turn to shine. The 25-year-old hit a lifetime best of 14.56m with her first effort to up her tally to 2800. For her part Ennis-Hill reached14.29m, her best result since 2012, to tally 2947 after three events.

Meanwhile, Oeser and Schwarzkopf continued their battle for the third spot on the German Olympic team. While Oeser’s 14.23m was only 6cm shy of her personal best, Schwarzkopf remained almost a metre behind hers with a 14.15m best on the day.

Ennis-Hill capped off her opening day with a 23.36 meeting record in the 200m for a solid 3990 first day total, just 15 points shy of her first day total in Beijing last year and leaving her on course for 6600 points.

Schafer clocked 23.78 to finish the day with 3802, 120 points behind her first day tally from Gotzis, but she’s already secured her Rio ticket. 

With Schwarzkopf’s withdrawal before the 200m, German is focused on Oeser’s Olympic ticket chase. She’s currently fourth with 3506 points behind Zeltner, who, propelled by a 24.48 PB in the 200m, is on course for the Rio qualification with 3570. Fellow Swiss Zublin dropped out after the high jump, while Austria’s Ivona Dadic pulled up in the 200m.

Kazmirek on career best pace

Even worse was the shrinkage in the decathlon field. 2012 European champion Pascal Behrenbruch, who was hoping to have a last stab at the Olympic standard of 8100 points, didn’t line up as he is expecting the birth of his first child this weekend.

On the track, however, it was once again Kazmirek who got out of the blocks the fastest. He opened with 10.79 in the 100m, while world championship bronze medallist Rico Freimuth and Arthur Abele both followed with 10.95.

Kazmirek continued his fine form, which already saw him score 8318 in Gotzis last month, in the long jump. A 7.57m leap extended his tally to 1860 points.

Freimuth, who was knocked out Gotzis after fouling out in the long jump, took no risks here. Launching well behind the board, he reached a modest 7.16m. But another German with three fouls in Gotzis, Jan-Felix Knobel, suffered even worse luck here. The 2008 world junior champion rolled his ankle on his second jump, forcing him out of the competition and putting an end to his Rio ambitions.

Leonel Suarez, the Olympic bronze medallist, struggled with the wet and windy conditions and could only manage 6.80m – 80cm shy of his season’s best from March. 

After fouling out of the Gotzis shot put, Abele wasn’t about to gamble here after a solid 7.48m long jump moved him into second place with 1802 points. He reached a modest 14.29m in the first round before improving his lifetime best to 15.79m in the second to move into the lead with 2640 points.

Kazmirek, whose strengths lie more on the track and in the jumps, also bettered his PB to 14.78m. Freimuth reached 14.57m to remain on course for 8100 points.

Unfortunately the trend of drop-outs continued. Despite reaching personal bests of 14.72m and 13.60m in the shot put, both Gonzalo Barroilhet (CHI) and Jan Dolezal (CZE) decided to retire after the shot put. Suarez, who reached just 13.12m, followed suit.

Kazmirek and Abele trudged on. Kazmirek topped 2.07m in the high jump to regain the lead with 3504 points, 79 up on Abele who managed 1.98m with his 13th jump of the competition.

Friemuth cleared 1.89m but struggling with a calf injury, didn’t reach the start line of the 400m.  While his retirement means more headaches for German selectors, Kazmirek provided them with reason to be optimistic as the Rio Games approach.

The 25-year-old clocked 48.48 to record his fourth victory of the day and finish with 4391, leaving him on course to threaten his 8471 career best. Abele is second 125 points back, but will be looking to eat up the gap on day two especially in his favoured throwing events.

Germany’s Patrick Scherfose is a distant third with 3847, 419 points behind Abele.

The weather forecast calls for improved conditions on Sunday.

Michelle Sammet for the IAAF