NAIROBI, Kenya, May 10- The 2012 Samsung Diamond League season opens in Doha on Friday with some of Kenya’s biggest bets for London Olympics glory lining up to test their wits against key competition.
World record holder, David Rudisha as well as Olympics champions, Pamela Jelimo, Asbel Kiprop and Brimin Kipruto in addition to double world champion, Vivian Cheruiyot are some of the country’s headliners who will place their reputations on the line when the showdown kicks-off at 7pm local time.
Despite being an international meet, some of the Diamond Trophy races on the cards will be a pre-amble of the June 23 Kenyan Olympics Trials where London tickets will be decided.
The women 800m race is one of the examples where Jelimo will clash with her Beijing bridesmaid , Janeth Jepkosgei, the Osaka 2007 World champion as well as Daegu finalist, Eunice Sum and former World Junior titleholder Cherono Koech.
Jamaica’s Kenia Sinclair, Britain’s Emma Jackson and Yekaterina Kupina from Russia are also in the deep field providing the international flavour to what is in essence a Kenyan Olympics mini-trial.
Although the corresponding men’s race is not part of the Diamond League roster, Rudisha is set to clash against the 2007 world champion and Olympics silver medallist, Alfred Kirwa Yego who is traditionally a slow starter to the outdoor season.
Former world junior champion, David Mutinda is also in the fray that will witness Berlin Worlds finalist, Belal Mansoor Ali, from Qatar, a former Kenyan, also in the mix.
In the men 1500m, Kiprop has his hands full to fend off Commonwealth champion, Silas Kiplagat, the man he denied the gold medal in Daegu as well as Nixon Chepseba, the upcoming force that eclipsed the pair in the race for the Diamond Trophy last season.
Alongside, 2008 African gold medallist, Haron ‘Land Cruiser’ Keitany, Daegu finalist, Daniel Kipchirchir Komen, Istanbul World Indoors competitor, Bethwell Birgen and Collins Cheboi are also in the line-up that will see Vickson Polonet and Victor Kipchirchir do the rabbit duties.
Outside the Kenyan armada, twice World Indoors champion and worlds 800m silver medallist, Abubaker Kaki Khamis from Sudan who will step up the distance and their former compatriot and World Indoors silver medallist, Ilham Tanui Özbilen will provide the stiffest challenge.
Cheruiyot will lead the charge in the women 3000m race where her bridesmaid at both the Berlin and Daegu Worlds over 5000m, Sylvia Kibet as well as the Worlds 10000m bronze winner, Priscah Jepleting will provide the main internal competition.
Promising Punta Umbria World Cross junior fifth finisher, Janet Kisia, Margaret Wangari who starred at the Edinburgh and Spain World Cross senior races are the other Kenyans of note in the race.
Besides that, Cheruiyot will face her all too familiar foe in the shape of Osaka 5000m world champion, Meseret Defar and her Ethiopian mates Gelete Burka and Wude Ayalew in another high pitched Kenya versus their northern neighbours contest.
Olympics silver medallist, Eliud Kipchoge, 2006 Commonwealth champion, Augustine Choge and African 5000m champion, Edwin Soi will don their spikes to take on the man mountain that is double Olympics champion, Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia in the men’s race.
Add the 2010 World Junior champion at the distance, Isaiah ‘Chairman’ Kiplangat, Daegu finalist, Thomas Longosiwa, 2008 World Cross junior bronze medallist, Lucas Rotich and Remmy Limo and you have a combustible field capable of pushing the runners to their limits.
Double Commowealth champion from Uganda, Moses Kipsiro who has been shaping up for his assault at Olympics honours in Iten is also in the line-up that includes potent runners such as Qatar’s James Kwalia Chepkurui.
In the men’s water and barriers race, Kipruto will renew acquaintances with long time rivals, Commonwealth and African champion, Richard Mateelong and Athens Olympics bronze winner, Paul Kipsiele Koech who sew up his second Diamond League trophy last season.
After starring at the World Youth and Commonwealth Youth Games in golden colours, Conselus Kipruto, one of the country’s brightest protest in the event billed as ‘Kenya’s race’ will have his baptism of fire in the senior ranks while former World Junior crown holder, Jonathan Muia Ndiku as well as Bernard Nganga, another exciting talent at the event.
African bronze winner, Nahom Mesfin and his Ethiopia compatriot, Mekonnen Gebremedhin will be out to tip the balance in the men’s steeple north of the border in addition to Ugandan challenger Simon Ayeko in the race that will count towards the Diamond race.