Robert Harting at Berlin's ISTAF, his farewell meeting (© Bongarts/Getty Images)
Caster Semenya produced another extraordinary result at the 77th ISTAF in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium on Sunday (2), a day when 45,500 spectators turned out to honour retiring discus legend Robert Harting.
A year after breaking the world best for 600m at this IAAF World Challenge meeting, the South African stormed to the fifth fastest 1000m time in history. Running without pacemakers Semenya clocked 2:30.70, a world lead and South African record.
Once the field got going at the second attempt after an initial false start, Semenya stormed ahead to take command. Passing 400m in 59.51, she was on schedule for a sub-2:30 time, which could have threatened the 2:28.98 world record set by Russia's Svetlana Masterkova 22 years ago. Running alone, she slowed over the second lap, passing 800m in 2:01.07 before reaching the finish to clip 0.31 from the national record she set earlier this year.
It was a great race, but I was tiring a little bit because I was leading the entire time," said Semenya, competing three days after taking the IAAF Diamond League 800m title in Zurich. "I am very happy with the time. The crowd was fantastic, the meeting and the stadium are amazing."
Behind her Uganda’s Halima Nakaayi and Kenya's Nelly Jepkosgei broke national records as well, taking second and third in 2:34.88 and 2:35.30 respectively.
Freitas takes inaugural ISTAF mile
For the first time in the long history of the ISTAF a women’s mile race was staged. The inaugural honours went to Marta Pen Freitas who won in 4:22.45, breaking the Portuguese national record. Kate Grace of the US was second in 4:23.23 while Germany's Konstanze Klosterhalfen, who led briefly mid-race, finished third in 4:24.27.
"I am happy with my record," said Freitas, who was sixth in the 1500m at the European Championships. "The European Championships did not go that well for me so it is great to come back and win here today. I just graduated from college and will go back to the US and plan my next steps."
Another strong performance came in the women's 3000m steeplechase, won by Colleen Quigley of the US with a personal best of 9:10.27 from Kenyan Daisy Jepkemei who clocked 9:14.66. Further back, Australia's Genevieve Lacaze was third in 9:23.69 ahead of Marusa Mismas who clocked a 9:28.61 national record for Slovenia.
Ta Lou tops Ahye
Ivory Coast’s Marie-Josee Ta Lou, the fastest woman in the world this year, won the 100m in 11.08 from Trinidad and Tobago's Michelle-Lee Ahye, who clocked 11.13. Finishing strongly Germany's Gina Lückenkemper took third in 11.18. At the end of the programme Lückenkemper steered the German 4x100m relay to a win, clocking 42.98 ahead of Great Britain (43.19) and Switzerland (43.35).
Three days after his third place finish in the Diamond League final, Olympic javelin champion Thomas Röhler bounced back in Berlin, winning with 86.50m. Fellow Germans Julian Weber (85.54m) and Zurich winner Andreas Hofmann (85.09m) finished second and third.
"I had a lot of fun today, especially the lap of honour, which felt like at European Championships," Rohler said. "Our German triple triumph felt amazing. We live as one team and all get along very well. That’s an important piece of our success. I won today, that was my goal. The result wasn’t too important to me, but 86.50m is very good for the end of season."
In the shot put, Christina Schwanitz managed to win in the Olympic Stadium a month after a narrow defeat to Paulina Guba at the European Championships. The German took the Shot Put with 19.25m from Poland's Guba who reached 18.58m.
In the 1500m Timothy Cheruiyot again confirmed his position as the world's number one metric miler. Three days after his triumph in Zurich he won with a fine 3:32.37 from fellow-Kenyan Ferguson Rotich who was nearly a second back in 3:33.21. Ismael Debjani of Belgium was third in 3:34.40.
Jamaican Tyquendo Tracey won the 100m in 10.05 from Panama’s Alonso Edward (10.08) and Isiah Young (USA/10.15). This was also the farewell race of 2003 world champion Kim Collins, who finished eighth in the field of nine in 10.45. He later confirmed: "Yes, this was my last race."
Harting's last hurrah
At the end it was all about Robert Harting. After a spectacular introduction of athletes it was Harting’s brother Christoph who slightly spoiled the party, winning the competition with 65.67m. His brother took second, throwing 64.95m on his very last attempt. Compatriot Martin Wierig was third with 63.67m. Most of the 45,500 spectators stayed in their seats to the end of the competition to celebrate Robert Harting, giving him a perfect farewell.
"This was an amazing goodbye at ISTAF today," said Harting, who won 2008 Olympic gold, three world titles and pair of European crowns during his exemplary career. "I feel very honoured that so many people showed up. I always tried to be good example and we have grown together over the past years. Yesterday, I left home a little sad because I knew when I came back home I won’t be a professional athlete anymore. Right now I am really happy and hope I can take all the positive emotions with me."
"Today I felt really great," he continued. "I was in a good mood and I could not think too much about myself because of the amazing crowd that celebrated such a great party. During my career I was especially grateful for the people who let me be the person I really am. I am really proud that everything worked out pretty well.“
Jorg Wenig (organisers) for the IAAF