Star-studded fields are ready to lock horns at the first Diamond League meeting of the year in Qatar this week
Friday the 13th might be considered an unlucky date but organisers of the opening Diamond League of 2022 will hope the omens are on their side when the world’s leading athletes flock to Doha in Qatar this week.
The series was forced to make some calendar changes in recent days with Chorzow in Poland on August 6 replacing the cancelled Shanghai (July 30) and Shenzhen (August 6) meetings in China. However the first meeting in Doha on May 13 is unchanged and is followed swiftly by Diamond League events in Birmingham on May 21 and Eugene on May 28.
In total, a magnificent seven reigning Olympic champions are set to compete in the Qatari capital. Certainly, the meeting has come a long way since its modest beginnings 25 years ago when it staged its first international grand prix meeting – for men only at the time – in 1997.
Of course the city’s coming of age was staging the World Championships in 2019 and it is now an established venue on the Diamond League circuit. So what are the likely highlights this Friday?
Two months after being crowned world indoor champion in Belgrade, Mondo Duplantis kicks off his outdoor campaign. The 22-year-old faces Olympic silver medallist Chris Nilsen of the United States and world bronze medallist Piotr Lisek of Poland.
Joint Olympic high jump champions Mutaz Essa Barshim and Gianmarco Tamberi will reunite in competition in Doha with Barshim of course competing on home soil.
Double world champion Barshim was outstanding when winning global gold in Doha in 2019 to become the first man to successfully defend a world high jump title. Remarkably, it followed a serious ankle injury in 2018.
Tamberi of Italy was enjoying his best year ever when he suffered an horrific injury ahead of the Rio Games in 2016. His journey back to fitness was challenging, but he returned to medal-winning form with a European indoor title in Glasgow in 2019, joint gold in Tokyo with Barshim and in March finished third at the World Indoor Championships.
Joint world leaders Sanghyeok Woo of South Korea and Hamish Kerr of New Zealand, the world indoor champion and world indoor bronze medallist respectively, are also in the field.
World and European champion Dina Asher-Smith headlines an impressive women’s 200m, an event that also features Olympic medallists Gabrielle Thomas of the United States and Shericka Jackson of Jamaica, plus fellow Brit Beth Dobbin, although Christine Mboma of Namibia has been forced to pull out after an injury at the Kip Keino Classic last weekend.
For Asher-Smith it will be her first big race of 2022 following a couple of low-key races over 300m and 400m at Lee Valley in London in April. She will also be looking for a good run ahead of racing in front of her home crowd in Birmingham eight days later in the 100m against Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah.
In their first meeting since the Olympic final, Olympic and world 400m hurdles silver medallist Rai Benjamin of the United States and Qatar’s world bronze medallist Abderrahman Samba will line up in the men’s 400m hurdles, joined by Olympic bronze medallist Alison Dos Santos of Brazil.
Benjamin finished runner-up to Norwegian Karsten Warholm in Tokyo. His time of 46.17 – an American record – was inside the previous world record which Warholm obliterated when winning gold in 45.94.
Olympic 200m champion Andre De Grasse of Canadia will take on world champion Noah Lyles of the United States and Olympic 100m silver medallist Fred Kerley, also of the US, in the men’s 200m.
Elsewhere the men’s 3000m steeplechase includes Olympic podium trio Soufiane El Bakkali of Morocco, Lamecha Girma of Ethiopia and Benjamin Kigen of Kenya.
The women’s 400m sees Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo of Bahamas leading the entires while the women’s 3000m features Olympic 1500m champion Faith Kipyegon of Kenya up against Diamond League 5000m winner Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi, Ejgayehu Taye of Ethiopia and Beatrice Chepkoech of Kenya.
It will be interesting to see what Abel Kipsang of Kenya can do over 1500m at sea level too as he ran 3:31.01 at 1600m altitude in Nairobi last weekend and in Doha faces Stewart McSweyn of Australia and world champion Timothy Cheruiyot of Kenya.
Other Brits in action include Naomi Metgzer in the triple jump and Dan Rowden in the 800m.
For viewers in the UK the event is covered live on BBC2 from 5-7pm.
Full start lists can be found here.