Ratingen 2019: Review
As Ratingen welcomed us for the annual Mehrkampf-Meeting, this far into the 2019 decathlon season we’ve pretty much seen everyone and got a sense of form - from as far back as Jorge Ureña’s Indoor world lead in Valencia in December, to the last few weeks in Talence where we saw just as much of Kevin Mayer as he wanted us to see.
But one person has been missing. Basile Rolnin. After storming the indoor rankings and claiming a place at the European Indoors (and having a very good first day in Glasgow) he got injured, and we didn’t see much more of him, save for a few promising outdoor throws in France. Basile was due to start in Talence but was a last-minute withdrawal. His name was on the start list for Ratingen.
And it was worth the wait. While Kai Kazmirek rightly earned the headlines and on Day 1 heroically pulled out a 7.74m LJ and 46.81s 400m to break Erki Nool’s 400m meeting record while struggling with his achilles, the other comeback was happening with Rolnin. Four PBs in the first four events, including a throw of over 15m in the shot for the first time (a 60cm improvement) and a 4cm improvement in the HJ to 2.08.
Dominik Distelberger’s and Darko Pešić’s troubles continued on Day 1, Dominik feeling his achilles during his attempts at 1.93, and Darko pulling up in the 100m with hamstring problems. And on Day 2, Jannik Otto had a dramatic end to his hurdles, helped off the track by teammates Lennard Biere and Nils Kruse.
But Kazmirek and Rolnin had a strong start to Day 2 as both posted times close to their hurdle lifetime bests, and in the discus, Rolnin logged his 5th new mark of the competition in the discus, with 50.62 to win the discipline. But it looked as if the wheels might come off in the pole vault. While Kazmirek went onto clear 5.10m, Brugger no heighted at 4.60m. And Rolnin needed three attempts to get over his opening height of 4.50m, taking the bar off with his feet on the way up each time. He went no higher than 4.50m. What was happening?
Whatever had gone wrong for Rolnin was forgotten as we went into the javelin. The discipline started with nice new personal bests for Felix Wolter (50.72m) and Tom-Lucas Greiner (58.14m) but Rolnin took control again. Three throws, three improvements – 58.61m round 1, 60.00m in round 2, and 61.60m in round 3. And so, into the 1500m, where Rolnin needed to stay focused to score a Doha Qualifying mark.
Enter Gael. Querin had a mixed two days – a great personal record in the shot, but then a fall early in the hurdles. He continued in the competition and for the 1500m – like Jérémy Lelièvre for Kevin Mayer in 2018 – he had a job to do. Querin stayed next to Basile all the way around, shouting encouragement, waving his arms in circles, maintaining the pace which was some 30 seconds slower than he is capable of. And then as Rolnin crossed the line in 4:50.53, scoring 8205 – an improvement of 118 points on his previous best score to finish second, and more importantly to secure a World Championships qualifier - Gael lifted a bucket of water to pour over his collapsed teammate to help him recover from his magnificent performance.
An animated and delighted Basile relived his competition for Decathlonpedia:
“I can’t believe what happened, because I beat record after record! There was an incident in the pole vault at the end of the warm up. My hamstring hurt and I don’t know what I can do at this moment. So, my coach said – ok, you will take a little way to jump and just need one more. And I said Ok, it’s possible, but I don’t know if I can run! My physio stretched me - the third was good, and then I said - just javelin and the last race. It’s easy now!”
Talking about his three javelin throws, and his collection of other personal bests.
“It’s incredible! It’s a good story, a beautiful story because my last decathlon was two years ago here. I have no words!
All season, I said, your first decathlon will be Götzis. But I was unwell. After that it was my ankle, a problem since Glasgow. And then ten days ago my coach said, put your spikes on. And my ankle was good. Two days before – it’s not good! I said “Pfff - not possible, it’s the same pain. And now – I have nothing! Now I don’t know what’s happened!”
And on Gael’s pacing, à la Jeremy and Kevin…
“He agreed to do it. We are in the same training group, and he does this in training, running with me saying “Go Basile!” And so, he did the same thing in the race. I thought it would be easy because I was in good shape. But he was saying “Come on! Come on! COME ON! It’s always good to be compared to the world record holder. I’m very happy, I’m very happy.”
Behind Basile, Fredriech Pretorius had a decent competition, including a personal best in the discus, to finish third, and he told us a little bit more about the competition in South Africa which had affected both him and Thomas Van der Plaetsen in their first decathlons of the year.
“This is my second decathlon. We had a little mishap at our nationals, the electricity went out and we couldn’t really do a full decathlon. So, we did three events on one day and seven events on the other day. But I was totally out of it by the pole vault, since we had to do seven events. But so far, so good, we just have to keep on, I’ve been struggling with some injuries but luckily that’s coming to an end now. My coach just informed me we have a little event in Mauritius, going to do three events, going to try and sort out some technical stuff with the hurdles and the javelin to get a little extra points, after that it will be to the African Games in Morocco. Hopefully we can get a better score in African Games, and then maybe qualify for Doha.”
While Kai won with a majestic performance of 8444 for Olympic qualification and the fourth best score in the world in 2019, Ratingen was about more than just the big scores and the big qualifications – it was a fantastic celebration of the future of decathlon, particularly in Germany. Congratulations to everyone in the field who had great performances and made progress. Fynn Zenker went under 11 seconds for the 100m for the first time and improved his high jump best twice. Felix Wolter also ran the fastest 100m of his life and threw over 50m in the javelin for the first time. Jannis Wolff did almost as well as Basile in revising his scores, going under 11s for 100 and over 7m in the long jump for the first time, plus new marks in discus, 400m and overall decathlon. In the throws, Niklas Ransiek and Lennard Biere both had great shot performances, as did Tom-Lucas Greiner in the discus and in the javelin where he threw almost 5m further than ever before, as well as improving his decathlon mark. And few were more delighted than Nils Kruse as he cleared a new height of 4.40m in the pole vault. Thank you, Ratingen!
You can find the full results here.
Photo: Bjorn Paree