It may have been a far-from-normal season, but the Wanda Diamond League will end on a high in Doha on Friday (25) with what is quite possibly the deepest line-up seen in any discipline this year.
A loaded 3000m field will bring down the curtain in the Qatari capital, featuring a clash between world 5000m champion Hellen Obiri and world steeplechase champion Beatrice Chepkoech. In fact, five medallists from four different disciplines at last year’s World Championships will be back in action in Doha – and even then, that only scratches the surface of the quality of the field.
Obiri opened her outdoor campaign in Monaco last month, winning the 5000m in a world-leading 14:22.12, just four seconds shy of her Kenyan record. She has fond memories of Doha, too, as it is where she set a Kenyan 3000m record of 8:20.68 in 2014, following it with victories over 3000m at Doha’s Diamond League meeting last year and over 5000m at the World Championships at the same venue.
Chepkoech also opened her outdoor season in Monaco, clocking 14:55.01 for 5000m, and she followed it with a 9:10.07 run for second place in the steeplechase at the Continental Tour meeting in Berlin earlier this month. The steeplechase world record-holder is one of four women in the field with a PB inside 8:30.
Other athletes in the field who stood on the podium in Doha last year include 5000m silver medallist Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi, 10,000m bronze medallist and 2015 world cross-country champion Agnes Tirop, and 1500m bronze medallist Gudaf Tsegay.
In fact, all 16 women in the field own a medal from a global or continental championship, or hold a world or continental record. The quality is such that they all deserve a mention: 2015 world steeplechase champion Hyvin Kiyeng, world U18 champion Lemlem Hailu, world U20 champion Beatrice Chebet, African Games 10,000m champion Tsehay Gemechu, African 1500m champion Winny Chebet, African Games 1500m champion Quailyne Jebiwott Kiprop, European 5000m silver medallist Eilish McColgan, European 1500m bronze medallist Laura Weightman, European indoor bronze medallist Melissa Courtney-Bryant, and Oceania record-holders Genevieve Gregson and Jessica Hull.
Mondo Duplantis will also aim to end his year on a high – quite literally – when he lines up for his final pole vault competition of the year.
The 20-year-old from Sweden has enjoyed a dream season, setting world records of 6.17m and 6.18m indoors and maintaining a winning streak throughout the whole of 2020. His latest victory was a 6.15m clearance – the highest outdoor vault in history – at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Rome last week.
If he’s feeling good, he may well decide to take an attempt at a would-be world record height of 6.19m, though Duplantis himself would be quick to point out that records are by no means a certainty every time he sets foot on the runway.
His main goal will be to keep his winning streak intact, which in itself will be no easy task as he takes on two-time world champion Sam Kendricks and 2012 Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie.
Mouth-watering middle-distance clashes
It’s not just the women’s 3000m that will bring together some of the world’s best across a range of disciplines; the men’s 1500m has attracted world and Olympic medallists from the steeplechase and 5000m.
World and Olympic steeplechase champion Conseslus Kipruto will make his season debut in what will be his first 1500m race in five years. The 25-year-old Kenyan will be joined by his two fellow medallists from last year’s World Championships, Ethiopia’s Lamecha Girma and Morocco’s Soufiane El Bakkali, who have set PBs this year of 3:35.67 and 3:34.51 respectively. Kipruto may have proven time and again that he is the best over the barriers, but this is a test to see who has the greatest foot speed.
Ethiopia’s Selemon Barega, the world 5000m silver medallist, will also step down in distance in a bid to improve on his recent PB of 3:36.07. Australia’s Stewart McSweyn, fresh from setting an Oceanian 3000m record in Rome, has the fastest season’s best of the field (3:31.48) and will be a formidable opponent.
The 1500m will be without world champion Timothy Cheruiyot, because he too is stepping down in distance. The Kenyan will contest the 800m, where he’ll line up against world bronze medallist Ferguson Cheruiyot Rotich, World Championships fourth-place finisher Bryce Hoppel, 2016 European bronze medallist Elliot Giles, Pan American silver medallist Wesley Vazquez and Australian duo Peter Bol and Joseph Deng.
Cheruiyot has been undefeated since May 2019, but this will be his first 800m race for more than a year, whereas almost everyone else in the field has sharpened up over two laps and arrive in Doha with sub-1:45 season’s bests.
Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon is another athlete who heads to Doha off the back of an unbeaten run, and she too will move down in distance. The 26-year-old Kenyan has notched up two victories over 1000m this year, producing two of the five fastest times in history with her 2:29.15 run in Monaco and 2:29.92 win in Brussels. She followed it with a dominant 3:59.05 run over 1500m, her specialist distance, at the Continental Tour Gold meeting in Ostrava.
Friday’s race will be her first 800m outing in five years, but her two-lap splits from Monaco (1:59.7) and Brussels (1:59.2) suggest she’s ready to run fast and could even challenge her PB of 1:58.02.
Uganda’s Winnie Nanyondo, the fourth-place finisher at last year’s World Championships, and 2013 world champion Eunice Sum will also line up for the 800m.
Thompson-Herah looks to level the score with Ta Lou
Double Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah and multiple world medallist Marie-Josee Ta Lou will renew their rivalry in what will be their fourth clash in Doha.
Thompson-Herah won their first Doha duel back in 2017, winning the 200m in 22.19, but Ivorian Ta Lou gained revenge over 100m one year later, winning in 10.85. Their third clash in the Qatari capital came at last year’s World Championships, where Ta Lou finished third in the 100m, one place ahead of the Jamaican.
Following her world-leading 10.85 in Rome – where Ta Lou placed third in 11.14 – Thompson-Herah will start as the 100m favourite in Doha on Friday. US duo Aleia Hobbs and Kayla White should also feature at the top end of the race.
Long jumpers Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk and Ese Brume will also square off again in what will be their first outdoor clash since last year’s World Championships, where one centimetre separated their podium places.
Ukraine’s Bekh-Romanchuk, the world silver medallist, has been extremely consistent this year, finishing first or second in all of her competitions, indoors and out. Brume, meanwhile, will be making her 2020 outdoor debut; her last competition was in Lievin in February, where she set an indoor PB of 6.82m.
Sweden’s Khaddi Sagnia, who recently set an outdoor PB of 6.92m in Zagreb, will also be a tough opponent.
Elsewhere, in-form French hurdler Wilhem Belocian will take on USA’s Freddie Crittenden and Aaron Mallet in the men’s 110m hurdles. Britain’s Cindy Ofili and USA’s Payton Chadwick appear closely matched in the women’s sprint hurdles with just 0.01 separating their season’s bests.
Fresh from some strong performances over 100m (10.04) and 150m (15.15), Ivory Coast’s Arthur Cisse will step up to the 200m, where he will face Olympic bronze medallist Christophe Lemaitre. Kuwait’s Asian champion Yousef Karam will start as the fastest man this year in the 400m, but USA’s Kahmari Montgomery is also running into good form.
Jon Mulkeen for World Athletics