Following a series of explosive jumps, Ariane Friedrich celebrates a huge pb, national record and world leading height of 2.06m (Getty Images) © Copyright
Report Berlin, Germany

Friedrich Fireworks! 2.06m leap in Berlin - ÅF Golden League REPORT

With a performance as thrilling and heart-pounding as it was confident and gutsy, Ariane Friedrich rocked the foundation of Berlin’s historic Olympic stadium with a 2.06m leap in the High Jump to steal the show at the DKB-ISTAF Meeting in the German capital this afternoon, capping the kick-off of the ÅF Golden League series and with it the hunt for the $1 million ÅF Golden League Jackpot.

Already one of Germany’s strongest medal hopes for the upcoming World championships in August at this same stadium, the 25-year-old’s star rose considerably higher after her classy performance which should quickly render Thursday, 20 August – the night of the women’s world championships High Jump final – into a sell out. Friedrich became only the seventh woman ever to sail over 2.06m, a mark which also eclipsed Heike Henkel’s 2.05m leap, set when winning the 1991 World title, as the German national record.

“I really wanted to make a statement for Berlin in two months time,” said Friedrich, whose previous outdoor best was 2.03 from last year. She had already leaped 2.05m indoors last winter, and took the European indoor title “And also for German athletics.”

Tantalizing close at 2.09m

Only she and World champion Blanka Vlasic remained in the competition when the bar was raised to 2.00m, which both cleared with their first attempts. The Croatian brushed the bar at 2.03 but it stayed on, to take the lead. Undeterred, Friedrich simply passed. After Vlasic missed her first go at 2.06m, Friedrich, jumping in dark sunglasses, sailed well clear, electrifying the crowd of 63,896. Captivating their collective imagination, Friedrich produced two very good attempts at a world record-equalling 2.09m, her second tantalizingly close. Vlasic too took two jumps at 2.09m, but neither were as close as Friedrich's.

[For more with Friedrich, see related story 'For Friedrich, simply a 'Wow!' day']

Richards unchallenged

Friedrich’s was one of four world leading performances at the 68th edition of the DKB-ISTAF, the others came from dominating victories by Sanya Richards in the 400m (49.57), Augustine Choge in the 1500m (3:29.47), and Yelena Isinbayeva in the Pole Vault (4.83m).

Richards, who shared the 2007 Jackpot with Isinbayeva, got off to a cautious start, but by midway through the final turn, had built a clear lead that her pursuers simply could not respond to. Her graceful strides through the homestretch, unchallenged, were classic Richards, and so was the time, a world leading 49.57. Besides Richards herself, no woman has run this fast since 2006.

“I came here to run fast,” said Richards, who certainly achieved her goal, thanks at least in part to some additional sacrifice during her brief stay in the German capital. “I didn’t even go shopping before the race, and I love to shop in Berlin. But I had to save my energy.”

African champion Amantla Montsho was a very distant second, nearly a second-and-a-half back with a season’s best 50.94.

Isinbayeva at ease

Yelena Isinbayeva said yesterday that an early June start to her outdoor campaign is about a month too early. By her own standards, that assessment showed in her performance today, but she nonetheless easily managed a 4.83m clearance to take the victory, debut as the world season leader, and kick off her Jackpot quest. After sailing clear at her opening 4.68m and 4.83m on her first attempts, 4.93m proved to be well out of reach.

Vaulting Poles Monika Pyrek and Anna Rogowska were second and third, clearing season’s bests of 4.78 and 4.68 respectively. Fabiana Murer (4.68m) of Brazil, whom Isinbayeva supplanted as world leader, was fourth on the countback.

Bekele and Pitkämäki do just enough to join the Jackpot chase

Unlike in his previous attempt in 2006, Kenenisa Bekele survived the first round of the Jackpot chase, but admitted it wasn’t an easy chore.

“I had to work really hard for the victory,” the double Olympic champion said, after managing to kick to a 13:00.76 victory, his 12th straight over the distance.

Biding his time, the Ethiopian was sixth in a relatively tight pack with two laps to go, but made his move for the front as he approached the bell. Kenyan Micah Kogo (third, 13:01.30) briefly gave him a chase, as did Abraham Chebii down the home straight, but would have to be content with second in 13:01.08.

Bekele said that he’s on his way to full strength, having resumed training after an injury setback last fall just three months ago. “But I still have time to get into better shape before the world championships.”

Also moving on in the Jackpot hunt is Finn Tero Pitkämäki, the World champion in the javelin. Second to arch rival and two-time Olympic champion Andreas Thorkildsen after the first round, Pitkämäki reached 86.53 in the fourth round to beat the Norwegian’s 85.48m throw by more than a metre.

Poland’s Igor Janik was a surprise third place finisher with a 83.52m throw in the fifth round.

Stewart, Bailey, Faulk, Cherry and Brown join the Jackpot hunt

After a stumble in the blocks and pulling away from a fairly even field at 60 metres, Kerron Stewart fulfilled her favourite’s role to take a commanding victory in the 100m. The Beijing Olympic double medallist stopped the clock at 11.00, well clear of American Stephanie Durst (11.15) and Jamaican Sheri-Ann Brooks (11.18). It was the fifth 100m victory in six outings for Stewart, who won’t race again until the Jamaican selection trials for the World championships.

Despite the slowest reaction in the field, Daniel Bailey of Antigua lived up to his ‘man to beat’ role as well in the men’s 100m, accelerating in the second half en route to a commanding 10.03 victory. Briton Simeon Williamson was a distant second (10.13) with Marc Burns of Trinidad third (10.15).

[For more on the 100m winners see related story 'Stewart and Bailey keep "Jamaica" at the top of sprinting events in Berlin']

Closing hard over the final three barriers, Dexter Faulk of the USA took the 110m Hurdles in 13.18, another personal best this season for the 25-year-old. For Faulk, who began the season with as a 13.34 hurdler, it was the fourth time he improved his lifetime best this season. He edged compatriots Ryan Wilson (13.21) and Olympic silver medallist David Payne (13.22) to move on to Oslo as part of the Jackpot chase group.

In the women’s sprint hurdles, Lacena Golding Clarke had the early advantage, but it didn’t last long. American Damu Cherry, fourth in Beijing last summer, drew even by hurdle four and built a clear lead by the fifth, en route to a 12.76 win. Cherry was content, but knows that she’ll have to be considerably faster at the US championships later this month to earn a return trip to Berlin in August.

Delloreen Enns-London edged Clarke in the waning stages to take second, 12.98 to 13.00.

Earlier, Bahamian Chris Brown became the first GL event winner after he held off African record holder Gary Kikaya in a fierce homestretch battle in the 400m in 45.61. Kikaya clocked 45.68 with Michael Mathieu of the Bahamas third (45.92).

Elsewhere - Choge emerges as solid 1500m threat

With an impressive resume from the 1500m to the 5000, Augustine Choge seems to be a man on a mission to find his true athletics calling. After his powerful display in the 1500m this afternoon, he might have found it.

As the bell sounded the final lap, the 22-year-old confidently began a powerful final circuit en route to a 3:29.47 personal best and world leader. His performance was frustratingly shy of Said Aouita’s 3:29.46 meet record set 24 years ago.

“It was my fourth time here,” said Choge, who won the 1500m last year as well. “I want to win a fifth time in August.”

Haron Keitany produced another solid performance and again finished second in 3:30.20, slicing 0.70 seconds from his career best. 19-year-old William Biwott impressed in third, clocking 3:32.34 to become the sixth fastest junior ever.

South African Godfrey Mokoena, the reigning Olympic silver medallist, dominated the Long Jump from the outset. His opening round effort of 8.27m (which he equaled in the third) would have sufficed for the win, although he improved to 8.33m with his fifth jump to equal his season’s best.

Greek Louis Tsatoumas was second at 8.15m, and Senegal’s Ndiss Kaba Badji (8.05m) third. After a “hard training week” to make up for missed time while ill last month, Germany’s Sebastian Bayer, the European indoor champion, was a distant seventh at 7.95m.

Kanter entends win streak to 17

Germany’sRobert Harting controlled the Discus Throw competition for the first two rounds, taking the lead in the first and extending it with a 66.17m throw in the second. But the 2007 world championships silver medallist stalled after that (he eventually finished , opening the door for Gerd Kanter and Piotr Malachowski, the Beijing gold and silver medallists. And the pair took full advantage.

Kanter, the only 70m thrower this season, took the lead in the third round with a 67.35m throw, and improved to 67.88 in the fifth, an effort that would hold up for victory. Malachowski, also the Polish record holder, gave chase, reaching 67.01 in the fourth round and nearly stealing the victory with his final round 67.70m. It was the Estonian’s 11th victory of the year, and his 17th straight.

Germany nonetheless took the first win of the afternoon with Nadine Kleinert’s victory in the Shot Put. Two of the 22-year-old’s efforts – her 19.33m in the third round and 19.39m in the sixth – would have sufficed for the win, with Olympic silver medallist Natallia Miknhevich of Belarus coming closest with a 19.26m best, also from the third round.

Kleinert said she was happy with the win, but was seeking more consistency. “I wanted to get closer to 20 metres, and I was hoping to go beyond 19 metres with all my throws.

Italy’s Chiara Rosa was third after equaling her own national record of 19.15m.

Also in the pre-programme, Robin Schembera produced another German victory, kicking from fourth to first off the final turn to take the 800min 1:45.96. Briton Michael Rimmer was second (1:46.31, SB) and Kenyan Reuben Bett (1:46.68) third.

Bob Ramsak for the IAAF

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Athletics’ biggest yearly payday - ÅF Golden League Jackpot

The prize - $1 Million

The requirement - ‘6 out of 6’

The annual drama that is the season long campaign to claim the $1 Million Jackpot offered by the ÅF Golden League continues in 2009 with its ‘winner takes all’ ethos. Athletes are required to win at all six meetings in the series to acquire at least a share of athletics’ biggest yearly payday.

The possibility of a secondary prize also exists:

To sustain the active participation in the Jackpot of as many athletes as possible through to the culmination of the series, should NO athlete manage to attain six wins and claim the $1 Million, then anyone with five victories will share half the original prize - $500,000. NOTE. this secondary prize is only on offer should nobody win his or her event at all six meetings.

Cities and Dates for 2009 -

Berlin, GER – Sunday 14 June
Oslo, NOR – Friday 3 July
Rome, ITA – Friday 10 July
Paris, FRA – Friday 17 July
Zürich, SUI – Friday 28 August
Brussels, BEL – Friday 4 September