Christina Clemons at the ISTAF Indoor in Berlin (© Getty Images)
Christina Clemons and Malaika Mihambo produced world-leading performances in the 60m hurdles and long jump, respectively, to highlight the ISTAF Indoor, a World Athletics Indoor Tour Silver meeting, at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin on Friday (5).
Clemons, the 2018 world indoor silver medallist, forged a lead early and held on en route to a 7.83 victory to handily fend off Dutchwoman Nadine Visser and Nooralotta Neziri of Finland, who clocked 7.90 and 7.91. The race marked the first victory of the season for Clemons and for Neziri, her second national record in three races this year.
"I could have been a little more aggressive in the middle of the race but I was able to recover and ran a really good time for me at this time of the year," said Clemons, who clocked 7.88 in her season opener in Fayetteville on 24 January.
"Indoor season is still important for me because this is an Olympic year and I can use this to prepare myself for the outdoor season, gain some confidence and just run really well."
The men's race was closer, with Aaron Mallett, who finished second in Karlsruhe and Dusseldorf last week, edging Orlando Ortega in a photo finish, both credited with 7.64.
Mihambo set the tone quickly, reaching 6.77m in the opening round to add two centimetres to the previous world lead set by Monae Nichols 13 days ago, and to ultimately seal the victory. She followed up with 6.62m and 6.61m efforts in the next two rounds, before fouling in each of the last three.
"I am happy with my performance," Mihambo said. "There were more good attempts, however they were invalid."
Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk of Ukraine came closest with her 6.64m season's best in the fifth round. Taliyah Brooks of the US was third with 6.49, also a season's best.
Ernest John Obiena had a good day in the pole vault, twice improving his own Philippines national record, first equalling it at 5.62, before topping 5.72 and 5.80m, the latter on his first attempt to seal the countback victory over German Torben Blech. Obiena’s leap was just one centimetre shy of his absolute best in September 2019.
Action in the sprints rounded out the action on the straightaway.
Arthur Cisse clocked a 6.53 season's best to equal the Ivory Coast national record he set at this meeting two years ago. He edged Lamont Marcell Jacobs of Italy, who improved his PB to 6.55.
Maja Mihalinec-Zidar of Slovenia won the women's race in 7.23, holding off Germany's Lisa Mayer, who clocked 7.26.
With strict pandemic regulations and restrictions in place, the meeting was held without spectators.
"During these challenging times I am especially happy that our detailed hygiene concept worked perfect," said Meeting Director Martin Seeber. "The response from the athletes is overwhelming and a confirmation for making this meeting possible with our great partners in the sports metropolis Berlin."
With clean sheets after two of the three ISTAF meetings, Cisse and Mihambo are in pole positions to win the 2021 ISTAF-Trophy. The final will take place on 12 September in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium where the winner of the €30,000 Trophy prize will be decided.
Jorg Wenig and Bob Ramsak for World Athletics