Her contrite face spoke volumes. Nothing was to be seen of the confident happiness that Kristin Pudenz had radiated two days earlier after the sovereign qualification in her successful discipline. The blonde discus thrower would have preferred to hide in the catacombs of Hayward Field in the last corner instead of answering questions after her depressing performance in the final fight.
Athletics Germany had put their trust in the 29-year-old. She, the Olympic silver medalist in Tokyo, should finally get the first medal for the black, red and gold colors. But even Pudenz failed on the sixth day of competition at the world championships in the beautiful arena of the University of Oregon, the strength and especially the psyche. The Praised One didn’t even make it into the final of the top eight.
In the first and third attempt, Pudenz threw the one-kilogram disc into the safety nets, in the second attempt she measured an indisputable 59.97 m, which left her a good seven meters below her best performance (67.10 m) – and she was only eleventh. The 29-year-old found it difficult to explain her failure after throwing in went so well. “I don’t know what suddenly happened to me. Nothing worked anymore,” the sports police officer from SC Potsdam stammered to herself. Apparently, “world championships are not my thing,” the East Westphalian tried to practice sarcasm. Three years ago in Doha, she was no less annoyed at eleventh place.
Admittedly, Pudenz didn’t really believe in the longed-for medal after the first attempt. The three top throwers had presented distances that they can only dream of. “It got to my nerves. I knew then that there was nothing to be gained here today,” Pudenz admitted. Above all, the Chinese Bin Feng (28), who emerged from oblivion after a long period of inactivity, shocked the competition with her 69.12 m – which was also the winning distance. Only the indestructible Sandra Perkovic (32) from Croatia, two-time Olympic champion and world champion, with 68.45 m and local hero Valarie Allman with 68.30 m held up halfway against it.
It was no different than Pudenz for her teammates, who were no less ambitious in the test of truth. At least Claudia Vita (25), trained by Dieter Kollark in Neubrandenburg, could be satisfied with her 64.24 m and fifth place. Not only because it was the best German World Cup placement so far, but also because it was their greatest success ever. The third in the group, Shanice Kraft (29), who has recently been training in Halle an der Saale, did not even make it into the final with her 62.35 m like Pudenz.
“The first three ignited rockets, I couldn’t think of anything else,” Vita was amazed, although the Chinese’s performance explosion gave her a slightly uneasy feeling. But she definitely doesn’t want to accuse her of anything dishonest. Although it is mysterious that Bin Feng has hardly appeared in the last two years and came to Eugene with a best distance of 66 meters, which she now improved by more than three meters. Everyone should think of their own part.
The tragedy of the German sprinters, runners, jumpers and throwers continued – with the exception of Claudia Vita. Konstanze Klosterhalfen (25), third in the World Championships three years ago in Doha, clearly missed the final of the twelve fastest heats over 5000 meters in 15:17.78 minutes. The highly acclaimed Leverkusen woman presented herself as a shadow of herself and staggered more than she ran away from the goal. “I’ve never run such a difficult last lap,” she said after the extreme exertion with tears in her eyes. For three years she has been living and training 180 kilometers away from Eugene in Portland: “I was so looking forward to my home game, now I’m obviously all the more disappointed.”
Long-distance colleague Sara Benfares caused a moment of shock. Five meters behind the saving finish line, the athlete from LC Rehlingen collapsed completely exhausted. Doctors immediately rushed to help. In a wheelchair and visibly injured, Benfares was transported from the interior.
A little later, the German Athletics Association gave the all-clear. Benfares suffered a heat collapse and is doing well given the circumstances. At temperatures of over 30 degrees, the 21-year-old was left behind early on and did not play a sporting role in her race. She finished 18th in her heat (16:34.23 minutes).
The forced premiere for Caster Semenya over 5000 meters also ended bitterly. The South African, multiple Olympic champion and world champion over 800 meters, only crossed the finish line after 15:46.12 minutes. In November 2018, the world association World Athletics introduced a testosterone limit in certain disciplines for eligibility to participate in the women’s class. On the other hand, the intersexual middle-distance runner had sued the International Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and also civil courts – ultimately unsuccessfully. The new regulation includes women’s races over 400 meters, 800 meters, 1500 meters and one mile (1609 meters). Therefore, Semenya had to give up the two-lap race and instead tried the 5,000 meters.
“Given the circumstances,” Semenya said, “my departure doesn’t feel like a defeat. I’m not giving up for a long time.” She thought it was “great” that she was allowed to run in Eugene. Being able to get through the five kilometers in this heat was a blessing for me.” She’s learning, she said, and is ready to learn more.
The German disappointments finally completed Gesa Felicitas Krause in the last final of the day. The fact that the 29-year-old, after an intestinal operation and a protracted flu virus, was not in top form as in previous years, when the Olympic fifth-placed twice won bronze at the 3,000-meter steeplechase, could already be guessed in the run-up. The fact that the otherwise reliable Hessian ended the ordeal in her sixth World Cup final only as 15th and last, almost a minute behind the new world champion Norah Jeruto from Kazakhstan, seemed depressing.
“It’s hard to enjoy when it was so shitty,” Krause let her displeasure run free. “I had super heavy legs and a stumbling block right at the start. It was so frustrating, I wouldn’t have finished any other race.” But giving up wasn’t an option for her. “I said to myself: If I don’t collapse, I’ll finish the race. That is also sporting spirit,” said Krause.
25 of the 49 competitions at the first world title fights on American soil are history. That means 75 medals have been awarded, with 29 countries being able to adorn themselves with them. Of the great nations, only Germany stands empty-handed. “It will change. Our best come last,” said Annett Stein, head coach of the association. Claudia Vita hopes and wishes “that my fifth place will give the team a boost for the final days of the competition.” She is not the only one hoping and wishing for that.