2024 World Athletics Indoor Tour: Düsseldorf

Malaika Mihambo, Sam Kendricks On Center Stage At ISTAF Dusseldorf

Malaika Mihambo, Sam Kendricks On Center Stage At ISTAF Dusseldorf

Germany's Malaika Mihambo and American Sam Kendricks will have the jumps on center stage at the World Indoor Tour ISTAF Dusseldorf on Sunday.

Feb 2, 2024 by Joe Battaglia
Malaika Mihambo, Sam Kendricks On Center Stage At ISTAF Dusseldorf

Germany’s Malaika Mihambo will begin her Olympic gold medal defense on home soil in earnest against a formidable women’s long jump field and American Sam Kendricks will headline an equally strong men’s pole vault line up as the field events figure to take center stage at the ISTAF Dusseldorf, a World Athletics Indoor Tour Silver level meeting, on Sunday.

Mihambo, 29, ruled the long jump between 2018 and 2022, winning gold at the European Championships, the World Championships twice, and at the Tokyo Olympics. 

But 2023 was a year of struggle. After finishing fourth at the European Indoor Championships, she appeared to be rounding into outdoors, winning the German National Championships at 6.93m. But during that competition she suffered a small muscle tear that forced her to miss the World Championships in Budapest.

Mihambo, who opened with a 6.65m fourth-place effort in Dortmund on January 20, won’t have things easy here. 

Her challengers will include Larissa Iapichino of Italy, and Alina Rotaru-Kottmann of Romania, the 2023 European Indoor Championships silver, and bronze medalists respectively; as well as American Tiffany Flynn, who finished fourth at World Indoors in 2022.

For Kendricks, the story is quite similar to Mihambo’s.

He established himself as the best pole vaulter in the world between 2017 and 2019, winning gold at the World Championships in London and Doha as well as the Diamond League titles those years. But in 2021, Kendricks tested positive for COVID-19 in the Olympic Village and had to withdraw from the competition. Then last May, he needed surgery to repair a meniscus tear which knocked him out of the World Championships.

Now the 31-year-old is looking to build back up with the Paris Olympics looming this summer. He opened his indoor campaign with a sixth-place finish at 5.72m at the Pole Vault Summit in Reno on January 12. He improved his season-best to 5.82m for a win in Todz on January 27.

His list of challengers is quite strong, led by Emmanouil Karalis of Greece, the 2023 European Indoor silver medalist. The field also includes Piotr Liesk of Poland, the 2017 World Championships silver medalist; and Germans Raphael Holzdeppe, the 2013 World champion, Oleg Zernikel, who was fifth at the 2022 World Championships; and Bo Kanda Lita Baehre, who is returning from a six-month recovery from meniscus surgery.

The sprints will also be among the premier events in Dusseldorf.

Jeremiah Azu of Great Britain will look to repeat as winner in the men’s 60m but will need to get through Emmanuel Matadi of Liberia (9.97m 100m PB) as well as Germany’s Julian Wagner and Yoshihide Kiryu of Japan.

Standing in the way of Poland’s Jakub Szymański scoring a repeat win in the men’s 60m hurdles figure to be Wilhelm Belocian of France, the 2021 European Indoor champion, and Asier Martinez of Spain.

Things should also be very fast in the women’s 60m, where European relay champion Alexandra Burghardt of Germany will face Jamaica’s Sashalee Forbes, who won silver on the 4x100m at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Rani Rosius of Belgium, N'Ketia Seedo of the Netherlands and Amy Hunt of Great Britain.

Mette Graversgaard of Denmark will be the favorite in the women’s 60m hurdles, where she will face German indoor champion Franziska Schuster and German outdoor champion Monika Zapalska.

The meet program will also showcase a number of Paralympic athletes, including:

  • Johannes Floors (Paralympics winner from Tokyo and Rio)
  • Noah Bodelier (aiming for his first Paralympics participation this year)
  • Maxcel Amo Manu (reigning double world champion)
  • Joel de Jong (reigning world champion)
  • Olivier Hendriks (Tokyo Paralympics runner-up)
  • Jonnie Peacock (London and Rio Paralympics winner)
  • Zac Shaw (Silver at the Commonwealth Games)