African Record holder Blessing Okagbare tops the list of African stars set to grace the Meeting International Mohammed VI in Rabat, Morocco as the IAAF Diamond League extends to the African continent on Sunday, May 22, 2016.
The reigning African Champion will be in the spotlight ahead of the women’s 100m when she opens her Diamond League campaign in the Moroccan capital.
Okagbare kicked off her 2016 campaign in the 200m at the Micheal Johnson Invitational, where she ran the quickest time of 22.87s to win ahead of World Indoors finalist Michelle Lee-Ahye.
Few weeks later, competing at the Drake Relays, she recorded a Season’s Best (SB) of 6.25m to finish 4th in the Long Jump, before going on to run her first 100m race of the season at the Seiko Golden Grand Prix World Challenge in Kawasaki, Japan, to place 2nd behind Tianna Bartoletta in 11.30s.
This time around, the Nigerian track queen will have to be at her best if she’s to gain maximum points against World 200m Silver medallist, Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson, who already has a scorching wind assisted time of 10.71s, and SB of 11.07s.
The duo will also be up against another veteran in the field, Carmelita Jeter of USA who has a Personal Best (PB) of 10.64s. Beijing 2008 Silver medallist Kerron Stewart (11.20s) and South Africa’s Carina Horn (11.23s) are also included in the field.
Meanwhile in the men’s category, African Sprints Champion Hua Wilfried Koffi, will be making his Diamond League debut in the 200m. The Ivorian has a PB of 20.14s in the event, and currently sits at No.8 on the 100m world list with a PB of 10.01s.
He will hope to make his debut a memorable one when he squares up against a respectable field that includes last year’s Diamond Trophy winner in the event, Alonso Edwards.
Jamaica’s Julian Forte, Mexican Jose Carlos Herrera (20.17s) and homeboy Aziz Ouhadi, are also expected to be stiff competitors.
The women’s 800m is set to be a battle royale, as three of the best in the continent take on each other in what may be described as a pre-African Championships final.
Top of the list is 2013 World Champion/ three-time Diamond Trophy winner Eunice Sum. The Kenyan will be gunning for a revenge against South Africa’s Caster Semenya, who gave her a shock defeat in Doha to take victory and lead in the Diamond Race.
Her time of 1:58.26 on her way to victory is currently the World Lead (WL), and puts her as favourite for the maximum points once again at the Rabat Diamond League.
Francine Niyonsaba, may be regarded as the underdog, but the Burundian may be in for an upset, after racing to her first global medal at the World Indoor Championships in Portland.
Botswana’s Nijel Amos will be the centre of attention in the men’s 800m, as the 2015 Diamond Race winner aims for a win to kick start his Olympic season, after failing to make the final of last year’s World Championships.
The Olympic Silver medallist will be up against top names in the field such as World Silver medallist Adam Kszczot, World Bronze medallist Amel Tuka, Frenchman Pierre-Ambroise Bosse and Olympic 1500m Champion Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria.
In the long distance events, World 3000m Champion Almaz Ayana will make a transition to the 5000m after setting a WL in the 3000m in Doha.
The Ethiopian will have Kenya’s duo of Mercy Cherono and Jelegat Kibiwot to contend with, while teammate and world leader in the event, Senbere Teferi may be in for an upset.
World Silver medallist LaShawn Merritt, will be the man to beat in the 400m as he aims to extend his lead in the Diamond Race standings.
The American will have his hands full against African Champion Isaac Makwala, Belgian brothers Jonathan and Kelvin Borlée, never ageing Christopher Taylor of Bahamas, and Jamaica’s first man to go under 44s Rusheen McDonald.
In the absence of world leader Omar McLeod in the 110m hurdles, the duo of Orlando Ortega and David Oliver will be favourites for a win.
World Indoor 400m Champion Kemi Adekoya of Bahrain will go against World Bronze medallist, USA’s Cassandra Tate and African Champion Wenda Theron Nel of South Africa in the women’s 400m Hurdles.
In the Field events, the women’s Triple Jump will surely be one of the most anticipated events to light up the arena, as Venezuela’s Yulimar Rojas and Colombia’s Caterine Ibargüen, go head to head once more after their outstanding performance in Doha.
The South American ladies made the Triple Jump very entertaining as they challenged each other for the win. However it was Ibargüen who leapt to a Meeting Record (MR) of 15.04m to overtake Rojas’ Venezuelan National Record of 14.79m, gotten in her fourth attempt.
This time around, Rojas has the chance to try and end the unbeaten run of the legendary Colombian, which will inevitably throw the Diamond Race wide open.
World Shot Put Champion Piotr Malachowski, will be full of confidence going into his trademark event after his win in Doha.
The Polish record holder will have his teammate Robert Urbanek to contend with, while Estonia’s duo of Martin Kupper and Gerd Kanter are also expected to be stiff competitors.
Olympic Champion Valerie Adams will launch her campaign for a fifth title at the Rabat Diamond League, after having won four Diamond Trophies in a row before the beginning of last season.
With the absence of 2015 Diamond Race winner Christina Schwanitz, and current Diamond Leader Tia Brooks, the New Zealand Record holder, will surely be aiming for all maximum points in the Moroccan city.