On Saturday we drove very early in the morning to Ratingen – about 330km from our home. It was a beautiful day, there is a very good atmosphere in Ratingen and the working people in this stadium are really the finest.
Germany has a tradition in decathlon and heptathlon. Many Germans came in the first place to see their young men and women perform on one of the highest levels in the world. The taste of an international meeting was made by the extra invitation of outstanding athletes like Suarez, Martineau and Pahapill.
Although the official standard for going to Beijing is 8000 points (A) or 7700 (B) many country’s are raising these criteria. In Germany there is no need to do so, the expectation was that nine athletes could do 8000+ this past weekend and to be absolutely sure of a ticket to the Olympics, the athletes had to beat the score of 8242 points that Pascal Behrenbruch did in Götzis! Also Martineau still had to qualify, because his 8161 points in Götzis where not enough for the Dutch federation (even being the only decathlete in his country, in shape for 8000+ at this moment)!
Already early in the game Suarez and Schrader showed excellent form being ahead on their progression of their previous personal best total score. Schrader even producing two pb’s in a row 10.76 for 100m and a 7m74 jump that gave him 5p short of a 1000 points. For Mikk Pahapill this decathlon could not end over 8000 because he had three failures in the long jump. The man shows real stamina and will continue till the end of the 1500m and even take a 13th place in the overall of 19 finishing athletes!
Behrenbruch still looked safe. But although winning the shot put competition with a throw of 16m13 and climbing from 13th to 4th I see some doubt in his face. If three German athletes did better than his Götzis – performance except himself Pascal would have a second bad year because last year he couldn’t go to Osaka when he tried to achieve the standard in Ratingen and completed his decathlon dehydrated.
The fourth event is the one where Leonel Suarez not only jumps in the air but also gets a high jump in the overall standings! In Götzis he did 2m09. In Ratingen he started the high jump when several of his rivals already finished. He cleared 196/199/202/205 and 208 after his first attempt. If he would break the meeting record of Roman Sebrle (2m10 in 2002)? No question about it, he cleared 2m11. Manfred Osterkamp told me a meeting record is awarded with 1500 euro. And he made it more difficult for the next athlete or next years by raising the bar to 2m14 clearing this height on his second attempt. This gave him the second place in the overall standings (coming from 11th after the 100m).
For Behrenbruch the high jump is a disaster, he jumps 1m90 after his third attempt, misses three times on 1m93 and has to stop with his foot injured. At that point no German athlete is doing that much the extraordinary that someone can feel himself relatively at ease for an Olympic ticket. The nerves are doing their work and the thriller has begun for the participating German athletes as well for the non participating (Pascal).
Suarez is now 77 points ahead of his Cuban record in Götzis (3271/3348). Schrader becomes the first day leader adding another personal record in the 400m (48.01). Suarez is second, he and Schrader are both doing a first day record closing the day with a pr in the 400 (Suarez 48.30). Minah 3rd, Abele 4th (pr in the 400m: 47.98) followed by Müller 5th, Niklaus 6th , Leyckes 7th and Martineau 8th. Nobody else went over 4000 points.
In the evening we tried to find a place to sleep. “Etap” is the name of a chain of motels in Europe where me and my wife Eunice (not Barber) could sleep (for 49E/2pers) near Ratingen. But to find that motel is another case! To have an idée throw an eye on the map of Ratingen and surroundings and see how the roads and freeways there are like spaghetti on paper. Once you do it wrong, (Eunice is the best wife but not the best road guide) its nine a clock in the evening before the doors of “Etap” are in front of your nose.
Suarez, Martineau and Mikk Pahapill are doing a pb in the 110m hurdles and Abele has a very good time. Suarez takes the pole position and will hold to it for the rest of the day. The Germans know that they have to perform at a high intensity if they want to qualify. Minah and Müller for example have to break personal records or they are out, Schrader to. Abele and Niklaus still have the biggest opportunity but they can’t afford mistakes or they will have to run a strong 1500 metres.
Discus and the thriller go’s on. Mikk Pahapill threw a beautiful 48m33 very close to his best of 48m65. Abele throws with his last attempt 45 metres but lost his balance, his mark 41m75 stays. For the medal contenders it looked like Müller was out. If Müller did all his pb’s after the discus he would catch a total of 8191, Schrader 8203, Abele 8441 and Niklaus 8464. It looked like Behrenbruch was going to China anyway. The real question was what the man in progress – Schrader could perform.
Time 12.29 and we are sitting on the grass only ten metres from the pole vault happening. Some raindrops are falling for about 5 minutes but after that the sun is burning again. Meanwhile Martineau (equalizing his pb) and Niklaus are jumping 5 metres in the A group but it is Lars Albert from the B group that wins the pole vault competition with a personal best of 5m10! In the meantime we don’t forget Suarez who jumps again a personal record of 4m80. A lot of calculating (Beijing) was done in this competition. Schrader (?), Niklaus and Abele where still in the running. Respectively by means of possibilities: 8203/8339/8441 with their pb’s.
Time almost 15.30 and the wind changes so radically (even after Lili Schwarzkopf threw a meeting record of 54m81 in the heptathlon) that the organizers are changing the throwing position in the reverse direction. There Martineau wins the javelin with his fourth personal best of day two. With 70m09 he was 7 cm short of breaking the meeting record from Dvorak in 2002 (70m15). Suarez is the second best thrower with 69m96, 13 cm behind Martineau. The three German medal contenders threw close to their bests, so that Abele was practically sure of a ticket but Niklaus had to run 4.29.40 to get the standard set by Behrenbruch. No reason to panic, because they have both a personal record under 4 min 20. But Schrader needed the impossible time of 4.20.15 and his best was until now 4.26.56 what means that he could only go for 8199 points.
I found out that if Martineau could repeat his effort of Götzis in the 1500, he would break the second day meeting record (4215) of Stefan Schmidt in 2000, in fact 4.33.39 was ok. I brought it on a paper two stages higher to the speaker of the meeting and suddenly, about fifteen minutes later, a loud voice in the stadium started speaking about the possibility of a second day record for Martineau. Like only a few other decathletes, Abele is not from this planet because he ran a time of 4.15.35 (assembling 8372 points) followed by Michael Schrader.
Obviously “impossible” is not in the vocabulary of Schrader because he ran 4 minutes 19.32 seconds and maid 8248 points that are sending him to the other side of the world. (His trainer Torsten Voss was gleaming.) With 4.21.54 and a winning score of 8451 points Suarez did a second Cuban and a second “special” world record (for a later article) in fewer than a month time! Eugene Martineau did a second day personal record although not a meeting record but has with his pr total of 8233 his ticket to. (This week more story’s to come.)
Niklaus arrived in 4.24.82 good for a 8273 score. Abele, Niklaus and Schrader that’s the deserved top three that go’s to Beijing. Ten of the finishing nineteen did a pb total. Nevertheless it is such a pity that athletes like Pascal Behrenbruch can not go, athletes like him should be given a wild card! There is much more in him than the 8242. Will he come back and revenge stronger than ever?