Hellen Obiri and Timothy Cheruiyot headline Doha meet as Diamond League kicks off

By Dennis Okeyo and IAAF: Friday, May 3rd 2019 at 00:20 GMT +3 | Athletics
Hellen Obiri on her way to victory during the 39 edition of KDF championships at Kasarani stadium. [Dennis Okeyo, Standard]

World 5,000m champion Hellen Obiri and world 1,500m silver medalist Timothy Cheruiyot are among Kenyan stars expected at the opening leg of the IAAF Diamond League meeting in the state-of-the-art Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, tonight.

The meet features six reigning world champions, eight reigning Olympic champions and winners of nine 2018 Diamond League Trophies.

Obiri, who won the World Cross Country Championships in Denmark in March, returns to Doha, a familiar ground where she set the Africa 3,000m record of 8:20.68 in 2014.

The Kenya Air Force soldier will once again battle Ethiopia's star Genzebe Dibaba in women’s 3000m. The two 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. World 3,000m steeplechase record holder Beatrice Chepkoech and Caroline Kipkirui, last year’s leg winner, are also in action.

Cheruiyot, the two-time Diamond League Trophy winner and world 1,500m champion Elijah Manangoi will compete in men’s 1,500m.

“I have two priorities this season. One is to defend my Diamond League title and secondly make it to the World Championships and improve on the silver I won in London two years ago,” said Cheruiyot.  

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They will be joined by World Under-20 1,500m champion George Manangoi and Timothy Sein, one of their training partners, who will do the pace setting.

Three top men feature in men's 800m, always among the most popular events in Doha: Emmanuel Korir of Kenya, last year's world leader at 1:42.05 and the Diamond League winner; Africa 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.

But also keep an eye on Qatari Abubaker Haydar Abdalla who sped to a 1:44.33 world-leading time to take the Asian title in Doha less than two weeks ago and the master tactician Adam Kszczot of Poland, the world indoor champion.

In men's 3,000m steeplechase, world and Olympic champion Conseslus Kipruto has been sidelined 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'll be making his 2019 debut.

The 800m is wide open 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.

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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