Robert Harting on his way to winning the discus at the European Championships
The ISTAF Berlin meeting, part of the IAAF World Challenge, will see nine Olympic, 15 world and 15 European champions lining up on the blue track of Berlin’s iconic Olympic stadium on Sunday (31).
Poster boy and local hero Robert Harting will be looking to maintain his strong form in the discus, which saw him being crowned European champion only two weeks ago.
The world and Olympic champion calls the stadium his “living room” and hasn’t been defeated there in four years.
Looking to spoil the party will be Poland’s former European champion Piotr Malachowski as well as 2008 Olympic champion Gerd Kanter from Estonia, while one of the event’s all-time greats, Lithuania’s Virgilijus Alekna, will be using the meet to say goodbye to the sport.
The 42-year-old double Olympic and double world champion still holds the second furthest throw ever with 73.88m and won the prestigious meet, which celebrates its 73rd edition this year, at three previous editions.
Meanwhile, the women’s hammer is part of the IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge and world record-holder Betty Heidler, who is one of six local athletes in the field, will take on third in the all-time lists Anita Wlodarczyk.
The Pole took the European title in Zurich in a championship record of 78.76m, the third best throw ever, and could be a threat to the meeting record of 77.40m.
Newly crowned Diamond Race winner Reese Hoffa will face a loaded field consisting of Germany’s double world champion David Storl, fellow US thrower and world leader Joe Kovacs, Poland’s double Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski, Jamaica’s Commonwealth Games champion O’Dayne Richards and New Zealand’s world indoor bronze medallist Tom Walsh. All will be looking to get close to the 21.62m meeting record.
In the women’s event, European champion Christina Schwanitz is the clear favourite to take the victory.
Europe versus the world
On the track, European 800m champion Adam Kszczot of Poland is looking to challenge Ethiopia’s world champion Mohammed Aman.
Algeria’s Olympic 1500m champion Taoufik Makhloufi and Olympic bronze medallist Timothy Kitum could also challenge.
The women’s 100m hurdles is promising to be another highlight on the track with a field consisting of world and European champions and medallists including the likes of US pair Brianna Rollins and Nia Ali, Great Britain’s Tiffany Porter and local star Cindy Roleder.
In the men’s event two years ago, it was no one less than Olympic champion Aries Merritt who set a meeting record of 12.97 before clocking a world record of 12.80 a week later at the IAAF Diamond League final in Brussels.
On Sunday, Merritt will be going head to head against 2008 Olympic champion Dayron Robles.
Moldner-Schmidt to inspire home crowd
The women’s 3000m steeplechase was initially not part of the schedule, but after Antje Moldner-Schmidt’s gutsy gold medal run at the European Championships, the event was added to the timetable.
Moldner-Schmidt proved an inspiration to many when taking the European title after returning from breast cancer only four years ago.
In the men’s 100m, Trinidad and Tobago’s Richard Thompson and South Africa’s Simon Magakwe who have both recorded times below 10 seconds this season.
Also going to the blocks will be Great Britain’s world indoor 60m champion Richard Kilty as well as Sven Knipphals, Lucas Jakubczyk and Alexander Kosenkow, three members of Germany’s European 4x100m silver medal squad.
Another European champion from Zurich gracing the track in Berlin will be Britain’s Martyn Rooney, who will face the likes of Kevin Borlee and Isaac Makwala, while Germany’s Kamghe Gaba is hoping to take get a boost from the home crowd.
The men’s pole vault features world indoor champion Konstantinos Filippidis as well as Jan Kudlicka and Pawel Wojciechowksi, two European medallists, while the men’s long jump sees 2010 European champion Christian Reif line up against South Africa’s Zarck Visser and Godfrey Mokoena.
It’s not just the athletes who are promising to light up the track with their performances. The organisers’ new concept “ISTAF 3.0” is going to be short, sweet and loud, and will feature a tunnel-like entrance similar to that of the IAAF World Relays as well as fireworks, athletes’ individual music requests and more.
Michelle Sammet for the IAAF