Berlin, GermanyBerlin’s ISTAF Meeting will celebrate its 90th birthday on Sunday with its 70th edition, and 29 medal winners from the World Championships, along with a boisterous crowd of some 53,000, will be joining the festivities at Berlin’s historic Olympic Stadium.
At last count, winners of 33* medals from the World Championships - 11 gold, 11 silver and 11 bronze - will be competing at the 1936 Olympic Stadium in the penultimate 2011 IAAF World Challenge Meeting, hoping to add their mark on the rich legacy of Germany’s largest annual athletics event and one of the oldest track & field meet in the world.
Red-hot Blake leads 100m field
While some athletes may still be adjusting to the seven time zone travel westward from Daegu, Yohan Blake clearly isn’t one of them. The 21-year-old Jamaican followed up his World 100m triumph and 4x100m Relay World record-setting escapades in Korea with a blazing 9.82 performance in Zurich on Thursday night, a personal best which elevated him several notches to No. 7 all-time.
As in Zurich, his compatriot Michael Frater, another member of the record-setting 4x100m team, and Daegu bronze medallist Kim Collins of St Kitts and Nevis will be trying to stop him. Or at least keep up.
The women's 100m will have a strong Caribbean flair as well, led by Daegu bronze medallist Kelly-Ann Baptiste of Trinidad, and Jamaicans Kerron Stewart and Sherone Simpson.
Can James’s hot momentum continue?
In Daegu Kirani James became the youngest 400m World champion and is now off to prove that his triumph there wasn’t a one-hit wonder. He’s off to a good start. The 19-year-old had no peer in the Zurich homestretch where he prevailed in 44.36, a national record for Grenada. He looked strong in the Zurich homestretch, too, suggesting the teenager still has a bit in the tank left in the late season. His chief competitor is his compatriot Rondell Bartholomew, who was sixth in Daegu.
The women’s 400m features Americans Sanya Richards-Ross and Francena McCorory and Anastasiya Kapachinskaya of Russia, who raced to her second consecutive World bronze in the event in Daegu. Along with Kapachinkaya (49.35) and Richards-Ross (49.66) who took the 2009 World title on this track, Jamaican Rosemarie Whyte (49.84) and Antonina Krivoshapka (49.92) have also dipped under 50 seconds this year.
In the women’s 800m Caster Semenya returns to the setting of her 2009 World triumph. The South African took world silver in Daegu and will again face Kenyan Janeth Jepkosgei, the woman she succeeded as World champion, who took bronze in Daegu. Both finished well of the pace in Zurich, Jepkosgei fourth and Semenya fifth, and will be eager to rebound in Berlin.
Homecoming for Deagu throws heroes
Nearly across the board, Germany’s strong throwing Corps returned from Daegu wearing medals, giving them a strong presence on centre stage on Sunday.
David Storl, the surprise winner, will face World leader Dylan Armstong of Canada and reigning Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski of Poland. Armstrong got the better of both in Zurich’s main train station on Wednesday, with the Pole back in fourth and Storl in fifth.
In the Discus Throw, ISTAF poster boy Robert Harting, who successfully defended his World title in Daegu, will be the man to beat in his specialty. Despite an ongoing knee problem, the 26-year-old took home the victory in Zurich on Thursday night and will be difficult to topple on home turf. He’ll take on Estonia’s Gerd Kanter, the Daegu silver medallist, and arch-rival Piotr Malachowski of Poland.
On the women’s side, Hammer Throw World record holder Betty Heidler will be aiming to avenge her loss in Daegu to Russia’s Tatyana Lysenko. The field also includes Poland’s Anita Wlodarczyk, who won the World title and set a World record here in 2009, and Germany’s No. 2 Katrin Klaas.
The women’s Javelin Throw features another high performance tussle between the event’s Big Three. Russia’s Maria Abakumova arrives as the World champion and world leader, and Olympic champion Barbora Spotakova as the World silver medallist. Meanwhile, Christina Obergfoll, who finished fourth in Daegu in what turned out to be the finest competition the event has ever witnessed, arrives after beating both in Zurich where she captured the Samsung Diamond Race Trophy in the event, propelled by a 69.57m season’s best. Germany’s Katharina Molitor, fifth in Daegu, will also be looking for a strong performance at home.
Strutz looking for home field victory
Martina Strutz has been one of the finds in the women’s Pole Vault this year and will certainly be on the receiving end of one of the loudest welcomes on Sunday. Rising to the occasion on the world’s biggest stage, the 29-year-old from nearby Mecklenburg upped the German record to 4.80m in Daegu to take World silver. She’ll take on World bronze medallist Svetlana Feofanova and compatriot Silke Spiegelburg, whose victory in Zurich brought with it the Diamond Race Trophy as well.
Action on the infield also includes a reunion of the men’s High Jump podium trio from Daegu, with champion Jesse Williams of the U.S. again taking on Russian Aleksey Dmitrik and Trevor Barry of the Bahamas. Barry, the brone medallist, had the least tired legs in Zurich where he finished second with a 2.30m clearance while Williams and Dmitrik were well back in fourth and =10th, respectively. Daegu finalist Ivan Ukhov of Russian and Czech Jaroslav Baba are also in the field.
And in the Long Jump, four-time World champion Dwight Phillips – one of those titles came in this stadium – will be the marked man.
In the women's 100m Hurdles the field will be chasing Olympic champion and Daegu bronze medallist Dawn Harper, who was also second in Zurich. British record holder Tiffany Porter (12.56) and American Kellie Wells (12.50) are also in the field. In the men's 400m Hurdles, Daegu bronze medallist and World leader L.J. van Zyl of South Africa will be the man to beat.
Momentum seems to be with Nixon Chepseba in the 1500m after the Kenyan secured the Diamond Race Trophy in Zurich. Compatriots Haron Keitany and Augustine Choge, who races well in Berlin, will be gunning for the upset.
In the 3000m Steeplechase, Paul Kipsiele Koech, the Diamond Race winner, returns to action as the fastest in the field - by far.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF
* as at 9 a.m. 10 September