Olympics champion and record holder, David Rudisha’s anticipated return to action after almost a year out in Doha in the men’s 800m was cut short by a calf strain last week but that does not dim the country’s top talent that is out to lay a marker at the start of the international outdoor season.
The flamboyant and charismatic Olympics and three-time world men 3,000m steeplechase champion, Ezekiel Kemboi, two-time world titleholder in men 1,500m, Asbel Kiprop and reigning women’s 800m Worlds gold medallist, Eunice Sum, front the queue for Kenya at the star-studded Qatar showdown.
Also in Doha is the women 5,000m worlds silver medallist, Mercy Cherono, the Beijing Olympics and Osaka men 3,000m steeplechase winner, Brimin Kipruto, Commonwealth 1,500m gold winner, Silas Kiplagat and two-time World Junior crown holder and national women 1,500m record holder, Faith Chepng’etich Kipyegon among others.
Kemboi, the Olympic steeplechase champion in 2004 and 2012, is relishing a return to the Qatar Sports Club track.
“I always do well in Doha,” said the exuberant Kenyan on Thursday. “I won here in 2009 and then wound up winning almost all of my races that season.”
Kemboi clocked 7:58.85 that year, the second-fastest performance of his career. He’s confident that he can go faster at some point this season.
Kiprop will seek a second consecutive victory at the Qatar Sports Club, but he is expecting anything but an easy race.
“The track in Doha is fast, the level of competition is very high and the conditions are always good,” said the 24-year-old Kiprop, who also took the Olympic gold in 2008.
“It is no surprise that you get fast times here. It’s a good opportunity for athletes to gauge themselves and to look forward to opening their season in a good way. There are many strong athletes here and I do not underestimate anyone.”
His compatriot Eunice Sum, a surprise winner of the 800m title in Moscow last year, is also looking forward to the start of her first full IAAF Diamond League campaign.
In terms of targets, Sum says her first goal is to run a personal best, which will mean getting inside the 1:57.38 that brought her gold in the Russian capital last summer.
“And to educate myself in Diamond League races,” she promised.
Rudisha is scheduled to return to action at the May 31 Diamond League meet in Eugene, Oregon.