Bekele, Soi, Badji, Mokoena and Montsho on show at ISTAF in Berlin

Submitted by ATAF Editor on 13 June 2009 - 11:57pm

Tomorrow’s 68th edition of the Internationales Stadionfest DKB-ISTAF will present some of the meeting’s strongest entry lists ever and a highly dramatic kick-off in the fight for the jackpot of the ÅF Golden League, filled with one million US-dollars in Gold.

This time around, in the Berlin Athletics Championship year 2009 (August 15th to 23rd), the by far largest German track-and-field meeting will become the outdoor season’s first major international, high-class competition event.

The traditional DKB-ISTAF – ranked fourth in 2008, based on international points for athletic performances – will host more than 280 athletes from around the world. It will be staged this coming Sunday, June 14th 2009, starting at noon (main competitions to begin at 1 pm) at the historic Olympic Stadium of the German capital.

“In the year of the XIIth IAAF World Championships, we are particularly proud to present such an excellent entry list in a “One-Day World Championship” in order to give the Berlin audience a taste of the upcoming World Championships in the German capital”, said Gerhard Janetzky, Managing Partner of the DKB-ISTAF at today’s presentation of the final entry lists.

“For us, it is important to create excitement for our sports by presenting a top-class meeting”, he said and added:

”As international ambassadors of the German athletic community, we have a special responsibility, as we are also presenting German athletes in truly international competitions, thus showing the world that Germany is and will remain a professional and excellent host for outstanding track-and-field events”.

The DKB-ISTAF will be broadcast in more than 150 countries; in Germany, the Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen, the meeting’s national host broadcaster, will cover the meeting in a two-hour live program starting at 3.05 pm.

In addition, Eurosport will cover the event from 6 to 7:30 pm. International top track-and-field event to kick off the outdoor season.

This year, the DKB-ISTAF will present a total of 28 medalists of the Olympic Games in Beijing 2008, in addition to six current 2007 Outdoor World Champions and 7 Indoor European Champions of 2009 (a total of 18 medalists from Osaka and 17 medalists from Torino), and also two current world record holders.

As the opening meeting of the ÅF Golden League – the international premium competition series of the IAAF – the Berlin meeting has a special significance: Athletes who want a part of the jackpot have to be victorious in their respective disciplines in all six of the meetings and thus have to start competing in Berlin.

If no athlete should succeed, the jackpot will be split in half, about US$ 500.000, Press Release and will be shared among those athletes with five wins in their respective discipline.

The ÅF Golden League will begin in Berlin and then continue in Oslo (July 3rd), Rome (July 10th), Paris (July 17th), Zurich (August 28th) and finally in Brussels (September 4th). The official IAAF competition disciplines of the series in 2009 are the men’s 100m, 400m, 5000m, 110m hurdles and javelin.

The women will compete in the 100m, 400m, 100m hurdles, high jump and pole vault. As in every year, the DKB-ISTAF will stage seven additional promotion disciplines: For men, these are the 800m, 1500m, discus, and long jump; for women, it is the shot put. In addition, there will be international 4x100m relays for both men and women.

 As in previous years, Germany’s leading meeting will present a nicely filled stadium. One day before the DKB-ISTAF, about 60,000 Tickets have been sold.

“This is brilliant,” Bettina Stark said, the Chief Representative of the Deutsche Kreditbank AG (DKB). “We are looking forward to this coming Sunday and an audience of about 65,000,” commented Gerhard Janetzky.

“With forecasts of 22° C and light clouds, we are confident to have good to perfect weather conditions for our event.”

The Deutsche Kreditbank is not only the title sponsor of the DKB-ISTAF and cofounder of the DKB-CUP, but is in many levels tightly related with the sport.

The corporation works together with sport organizations and clubs, and serves as title sponsor of various events and sports sites and also assists many active athletes such as Franka Dietzsch (discus), Betty Heidler (hammer throw), Christina Obergföll and Steffi Nerius (both javelin throw), Danny Ecker (pole vault), and Petra Lammert (shot put).

In addition, the DKB is the main sponsor of the trackand- field section of the SC Neubrandenburg. The company’s headquarters resides in Berlin. The race for the AF Golden League jackpot kicks off in Berlin.

The focus of the meeting, however, will be on the opening competitions in the race for the one-million-dollar jackpot of the ÅF Golden League: Only athletes starting in Berlin will be able to take part in the race, trying to secure their share of the gold.

This year, the most promising contenders are the Russian pole vault queen Yelena Isinbayeva and the 400m runner Sanya Richards (USA), who already shared the jackpot in 2007.

Furthermore, the Croatian high jumper Blanca Vlasic and Ethiopian 5,000m super runner Kenenisa Bekele as well as the two javelin throwers Andreas Thorkildsen (NOR) and Tero Pitkämäki (FIN) have a chance at the gold.

Montsho/Richards face-off

Selected competition highlights and top rematch duels A devoted Berlin fan, the American 400m-runner Sanya Richards, could win her share of the gold once again (after her shared jackpot win with Yelena Isinbayeva in 2007).

After a disappointing season last year, the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist and Vice-World Champion of Helsinki (2005) will hopefully stage a strong comeback on the blue tracks of the Olympic Stadium Berlin.

This Sunday, she will have to take on two other Olympic Games finalists, Yulia Gushchina (RUS) and Amantle Montsho (BOT), but also tough competition by, to name but one, Jamaician Bobby-Gay Wilkins: She already started the season with 50.91 seconds as her seasonal best and thus has positioned herself dangerously close to Sanya Richards’ current seasonal best performance of 49.86 seconds.

Among the many top international stars the DKB-ISTAF has signed on, the faceoff between high jump queen Blanka Vlasic (CRO) and the new Indoor European Champion, Ariane Friedrich (GER), may well be the rematch duel of the year.

The German will not only try to confront Blanka Vlasic, but also try to lay claim on a World Championship medal for herself later this year. The winner of Torino (2.05m) and current number 1 in the high jump Indoor world ranking, will have to beat Blanka Vlasic, the current queen of high jump, reigning World Champion and 2008 Olympic Games silver medalist – just as she did last year.

So far, Blanka Vlasic has proven herself with several recent 2 meter jumps (with an actual outdoor best performance of 2.05m at Doha) in top form.

With other top athletes like Elena Slesarenko (RUS), Ruth Beitia (ESP), the Indoor Vice- European Champion, as well as veteran athlete Amy Acuff (USA) and 2 meter jumpers Chaunté Howard (USA) and Viktoriya Klyugina (RUS), the international high jump elite will be present in Berlin to compete and to possibly prod the champs to go even higher.

The face-off between these two stars at the DKB-ISTAF will have a very special significance: Last year, Ariane Friedrich snatched the ÅF Golden League jackpot away from the Croatian jackpot contender at the very last moment in the Memorial van Damme Meeting in Brussels with a 2 meter jump, taking away the complete, big jackpot from Vlasic – despite a strong Croatian who had won all other meetings of the series up until then.

They faced off with each other again earlier this year, at the European Indoor Championships in Torino, where Friedrich beat Vlasic, then the most promising gold medalist contender, in a surprisingly easy competition. Vlasic, for the first time, had not crossed the 2 meter after a series of 42 meetings, and made due with just a 1.92m.

With this win and her new Indoor personal best of 2.05m set in mid-February in Karlsruhe, where Ariane Friedrich also defeated Blanca Vlasic, the German established herself not only as one of the country’s top athletes of international fame, but also became a strong contender for a medal in the World Championship in Berlin later this summer.

Similarly, the eyes of the international athletics community will most certainly also be fixated on pole vault queen Yelena Isinbayeva (RUS). The 27-year-old acting Indoor and Outdoor World Champion and 2008 Olympic Games gold medalist will certainly do everything to not only win another World Championships gold medal, but to also take home some of the gold of the ÅF Golden League jackpot – just as she did (together with Sanya Richards) in 2007.

But the entry list for Berlin will not make it easy for her. Athletes include Yulia Golubchikova (RUS), the reigning Indoor European Champion and 4th-ranked of the Olympic Games, as well as Fabiana Murer (BRA), the bronze medalist of the Indoor World Championships 2008.

Two other athletes, who have started the season with good performances of 4.60m and 4.61m, respectively, are Aleksandra Kiryashova (RUS) and Anna Rogowska (POL). Also among the top contenders in this field is German athlete Silke Spiegelburg, the Indoor European Vice-Champion and a 2008 Olympic Games finalist.

Bekele's birthday

As for the men’s events, 5,000m super hero Kenenisa Bekele, who celebrates his 27th birthday this Saturday, will be in the men`s 5,000m event. The double 2008 Olympic gold medalist in the 5,000m and 10,000m events as well as current 3,000m Indoor World Champion will certainly deliver a stunning competition.

Bekele had already fought hard to win his share of the “small” jackpot in 2006. This Sunday, he will face – among other runners – Edwin Cheruiyot Soi (KEN), the 2008 Olympic Games bronze medalist in the 5,000m, as well as Micah Kogo (KEN), the 2008 Olympic Games bronze medalist in the 10,000m.

As ever, among the men`s technical events, the javelin throw will present a fascinating competition: The DKB-ISTAF has contracted both of the world’s top javelin throwers – Tero Pitkämäki (FIN) and Andreas Thorkildsen (NOR), who have repeatedly staged dramatic duels and rematches, the last one in 2007, when Thorkildsen, the Norwegian, took the jackpot away from over-confident Pitkämäki, the 2008 Olympic Games bronze medalist and reigning World Champion.

This year, thanks to having Thorkildsen, the 2008 Olympic Games gold medalist and Vice-World Champion, back in Berlin as well, this fight could see an encore. Other top athletes completing the entry list are Sergey Makarov (RUS), Ainars Kovalis (LAT), Vadims Vasilevskis (LAT), as well as the continually strong Finnish javelin throwers Teemu Wirkkala and Tero Järvenpää, who will certainly add some tension to the event.

DKB-ISTAF promotion disciplines to present top German athletes German athletes will be presented at the DKB-ISTAF in promotion disciplines, some of which have been integrated into the program especially for some of them.

Among these events are the 4x100 relays with the currently fastest-running German male and females sprinters. At the DKB-ISTAF, men will be running in two relay teams and compete against the national relay teams of South Africa, Poland, France, Great Britain, the Netherlands and the Czech national relay team.

The women will have to compete in three different national teams, which will be confronted by the national relay teams of Great Britain, France, Poland, the Czech Republic and an internationally mixed, top relay team.

In the women’s shot put, the entry list will be dominated by three Germans. Alongside the reigning Indoor World Champion 2009 and 5th-ranked of the World Championships in Osaka 2007, Petra Lammert, are Nadine Kleinert, World Championships bronze medalist in Osaka 2007, and currently number 4 on the world ranking list, as well as Denise Hinrichs, Indoor Vice-World Champion in 2009.

These three athletes must face top international competitors. These include the bronze medalist of the Olympic Games 2008, Nadezhda Ostapchuk (BEL) and Bulgarian Natallia Mikhnevich, currently the world’s number 2 and silver medalist of the Olympic Games 2008. The field will be completed with Anca Heltne (RUM) and Cleopatra Borel-Brown (TRI).

African field

In the men’s 1500m run, Berlin’s local hero and Germany’s 1500m champion Carsten Schlangen will have to hold his ground via-à-vis a mostly African field – including three 2008 Olympic Games finalists, but also fast Europeans such as the Indoor European Championship’s bronze medalist, Yoann Kowal (FRA).

The men’s technical promotion disciplines will see their highlight and special tension on the back straight of the stadium, where the men’s long jump will be staged. The event’s new superhero Sebastian Bayer will have to stand firm against some of the world’s top long jumpers.

The surprise winner of the 2009 Indoor European Championship in Torino has caused quite some excitement around the world by setting a new European record of 8.71 metres and currently may be one of the hottest German contenders for a World Championship medal in August.

His top performance catapulted him on rank 2 behind Carl Lewis (8.79m) in the world’s eternal top Indoor list. At the Olympic Stadium, the 22-year-old not only has to face Indoor Vice-Champion Nils Winter, but also top talent such as Godfrey Khotso Mokoena (RSA), the 2008 Olympic Games silver medalist, and the Olympic Games bronze medalist, Cuban Ibrahim Camejo.

Two additional Olympic finalists, Ndiss Kaba Badji (SEN) and Gable Garenamotse (BOT), traditionally have shown strong performance (and nerves, for that matter) and might confront the young German in this exciting event.

In the men’s discuss throw, Vice-World Champion Robert Harting will have to go up against the world’s top, also trying to re-assert his aspiration for a medal in the World Championships later this year.