Reigning European champions Warholm, Duplantis and Mihambo return to Berlin

Karsten Warholm
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Karsten Warholm flew to a European record of 46.87 in the Wanda Diamond League in Stockholm

Karsten Warholm may have been a late addition to the fields that will grace Berlin’s famous ISTAF meeting on Sunday (13), the last of Europe’s World Athletics Continental Tour Silver for this summer, but the Norwegian will be one of the main attractions in the German capital.

The 2019 European Athlete of the Year has been thrilling fans since his first outdoor outing this year. He opened his season by clocking a world best of 33.78 over 300m hurdles at the Impossible Games in Oslo and then went on to win the 400m hurdles at the Diamond League meeting in Monaco, smashing the meeting record with 47.10 in the second-best time ever recorded by a European.

In Stockholm nine days later, he went even faster. Despite clattering the final barrier, he improved his European record to 46.87 – the second-fastest time in history and just 0.09 shy of the long-standing world record. For good measure, he went on to win the 400m flat later that afternoon in 45.05.

Warholm won again at the World Athletics Continental Tour Gold meeting in Ostrava on Tuesday and although he was unable to reproduce his sizzling form from Stockholm, his winning time of 47.62 was still an impressive run and a meeting record.

Warholm has fond memories of Berlin as it is where he won the 2018 European title in 47.64, a personal best at that time.

“I have very good memories of the blue track in the Olympic Stadium. The fans are great,” commented Warholm. “For me, it's always about doing my best, staying relaxed and doing my thing – and not thinking too much about goals and expectations.”

The meeting will look rather different this year because of the current circumstances. However, despite the coronavirus pandemic, the ISTAF organisers have managed to ensure that around 3500 spectators will be allowed into the stadium to watch Germany’s premier annual athletics meeting.

“We are very happy that with major support of the city and our partners it was possible to organise the ISTAF during these challenging times and to welcome world-class athletes in Berlin,“ said Meeting Director Martin Seeber.

“It is our aim to make a statement for athletics and to be a beacon of light. ISTAF will be different with 3500 fans, instead of the usual 45,000 spectators, but it maybe a first step back to normality.”

Anticipation is high that another Berlin 2018 champion, Mondo Duplantis, can challenge the almost-ancient pole vault meeting record, which has stood at 6.05m to Sergey Bubka since 1994.

Sweden’s world record holder cleared 6.07m recently in Lausanne, a 2020 world outdoor best. He faces USA’s 2019 world champion Sam Kendricks as well as the Poland’s ever-competitive Doha 2019 bronze medallist Piotr Lisek, thus bringing together the three men who stood on the World Athletics Championships podium last October.

The discus line-up is headed by the last three world champions in the discipline including Sweden’s reigning world champion Daniel Stahl, who leads the 2020 world list with 71.37m. He faces previous world champions Andrius Gudzius from Lithuania and Piotr Malachowski from Poland.

Also competing in the Berlin discus competition will be the reigning European U23 champion and record-holder Kristjan Ceh from Slovenia.

This year’s programme is made up of nine events and each event features the reigning German champion. Reigning world and European champion Malaika Mihambo will compete in the long jump just five days after leaping a world-leading 7.03m in nearby Dessau and, once again, her main rival could be Ukraine’s Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk, who took silver in Doha behind the German and also finished second behind her on Tuesday.

Javelin superstar Johannes Vetter, the 2017 world champion and European Athlete of the Year, has openly said that he is targeting the meeting record of 91.30m in what will be his last competition of the year.

Vetter will be looking to recapture the form that saw him throw 97.96m in Chorzow, Poland last Sunday for the second-best distance of all-time.

In the women’s track races, Great Britain’s Laura Muir is the world leader in the 1500m with her a time of 3:57.86 from Stockholm last month and is targeting an improvement on the meeting record of 3:58.43 on the same track where she won her first continental outdoor title. 

In the 100m, the Netherlands’ two-time 200m world champion Dafne Schippers will be the favourite after she clocked a European 150m best of 16.56 in Ostrava, Czech Republic on Tuesday. German sprinters Rebekka Haase and Lisa Kwayie are expected to be her main rivals in Berlin.