Her grin could be seen from under the stadium roof. Gina Lückenkemper won the sprint over 100 meters in 10.99 seconds and the audience cheered loudly. Memories of the European Championships four years ago came up when Lückenkemper took second place in front of almost full spectators. At the German Athletics Championships on Saturday, however, the spectator stands were not full, not even half full, but rather almost a third full.
The Olympic core sport in this country has seen better days in terms of atmosphere. At the last Olympic Games in Tokyo, the record for German athletes was worse than it has been for a long time. And during the corona pandemic, the mood suffered anyway, among the active and the fans.
Athletics is the heartbeat of the finals – the bundled championships in 14 sports. It almost seemed a little desperate what the stadium announcer shouted into the rather empty Olympic Stadium at the start of the competitions on Saturday. As usual, the prices in the Olympic Stadium were the well-known mood killer: the limp giant pretzel from 4.50 euros, the Pils for five euros. Next door, at the family sports festival in the Olympic Park, life was raging.
Nevertheless, it should be a successful day – for the spectators as well as for the athletes. And not just because Lückenkemper conjured up the spirit of 2018 a bit. Pole vaulter Bo Kanda Lita Bahre had already crossed 5.90 meters in the morning, surpassing his previous ten best by ten centimetres. So far this year, only two athletes worldwide have jumped higher than the German. At the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon, in July, the Bayer Leverkusen man is flirting with a medal.
Kristin Pudenz certainly does too. The Potsdamer delivered an exciting competition with her rival Shanice Craft. But before the exciting duel went into the decision, a mighty thunder rumbled over the Olympic Stadium. All competitions had to be interrupted for a good half hour. Pudenz, who already gave the impression that nothing could shake her, picked up the discus after the break, turned quickly and threw the disc 67.10 meters – also a personal best. “Who knows,” she said. “Maybe there will be a break in Eugene too and I can knock one out again.” Craft was second with 64.64 meters ahead of Berlin’s Julia Harting (64.34 meters).
In between, it got emotional in the Olympic Stadium. Well-known names in German athletics were said goodbye. Julian Reus, the current German record holder over 100 meters with 10.01 seconds, received a bouquet of flowers at the end of his career, as did the hurdle sprinter and World Cup runner-up in 2017 Pamela Dutkiewicz-Emmerich.
But there was hardly any sadness. A number of athletes set personal bests on the blue track in the Olympic Stadium. In addition to Pudenz, Corinna Schwab was particularly enthusiastic about the 400 meters. In her lead she ran 50.91 seconds. For 20 years no German runner has been so fast on the stadium circuit.
The later the evening, the better the mood got. It seemed almost forgotten that popular athletes like Konstanze Klosterhalfen or Gesa Krause had to cancel their participation in Berlin at short notice. Javelin thrower Johannes Vetter was also absent due to injury. Julian Weber won the javelin throw with 86.61 meters.
The dramaturgical highlight on Saturday was the men’s 5000 meter run. The big favorite Mohamed Mohumed held back at the beginning and ran many meters behind the field. In the end, however, he was up front and fought a thrilling duel with Sam Parsons. In the final sprint, one of the greatest German talents narrowly beat Parsons on the long haul and gave the blue track a kiss right after the finish line. At the end of the evening, however, a few tears trickled down – with happiness. Gina Lückenkemper managed one of the fastest races of her career. The spectators next to the East Stand stood up and cheered her on. Almost like they had done four years ago.