The women's steeplechase in Berlin (© ISTAF / Camera 4)
Eight recently crowned world champions along with the cream of Germany's track and field stars will highlight the 76th edition of Berlin’s ISTAF, an IAAF World Challenge meeting, on Sunday (27).
The meeting, which has deep historical roots in the German capital, will also serve as a dress rehearsal for next year's European Championships which will also be staged at Berlin's Olympic Stadium, host to the 2009 IAAF World Championships.
Two weeks after the IAAF World Championships London 2017, eight gold medallists will be in action: 200m winner Ramil Guliyev of Turkey in the 100m, where he's taking on Adam Gemili, a member of Great Britain's victorious 4x100m relay squad; Sam Kendricks of the USA in the pole vault; Lithuania's Andrius Gudzius in the discus; 800m champion Caster Semenya of South Africa who'll contest the rarely-run 600m; 200m winner Dafne Schippers who'll compete in the 4x100m; 400m champion Phyllis Francis of the USA who'll compete in the 200m; and javelin champion Johannes Vetter of Germany who'll compete in his specialty.
German fans have a wide range of treats in store including their Olympic champions Thomas Röhler in the javelin as well as the Harting brothers, Robert and Christoph, who will be headlining the discus. Rising 1500m star Konstanze Klosterhalfen will also compete, along with steeplechaser Gesa Krause, two-time world shot put champion David Storl and the German sprint relay squad which features Gina Lückenkemper and Lisa Mayer
“In sporting terms this is the best line-up we’ve had for a long time," said Meeting Director Martin Seeber. "The spectators will see countless medallists in action and thrilling competitions in 15 events. Apart from the top international stars I’m especially pleased about the “German New Wave” – young athletes whose great performances and relaxed approach really strike a chord. Personalities who also give our sport profile away from the stadium and bring a breath of fresh air."
London pole vault podium reunion
The field events could well be where the men's headline performances will be produced. The pole vault includes a rematch between London winner Sam Kendricks, Pole Piotr Lisek and Renaud Lavillenie of France, the silver and bronze medallist behind him. A thrilling World Championship final ended in victory for Kendricks, this year's world leader at 6.00m, who cleared 5.95m, while Lisek and Lavillenie, the world record holder, topped out at 5.89m.
Berlin will also host the best male javelin throwers in the world. In addition to Vetter and Röhler, who finished fourth in London, the competition includes the World Championship silver medallist Jakub Vadlejch and bronze medallist Petr Frydrych, both from Czech Republic. Valejch lifted the IAAF Diamond League's Diamond Trophy in the event for the second straight year with his victory in Zurich on Thursday.
The discus includes the Harting brothers, Berlin’s Olympic champions, plus Gudzius, the man who sprang a big surprise at the World Championships to win the gold. Mason Finley of the USA, Martin Wierig of Germany, last year’s ISTAF winner Lukas Weißhaidinger of Austria and Piotr Malachowski of Poland are also in the field.
Semenya targets 600m world best
Meanwhile, the middle and long distance races should provide the highlights on the women’s side of the programme. At Semenya's request, organisers have included a 600m race on the programme. The world and Olympic 800m champion's target could be the rarely-run event's world best of 1:22.63 which was set by Cuban Anna Fidelia Quirot 20 years ago.
“Berlin is my city – and I want to end my season there with a super-fast time,” said the 26-year-old. But Semenya, whose best 600m time is 1:25.56, will have to contend with top class competition. Among the South African’s rivals will be Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi, who won silver medals in both London and Rio.
Krause will surely have the spectators behind her as she tries to bounce back from her disappointment at the World Championships. After being tripped in the final and tumbling to the track, she was left well back in the field but eventually clawed her way back to finish ninth.
“That’s sport for you, falling down is part and parcel of it,” she said. The German record holder with 9:15.70 will face London silver medallist Courtney Frerichs of USA, who clocked 9:03.77 in the London final.
ISTAF will also witness the introduction of a 250 square metre fan tribune, which will act as a tunnel for the athletes. The aim of the tribune, which measure ten metres wide, 25 metres long and four metres high, according to organisers, is to bring athletes and fans closer together.
“We want stars and role models that are accessible in track and field," Seeber said. "We want to create a place right in the stadium where fans big and small can meet their idols, collect autographs and have selfies taken."
Organisers for the IAAF