Several Olympic Champions and medallists have been listed as headliners for the first meet of the 2017 IAAF Diamond League series, which kicks off in Doha, Qatar on Friday, May 5th.
Double sprints Olympic Champion, Elaine Thompson tops the list, with the women’s 200m being one of the most anticipated Rio rematches of the night.
Thompson, who’ll be making her first outdoor appearance in the 200m this year, will be aiming to continue with her winning streak of anchoring Jamaica to the 4x200m and 4x100m GOLD medals at the World and Penn Relays respectively, when she lines up against Olympic Silver medallist and rival, Dafne Schippers.
Schippers already has an early outdoor season form, sitting at No.2 on the IAAF world list in both the 100m and 200m with her times of 10.95s and 22.29s. The Dutchwoman hasn’t recorded a win against the Jamaican since 2015, and will be gunning for victory in order to begin her Diamond League season on a high note.
Other athletes expected to be strong competitors to the duo are former Olympic Champion Veronica Campbell-Brown with a Season’s Best (SB) of 22.60s; Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare with an SB of 22.87s, and Rio 2016 finalist Marie Josee Ta Lou.
The men’s 100m is another scintillating event that the Qatari fans will be looking forward to as no fewer than four Rio finalists will go up against each other.
Silver medallist Justin Gatlin will be favoured to dominate the race, while Bronze medallist Andre De Grasse will not be overlooked as a huge contender for the win. Also, in the mix for victory is Akani Simbine who’s had an outstanding season so far, posting one of the fastest times in the world, and currently sits as world No.2 with an SB of 9.92s.
He is unbeaten in the event this year and emerged South African Champion after defeating World Record (WR) holder in the 400m, Wayde Van Niekerk at their National Championships. Jamaica’s Asafa Powell, Cote D’Ivoire’s Ben Youssef Meite and homeboy, Femi Ogunode are the other top contenders expected to complete the stacked field.
The men’s 400m also posts an impressive field, with Olympic Bronze medallist LaShawn Merritt and World Leader Steven Gardiner going head to head.
Merritt won the Drake Relays last week in an SB of 45.41s, while Gardiner set a Personal Best (PB) and National Record (NR) of 44.26s last month to top the world standings. Rio finalist Karabo Sibanda will be making his debut in the Diamond League and will want to make it count, while USA’s duo of Tony McQuay and Vernon Norwood won’t be pushovers as well.
Women’s 100m Hurdles WR holder Kendra Harrison will be aiming to continue her excellent form from 2016 which saw her win the Diamond Trophy in the event.
The American will undoubtedly go for another win when she faces fellow Americans Nia Ali, Christina Manning, Sharika Nelvis, Queen Harrison and Great Britain’s Cindy Ofili.
The women’s 800m is expected to provide the major highlight in the middle distance events as a formidable field comprising of Olympic Champion Caster Semenya, WR holder in the 1500m Genzebe Dibaba, Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba and Kenya’s duo of Eunice Sum and Magaret Nyairera has been listed.
Semenya has been unbeaten in the event in two years, and Dibaba will be aiming for an outstanding 800m outdoor debut by nicking the win. Niyonsaba and Nyairera were Silver and Bronze medallists at the Rio Games, while 2013 World Champion Sum will be hoping to bounce back to winning ways after a not too impressive 2016 season.
Meanwhile, the women’s 3000m steeplechase will witness Olympic Champion Ruth Jebet, and Silver medallist Hyvin Kiyeng re-ignite their rivalry once again. The Doha Diamond League will be the first outing for the pair this year, so it remains to be seen who’ll begin the season with bragging rights.
One of the Olympic Champions headlining the Field events is Christian Taylor in the men’s Triple Jump. Unlike 2015 when the reigning World Champion opened his season at the Doha Diamond League with a narrow loss to Cuba’s Pedro Pablo Pichardo after a thrilling contest, this time around he’ll be looking forward to securing a win over China’s Bin Dong and fellow American Omar Craddock.
Thomas Rohler and Julius Yego will have a Rio rematch in the men’s Javelin throw after a thrilling clash in the Brazilian city, which saw Yego win the Silver medal with his only throw of 88.24m, having picked up a right ankle injury, thus making way for Rohler to go for GOLD.
Mutaaz Essa Barshim will have the support of his home crowd to spur him towards extending his WL of 2.35m in the men’s High Jump. America’s Erik Kynard and Great Britain’s Robbie Grabarz will pose the biggest challenge for a possible upset.
Only two Field events will be competed in in the women’s category. Olympic Shot Put Champion, Michelle Carter will have to be at her best against world leader, Anita Marton.
The Pole Vault will witness Olympic Champion, Katerina Stefanidi making her outdoor debut against world No.3 Sandi Morris and world No.4 Alysha Newman.