Previews30 Aug 2019

Berlin’s ISTAF provides dress rehearsal for World Championships


Andreas Hofmann in action in the javelin at the ISTAF meeting in Berlin (© Bongarts / Getty Images)

The combination of top fields and hot weather for Berlin’s ISTAF on Sunday (1) means the IAAF World Challenge meeting will act like a dress rehearsal for the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019.

Pole vaulters Sam Kendricks and Armand Duplantis, javelin throwers Thomas Röhler and Johannes Vetter, sprint hurdlers Omar McLeod and Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, long jumpers Malaika Mihambo and Ivana Spanovic as well as steeplechaser Gesa Krause are just some of the top names set to compete in the German capital.

More than 37,000 tickets have already been sold for Germany’s most prestigious athletics meeting. For a number of athletes the ISTAF provides a final opportunity to qualify for the World Championships. For others it is a true test as temperatures in the German capital are expected to soar to 30C on Sunday.

“In just one afternoon we shall be offering fans top drawer athletics and the best Germans against top performers from around the world,” said meeting director Martin Seeber. “Spectators can experience 16 world-class contests. The deadline for World Championship qualifying closes a few days after ISTAF. Many stars are going to be going all out one more time; for some ISTAF will perhaps be their last chance to jump on board the train for the World Championships. The weather should also play a role. With Berlin’s fantastic fans, we want to turn the 78th edition of ISTAF into a World Championships turbo-charger for the athletes.”

Clash of the six-metre vaulters and 90-metre throwers

The pole vault and the javelin could well produce extraordinary results on Sunday. The top three vaulters in the world at present will be on the runway and this trio are the only men to have cleared six metres this season: Sam Kendricks of the USA, who has a season’s best of 6.06m, Piotr Lisek of Poland, whose height of 6.02m this year is a Polish record, and European champion Armand Duplantis of Sweden who has twice cleared 6.00m this year.

Duplantis will be returning to the stadium in which he won the continental title last year, clearing a world U20 record of 6.05m.

The elite of German men’s javelin throwing will also be in Berlin. Olympic and European champion Thomas Röhler has a season’s best of 86.99m while world champion Johannes Vetter and national champion Andreas Hofmann will offer stiff competition. All three should be vying for medals in Doha.

“I’m looking forward so much to ISTAF, it will be a top quality competition,” said Vetter. “I won here in 2016 and 2017 but had to miss the 2018 European Championships and this year’s German Championships. It’s high time to set Berlin rocking!”

Triple Olympic medallist Andre De Grasse is the top name in the men’s 100m. The Canadian is returning to form after lengthy injury and has a best this year of 9.98.

Other sub-10-second performers in the field are Japan’s Yoshihide Kiryu, South Africa’s Commonwealth champion Akani Simbine, Jamaica’s Tyquendo Tracey and Canadian champion Aaron Brown.

World and Olympic champion Omar McLeod is a late entry to the men’s sprint hurdles but will start as favourite when he lines up against European champion Pascal Martinot-Lagarde of France and German champion Gregor Traber.

In the discus, world and European champion Andrius Gudžius of Lithuania competes against Olympic champion Christoph Harting and Poland’s Piotr Małachowski.

Mihambo and Krause set to delight home fans

The back straight in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium should provide plenty of entertainment for long jump fans. European champion and world leader Malaika Mihambo is the top hope for home fans as she takes on a quartet of women who, like her, have jumped beyond seven metres: world indoor champion Ivana Spanovic, 2015 world silver medallist Shara Proctor, European indoor silver medallist Nastassia Mironchyk-Ivanova and Olympic silver medallist Yelena Sokolova.

Gesa Krause enjoys running on Berlin’s blue track. It was here that she won the European steeplechase title a year ago and this season achieved her fifth national title on the same track. At the 2015 ISTAF Krause ran a national record of 6:04.20 for the 2000m steeplechase, also running a national record of 9:11.85 for the standard steeplechase distance of 3000m in 2017.

She improved that record to 9:07.51 at the IAAF Diamond League final in Zurich on Thursday night, so Krause will be in top form when she returns to Berlin on Sunday when she drops down in distance to the 2000m.

There will be plenty more for the home fans to cheer with the German contingent led by Gina Lückenkemper in the 100m. They will have to be at their best against the fastest woman in the field, China’s Ge Manqi who has run 11.04 this season.

Late silver medal for Friedrich

For one athlete, the meeting will be an emotional highlight 10 years after ‘her’ World Championships. German high jumper Ariane Friedrich, now 35, will receive, retrospectively, the silver medal from the 2009 World Championships in the Olympic Stadium after Russia’s Anna Chicherova, who finished ahead of her on that occasion, was disqualified for doping in February 2018.

“I am so looking forward to ISTAF,” said Friedrich, who wanted to have the retrospective ceremony at Germany’s oldest athletics meeting. “Of course it would have been better if nobody had taken drugs and I would have experienced all this in 2009. The fact that I am now going to receive the medal retrospectively at ISTAF is a happy ending and perfect culmination.

“It was at ISTAF in 2008 that I first jumped two metres outdoors and in 2009 I set the German record – and afterwards won the World Championship medal in Berlin,” added Friedrich, whose silver medal will be presented by IAAF CEO Jon Ridgeon.

Organisers for the IAAF