World javelin champion Julius Yego leads a stellar cast of top throwers to the first meeting of the 2017 IAAF Diamond League season at the Qatar Sports Club in Doha on May 5.
Germany’s Thomas Röhler, who narrowly missed the Olympic record while winning in Rio 2016 last August after throwing an untouchable 90.30m – just 0.27m shy of the record - will be Yego’s main challenger, having relegated the ‘Youtube Man’ to silver.
Yego said Doha will serve as a curtain raiser to a long season and will be seeking to gauge his form after months of training with no competitive action.
“My main focus in Doha is to gauge my body. I want to see how I will react in a competition a fter all the training I have undergone,” said Yego.
“It will be great to battle against Thomas again. It is always great to compete against top athletes. I feel ready.”
He observed that everything he does will be in preparation to defending his world title in London in August.
“It is usually very tough to defend a title but this is my main goal this year. I also want to improve on my performance,” added the 92.72m-man.
Qatar’s young Olympian and Aspire Academy graduate, 21-year-old Ahmed Bedeer will be looking to continue his solid progress in the sport.
Bedeer set a personal best of 84.74m to qualify for the Olympic Games and will be aiming to use the Doha Diamond League to gain further experience on his road to the IAAF World Championships London 2017 in August.
Qatar’s two-time Olympic medallist Mutaz Barshim is hoping to get the crowd on their feet as he returns to compete on home soil after a winter of focused training. Barshim jumped just two centimetres short of the 2.45m world record in 2014 and will no doubt have his sights firmly set on Javier Sotomayer’s 24-year-old world record in the 2017 season, as well as the world championship gold medal in August. The Doha Diamond League will provide an opportunity to see his form coming out of winter training, as well as have some fun in front of the home crowd.
“For me, Doha is very challenging because it is just in May, and normally in May I’m still in hard preparation and training,” Barshim said. “So I really don’t know what shape I’m in and I don’t know how my body is going to react. Doha for me is very important because according to how I perform, I will know what to do for the next couple of months, how to adjust, and how I feel.
“Competing at home makes it very special. It is such a great thing, a great atmosphere, especially in Doha and I’m really looking forward to my first competition, to get that feeling again, come out there in the stadium, and feel that pumping and do my best. I want to give the crowd a show, I want to give my country a show, my family and everybody else.”
In the men’s 100m, two-time Asian Champion Femi Ogunode will be joined by his younger brother Tosin Ogunode, who made his debut in the 2014 season and immediately made his mark by setting a blistering Asian indoor record of 6.50, shattering a 20-year-old record set by fellow Qatari Talal Mansour. Older brother Femi, 25, who won the bronze medal at the World Indoor Championships in 2014, will be looking to start his 2017 season with a competitive time in a strong field of Olympic and World medallists.
The 400m hurdles event meanwhile will see Qatar’s up-and-coming track sensation Abdulrahman Samba, together with team-mate Mohamed Shaib compete against some of the fastest athletes in the world. Samba, 22, another Aspire Academy graduate, cruised to victory in the Sasol-NWU International athletics meeting earlier in March in South Africa in 48.31, currently the fastest time in the world.
Samba improved nearly a full second from his 49.24 effort on March 11 in Pretoria, South Africa, and is closing in on the 1998 Qatar national record of 48.17 set by Mubarak Faraj Al-Nubi. This will be the first time Shaib, 19, competes in the Diamond League meeting and brings with him a promising season’s best of 49.85, which he set earlier this year also in South Africa.
In the 400m, former Asian youth champion Mohamed Nasir Abbas, 21, will aim to build on his impressive senior record after snatching the gold medal in the 4x400m relay at the 2016 Asian Indoor Championship in Doha. Meanwhile the 1500m event will see Qataris Hamza Driouch and Said Aden go up against world champions as they aim to get a leg-up at the start of this year’s season.
The seasoned Driouch, 23, will look to build on his World junior and Asian junior titles, whilst Aden, 24, will be hoping to build on his 2016 season that saw him win two bronze medals in the Asian Indoor Championships in the 1500m and 3000m. Qatar’s rising athlete Yaser Salem Bagharab will go up against stiff competition in the 3000m and will undoubtedly gain more experience after snagging the bronze medal in the 2016 Asian Junior Championships in Vietnam.
Completing the Qatari line up will be Mohamat Hamdi in high jump and Rashid Ahmed Al-Mannai in the triple jump event.
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