Women’s 3,000m race in the season-opening Doha Diamond League will see reigning world champion and Olympic silver medalist Hellen Obiri lead a strong Kenyan fields that includes 2013 World Youth Champion and 2014 World Junior 3000m silver medalist Lilian Kasait and fifth-place finisher at the 2017 World championships, Margaret Chelimo.
Reigning 1,500m world silver medalist and Olympic bronze medalist, Jenny Simpson of the USA, will move up to the longer distance in Doha and will provide a strong challenge for the Kenyans.
Obiri enjoyed an outstanding 2017 season, claiming the overall 5,000m Diamond League title in Brussels following victories in Shanghai and Rome, as well as winning the 3,000m race in Monaco. She also set a new meeting record over one mile at the Muller Anniversary Games in London.
However, 20-year-old team-mate, Rengeruk, has shown strong form already this season, winning team gold at the 2017 World Cross Country Championships in Uganda and taking individual bronze, proving the youngster is one-to-watch and setting up an exciting head-to-head in May. The race promises to be a real treat for Qatar’s large Kenyan community, who always come out in force to support their athletes.
Doha first staged a major athletics event in 1997 with the Doha Grand Prix, which was elevated to the Super Grand Prix in 2005. In 2010, Doha hosted the first-ever IAAF Diamond League fixture which has continued to grow in strength every year and provides an ideal opening to the outdoor season. The 2018 meeting will be the ninth consecutive edition.
The women’s 100m promises to be one of the highlights of the evening as reigning 100m Olympic champion Elaine Thompson of Jamaica will go head to head with reigning 200m World champion and Olympic silver medallist Dafne Schippers of The Netherlands, 2017 world silver medallist in the 100m and 200m, Marie-Josée Tao Lou of the Ivory Coast and fellow country-woman, 2018 World Indoor champion over 60m, Murielle Ahouré.
Elaine Thompson proved unbeatable in last year’s Diamond League series as she won every single race to be crowned 2017 Diamond League Champion.
She also became the first woman since Florence Griffith-Joyner at Seoul 1988 to do the sprint double at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
However, Thompson finished in a surprise fifth place at the London 2017 IAAF World Championships with Ta Lou, Schippers and Ahouré finishing ahead of her in silver, bronze and fourth positions respectively, ensuring a fascinating showdown at this year’s Doha Diamond League.
The Doha event will be followed by the Shangai round where World record-holder David Rudisha will hope to make it third time lucky in the men’s 800m after finishing fifth on his Shanghai debut in 2016 and third last year, while fellow Kenyan Timothy Cheruiyot begins the defence of his Diamond League trophy in the 1500m.
Other reigning IAAF Diamond League champions who will be looking for early points include Dalilah Muhammad in the women’s 400m hurdles and Maria Lasitskene, the world indoor and outdoor high jump champion.
Colombia’s Olympic champion Caterine Ibarguen is targeting a winning return to Shanghai after she won the women’s triple jump here in 2013 and 2015, as will Luvo Manyonga, the South African who leapt to an IAAF Diamond League and African record of 8.61m to take maximum points in the long jump last May before going to win the world title and Diamond trophy in August.
Manyonga will face China’s newly minted Asian indoor champion, Shi Yuhao.
Sam Kendricks, another of last year’s world and IAAF Diamond League champions, takes on the host nation’s World Championships fourth-place finisher, Xue Changrui, in the men’s pole vault. Like McLeod, Kendricks is seeking a Shanghai hat-trick after beating world record-holder Renaud Lavillenie with a vault of 5.88m 12 months ago.