Robert Harting in the men's discus at the IAAF World Championships, Moscow 2013 (© Getty Images)
He calls the Olympic Stadium in Berlin his ‘living room’ so the three-time World champion Robert Harting is not going to be denied victory easily in the Discus at the IAAF World Challenge meeting in the German capital on Sunday.
In fact, the meeting organisers jokingly presented to him a pair of boxer shorts and a muck rake at Friday’s press conference because he had said last year that, if needs be, that’s what he would even defend his home ground and honour with.
Harting surprisingly lost to Estonia’s 2008 Olympic champion Gerd Kanter in Zurich on Thursday and will be looking in Berlin to bounce back from that defeat, which stopped him from taking the Diamond Race, against Poland’s Piotr Malachowski and another German Martin Wierig, who placed second and fourth at the recent IAAF World Championships, and who are also the only two other men to have beaten him this season.
Another event that is highly anticipated in Berlin is the women’s Hammer Throw which is the penultimate event in this year’s IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge.
Russia’s reigning Olympic and World champion Tatyana Lysenko should be the one to beat, but Poland’s 2012 European champion Anita Wlodarczyk, who finished second behind Lysenko both in London and Moscow, has a soft spot for the famous Berlin stadium as it was here four years ago that she won her World title with what was then a World record.
However, despite the popularity of Wlodarcyzk, the loudest cheers will probably be reserved for Germany’s own former World champion and the current World record-holder Betty Heidler, who was born and raised in Berlin, and who is returning to action after her disaster in Moscow where she crashed out in the qualifying rounds.
With two competitions to go, victory in this year’s challenge is yet to be decided but Wlodarczyk is leading with 232.74 metres, the cumulative distance of her best three performances in challenge meetings, so both Heidler (226.93m) and Lysenko (224.89m) have some catching up to do.
Holzdeppe, Obergfoll and Storl all present
In addition to Harting, Germany’s three other World champions from Moscow will also be the centre of attention in the Olympic Stadium.
In the javelin, Christina Obergfoll will be again facing Russia’s 2013 world leader and her predecessor as World champion Maria Abakumova.
Obergfoll, of course, had a memorable win at the World Championships but since then she has been beaten three times in three meetings by Abakumova, including at the IAAF Diamond League final in Zurich on Thursday.
Pole vaulter Raphael Holzdeppe is up against his familiar national rivals Bjorn Otto and Malte Mohr, who placed third and fifth at the World Championships, while shot putter David Storl is going to compete one last time against 35-year-old Ralf Bartels, who helped mentor Storl during the early part of his international career and who Storl credits with helping him win at the 2011 World Championships.
Bartels, a multiple medallist at major international championships including winning the 2006 European title, will end his career at the ISTAF meeting.
Interesting races can be expected over the middle distances with both the 800m champions from Moscow competing.
Aman back in action
Ethiopia’s Mohammed Aman will be racing over two laps, his first outing since Moscow, and the prodigious teenager is looking for a fast time, but Kenya’s Eunice Sum, who won the Diamond Race over 800m on Thursday, is going back to the 1500m, the distance at which she was focused on at the start of the season.
In the 3000m Steeplechase, Kenya’s World champion Ezekiel Kemboi will be hoping to do better than his two dismal outings in Stockholm and Zurich but is facing a tough race against his compatriots Paul Kipsiele Koech and Hillary Yego.
In the women’s Shot Put, New Zealand’s Valerie Adams is aiming for yet another victory in the wake of her 2013 world-leading performance in Zurich and it would be a huge surprise if anybody, including Germany’s World silver medallist Christina Schwanitz, will cause an upset as Adams hasn’t lost in three years.
No matter the outcome, German athletics fans will be cheering on Schwanitz and the rest of their national idols.
Ahead of the competitions, all seven of Germany’s 2013 World Championships medallists will be presented to the crowd, riding in convertible cars that will be driven into the arena.
Organisers are expecting a full stadium with 51,000 tickets already sold, and they are hoping for a capacity crowd of at least 55,000 fans in the 1936 Olympic Stadium.
Silke Bernhart for the IAAF