Doha, Here We Come! Obiri Leads Star-Studded Kenyan Cast In DL Opener

May 02 - by SPN Correspondent for SportPesa News

Freshly-minted World Cross senior women champion and fellow Diamond Trophy winners Korir, Cheruiyot launch title defences in Qatar on Friday

Hellen Obiri celebrates winning the women 10km senior race at Aarhus 2019 IAAF World Cross on Saturday, March 30, 2019. PHOTO/IAAF

  • The opening meet of the 2019 season will see dozens of the world's finest athletes gathering at the venue of the IAAF World Championships in September where each of the track and field stars will be chasing a share of the USD8m prize purse
  • This time Obiri will take to the line about 13 kilometres to the southwest, at the newly refurbished Khalifa Stadium in the city's Aspire Zone district that hosts the Worlds in less than five months
  • Each discipline winner collects USD50,000, a stunning Diamond Trophy, the title of IAAF Diamond League Champion, and this year, a wild card entry to the World Championships that begins three weeks after the final in Brussels

DOHA, Qatar- Kenya’s Hellen Obiri, Emmanuel Korir and Timothy Cheruiyot are among the nine Diamond League winners who will launch defences of their elite circuit crowns in Doha on Friday.

The opening meet of the 2019 season will see dozens of the world's finest athletes gathering at the venue of the IAAF World Championships in September where each of the track and field stars will be chasing a share of the USD8m prize purse.

Among the cast assembled, which includes eight Olympic, six world and nine 2018 Diamond Trophy winners are Caterine Ibarguen, the 2018 World Athlete of the Year and Obiri.

The Kenyan women 5000m world champion’s star rose even higher just over a month ago at the World Cross Country Championships Aarhus 2019 where she battled to an impressive victory over the most difficult course in that event's history.

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In Doha, Obiri will run on more familiar and conventional turf as she returns to the city where she broke the African 3000m record in 2014, clocking 8:20.68, still the fifth fastest performance of all-time. 

That was at the Qatar Sports Club stadium, home to this meeting for its previous nine editions. 

This time Obiri will take to the line about 13 kilometres to the southwest, at the newly refurbished Khalifa Stadium in the city's Aspire Zone district that hosts the Worlds in less than five months.

Her chief opponent is long-time rival Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia, the world 1500m record holder who has captured the last three world indoor 3000m titles. She too will be making her 2019 outdoor debut.

Record holder

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The pair have raced 18 times over distances from 1500 to 5000m, with Obiri holding a 10-8 lead, but over 3000m Dibaba has won three of their five meetings.

Kenya's Timothy Cheruiyot in action during the heats of the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia. PHOTO/File


The strong field in the evening-capping event includes Obiri’s compatriots; Beatrice Chepkoech, the world record holder in the 3000m steeplechase, and Caroline Kipkirui, the winner here last year. Both have sub-8:30 lifetime bests.

Ibarguen, the world and Olympic champion in the triple jump, famously ended her 2018 campaign with a long jump/triple jump double-double, winning both events at the Diamond League finals and at the IAAF Continental Cup within the span of 11 days. 

In her first appearance since, the Colombian will take on Olympic champion Tianna Bartoletta of the US and in-form Australians Naa Anang and Brooke Stratton, who have leaped 6.81m and 6.74m respectively earlier this season.

Ibarguen and Obiri were two of the dominant figures in Diamond League action in 2018, the second season in which the 14-meeting series utilised its successful championship-style model, a format that continues in 2019.

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In a packed middle distance programme, three men figure prominently in the men's 800m, always among the most popular events in Doha.

Korir of Kenya, last year's world leader at 1:42.05 and the Diamond League champion; African champion Nijel Amos of Botswana, the man who handed Korir his only defeat last season and history's fifth fastest man; and US star Donavan Brazier, whose stellar 2019 indoor season included a 1:44.41 Area record and a world indoor 600m best of 1:13.77.

Keep an eye on Qatari Abubaker Haydar Abdalla who sped to a 1:44.33 world lead to take the Asian title here less than two weeks ago, and master tactician Adam Kszczot of Poland, the world indoor champion.

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The women's race is wide open on paper, with world and Olympic silver medallist Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi, 2017 world bronze medallist Ajee Wilson of the US and Kenyan Margaret Wambui, the Olympic bronze medallist, among the favourites. All will be making their season debuts.

Kipruto sidelined

In the men's 3000m steeplechase, world and Olympic champion Conseslus Kipruto has been side-lined with a foot problem, putting the focus on his Moroccan rival Soufiane El Bakkali, who finished second to the Kenyan at last year's Diamond League final in Zurich in one of the season's most dramatic and unforgettable contests. Like most of the field, he will be making his 2019 debut.

The field includes Kenyans Amos Kirui, the 2016 world U20 champion and Commonwealth bronze medallist last year, and Benjamin Kigen, the winner in Rabat last year with an 8:06.19 personal best.

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The story in the men's 1500m is the on-going rivalry between training partners Timothy Cheruiyot and Elijah Manangoi of Kenya. Manangoi is the world champion but Cheruiyot was clearly the better on the circuit last year, breaking 3:30 twice before taking the Diamond League title.

Athletes will earn points in the first 12 stops to earn qualification for the two final winner-takes-all meetings to be held in Zurich (29 Aug) and Brussels (6 Sep). 

As part of the overall USD8 million in prize money available across the series, the finals offer a prize purse of USD3.2 million, with USD100,000 at stake in each of the 32 Diamond disciplines. 

Caterine Ibarguen of Colombia from Team Americas competes during the Long Jump Women race at the IAAF Continental Cup on September 9, 2018 in Ostrava. PHOTO/AFP


Each discipline winner collects USD50,000, a stunning Diamond Trophy, the title of IAAF Diamond League Champion, and this year, a wild card entry to the World Championships that begins three weeks after the final in Brussels.

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-Material to compile this report obtained from www.iaaf.org