Athletics - Golden League Track and Field ISTAF - The Olympic Stadium, Berlin, Germany - September 4, 2022 South Africa's Caster Semenya in action during the women's 5000m REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Noah Lyles twirled his hands, asking the spectators in the Berlin Olympic Stadium to make more noise before the 100-meter run. The noise level in front of 37,000 spectators on Sunday was considerable. But a little more is always possible. The American Lyles then also won in 9.95 seconds and then threw a few kisses into the audience.

The day at the Istaf athletics meeting had not started with the big stars, but with the small stars, the school relays. They enjoyed the cheers of the spectators, some even so much that they made a jump start and ran to the finish despite the run being stopped by the judges. The parasportsman Niko Kappel from VfB Stuttgart, who, unlike the footballers of the traditional club, can win, was also exhilarated by the atmosphere. He won the shot put competition with a distance of 14.27 meters.

It was a nice start for the densely packed programme, which had to struggle with a few cancellations. Gina Lückenkemper and Konstanze Klosterhalfen, both recently victorious at the European Championships in Munich, had to pull out. Lückenkemper came anyway and, according to his own statement, wanted to break the world record in autograph writing.

Even without Lückenkemper and Klosterhalfen on the track, the Istaf had some top stars in athletics ready. For example in the women’s discus throw. Potsdamer Kristin Pudenz, second at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, met the American Valarie Allman, first in Tokyo. Pudenz managed 65.20 meters on her second attempt. Allman countered with 69.14 meters and went one better with 70.06 meters (the second best distance this year) in the sixth round. Fire fountains shot out of the lawn of the Olympic Stadium, the first highlight had happened.

The farewell to Nadine Müller almost went under a little. The 36-year-old ended her long and extremely successful international career on Sunday. Her last throw landed in the net. The spectators cheered anyway and shortly afterwards Müller called into the stadium microphone: “Thank you, Berlin. You guys are awesome!” After that, tears flowed, including from a few of her fellow campaigners.

The Istaf marks the end of the season for many athletes every year. The meeting is therefore particularly sensitive. 2022 was a special year, especially for German athletes. Ridicule and malice spilled over her after the World Championships in Eugene in July, which ended in a debacle with two medals won. When all the swansongs had been written for German athletics, the European Championships in Munich followed. The German athletes won a total of 16 medals, including gold medals like that of Lückenkemper over 100 meters or Richard Ringer in the marathon, which hardly anyone had expected. German athletics celebrated its comeback in prime time in front of an audience of millions on TV. That was also the reason why almost 40,000 spectators came to the Olympic Stadium on Sunday.

A few heroes from Munich were finally there. Javelin thrower Julian Weber, gold medalist in Munich, dueled with decathlon European champion Niklas Kaul, among others. With a distance of 84.90 meters he won the competition in the Olympic Stadium, Kaul fought bravely and came to 71.34 meters.

Corona weakened to silver it was enough for Malaika Mihambo at the European Championship. On Sunday in Berlin she was right up front. Even in her attempt, she landed at 6.92 meters, the winning distance. “I’m happy that I’m so good again so quickly after Corona,” she said.

Only the women’s 5,000-meter run hurt some observers a little while watching. Caster Semenya was at the start. The two-time Olympic champion would have to artificially lower her testosterone levels in order to be able to compete in her special discipline of 800 meters. However, the 31-year-old does not do that, which is why she avoids routes such as over 5000 meters that she is allowed to run. But over this distance she is hopelessly inferior. On Sunday she was even overtaken by the leaders Beatrice Chebet and Elly Henes and ended up in last place. It was a sad performance. The Berlin audience showed a big heart and loudly cheered on the South African on her final meters. And a few tears fell again.