NAIROBI, May 2 – Nine reigning world outdoor champions are set to flock to Doha, along with some of the sport’s biggest stars, for the opening meeting of the IAAF Diamond League on Friday.
The meeting in the Qatari capital has traditionally attracted the elite of athletics, and this year’s edition is no exception, with 38 champions and 80 medallists from past Olympic Games and IAAF World Championships, indoors and outdoors, expected to compete.
On the men’s side, six current or former Olympic champions will be in Doha: American trio LaShawn Merritt, Aries Merritt and Christian Taylor along with Kenyans Asbel Kiprop, Ezekiel Kemboi and Brimin Kipruto.
Fourteen athletes competing have been world champions outdoors – nine alone last year in Beijing – and nine have won a world indoor title.
In the women’s events, Doha will welcome 18 global champions and 37 medallists.
Kazakhstan’s Olga Rypakova and Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell-Brown have struck Olympic gold, while 11 have also claimed world titles outdoors – seven in Beijing last year – and seven indoors.
The long list of champions includes seven athletes who have grabbed at least one medal at all three major global competitions: local hero Mutaz Essa Barshim, LaShawn Merritt, Aries Merritt, David Oliver and Taylor, along with Rypakova and Campbell-Brown.
“Although 2016 is an Olympic year and many medal contenders elected to delay their outdoor debut, I am sure that athletics fans will enjoy another fantastic night on Qatar Sports Club’s track next Friday,” said Qatar Athletics Federation President Dahlan Al Hamad. “Doha Diamond League will be once more the ideal start to the outdoor season with so many great athletes competing and I am sure that many records will be broken.”
Meeting records under threat
Most of Doha’s meeting records – a competition first held in 1997 – were set after the IAAF Diamond League inaugerated in 2010. Just four men’s records were set before 2010, the oldest being James Beckford’s long jump of 8.41m from 1999.
Three fell in 2015, at what was widely regarded as Doha’s best ever IAAF Diamond League meeting.
One of those, Pedro Pablo Pichardo’s 18.06m leap in the triple jump, is also an IAAF Diamond League record, joining Yenew Alamirew’s 7:27.26 in the 3000m, which was set in 2011.
All but three of the current women’s meeting records were set during the IAAF Diamond League era. The oldest, Romania’s Ionela Tarlea-Manolache’s 54.27 in the 400m hurdles, dates back to 1999.
Two fell in 2015, Allyson Felix clocked 21.98 to break the 200m mark and Jasmin Stowers ran 12.35 in the 100m hurdles. Both are also IAAF Diamond League records, joining Hellen Obiri’s 8:20.68 in the 3000m from 2014 and Brittney Reese’s 7.25m in the long jump set in 2013.
With six in all, Doha is currently tied with Brussels and Monaco as the meeting with the most IAAF Diamond League records.
An ankle injury will force Felix to miss this year’s competition but her stellar record of individual wins is set to remain safe.
The US sprinter has amassed 11 victories in Doha, five successive at 400m (another individual record) and three apiece at 200m and 100m.
Like Felix, Tarlea-Manolache won in three different events in Doha (200m, 400m and 400m hurdles) while Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Kerron Stewart and Meseret Defar have emerged victorious in two: the Jamaicans in the 100m and the 200m and the Ethiopian in the 1500m and 3000m.
Eliud Kipchoge, who recently ran the second-fastest marathon of all time, collected four 3000m victories in Doha and one in the 5000m for a total of five wins, the most on the men’s side.
The men’s record for the most successive wins belongs jointly to US shot putter Reese Hoffa and Norway’s javelin thrower Andreas Thorkildsen with four.David Oliver will be looking to equal that record when lining up for this year’s 110m hurdles.
2016 IAAF Diamond League calendar
6 May – Doha, QAT
14 May – Shanghai, CHN
22 May – Rabat, MAR
28 May – Eugene, USA
2 Jun – Rome, ITA
5 Jun – Birmingham, GBR
9 Jun – Oslo, NOR
16 Jun – Stockholm, SWE
15 Jul – Monaco, MON
22-23 Jul – London, GBR
25 Aug – Lausanne, SUI
27 Aug – Paris, FRA
1 Sep – Zurich, SUI
9 Sep – Brussels, BEL