Previews17 May 2024

Field event giants clash in Marrakesh


Kristjan Ceh, Mykolas Alekna and Daniel Stahl (© Matthew Quine)

World record-holders, Olympic gold medallists and world champions will collide at the Meeting International Mohammed VI d’Athlétisme – the fourth stop in this year’s Wanda Diamond League – in Marrakesh on Sunday (19).

The men’s discus looks set to be one of the highest quality events of the evening as world and Olympic champion Daniel Stahl takes on recent world record-breaker Mykolas Alekna. It will be their first clash this year, and Alekna’s first competition since setting a world record of 74.35m last month at the throwers’ Mecca of Ramona in Oklahoma. Stahl, meanwhile, opened his season earlier this week with a 68.99m victory in Tenerife.

They are just two of the five men with PBs beyond 70 metres who’ll be in action in the Moroccan city. 2022 world champion Kristjan Ceh, who won at the Diamond League meeting in Doha last week with 70.48m, will also be in action, so too will Jamaican record-holder Fedrick Dacres – who holds the meeting record here with 70.78m – and Austria’s Olympic bronze medallist Lukas Weisshaidinger.

Australia’s Matthew Denny, who has thrown beyond 69 metres in his last two competitions, could soon join that quintet in the 70-metre club. Alekna’s brother Martynas, who has thrown 66.59m this year, and compatriot Andrius Gudzius, the 2017 world champion, add further depth to the field.

The men’s triple jump also boasts numerous global gold medallists, led by world indoor and outdoor champion Hugues Fabrice Zango and Olympic champion Pedro Pichardo.

The pair clashed in Xiamen last month, where Pichardo emerged victorious with 17.51m, so Zango will have extra motivation heading into Sunday’s clash. Cuba’s 2022 world indoor champion Lazaro Martinez, Italy’s Diamond League champion Andy Diaz, recent Ibero-American Championships winner Almir Dos Santos and multiple global champion Christian Taylor will also take to the runway in Marrakesh.

There could also be fireworks in the women’s shot put as USA’s two-time world champion Chase Jackson takes on world indoor champion Sarah Mitton. Jackson won their last clash, throwing 20.03m at the Diamond League meeting in Suzhou last month, but Mitton then went on to set a world-leading Canadian record of 20.68m.

Global sprint champions take to the track

Two-time world champion Shericka Jackson will make her highly anticipated 200m season debut in Marrakesh.

The Jamaican has dominated the event in recent years and has a winning streak of 15 finals, stretching back to June 2022. During that time, she has won two world titles and has come close to the long-standing world record, notching up three sub-21.50 performances.

She set a meeting record of 21.98 last year when the competition was held in its traditional home of Rabat, so she’ll have a marker to chase on Sunday. European champion Mujinga Kambundji and Denmark’s Ida Karstoft are also in the line-up.

Two weeks after going head-to-head in the 4x400m at the World Relays in Nassau, Botswana’s Bayapo Ndori and South Africa’s Lythe Pillay will renew their rivalry in the 400m flat. Commonwealth champion Muzala Samukonga of Zambia and world indoor champion Alexander Doom of Belgium will ensure it’s more than just a two-man race.

Olympic 200m champion Andre De Grasse steps down in distance to the 100m, where he’ll take on US duo Brandon Hicklin and Pjai Austin.

El Bakkali aims to delight home crowd

As has been the case for several years now, world and Olympic steeplechase champion Soufiane El Bakkali will be one of the big attractions for home fans at this meeting.

For the past two years, El Bakkali has produced his fastest times of the season at this meeting, clocking 7:58.28 in 2022 and then improving to a lifetime best and meeting record of 7:56.68 last year.

The 28-year-old will be opening his track season this Sunday in Marrakesh and will take on rising Ethiopian Samuel Firewu, winner in Doha last week with a PB of 8:07.25, two-time world champion Conseslus Kipruto, world bronze medallist Abraham Kibiwot and Getnet Wale.

Steeplechase world record-holder Lamecha Girma, however, won’t be in the line-up as he has opted to contest the 1500m instead. The versatile Ethiopian, who also holds the world indoor 3000m record, holds the national 1500m record of 3:29.51 and will start as the marginal favourite in a field that also includes France’s Azeddine Habz, Spain’s Adel Mechaal and Britain’s Elliot Giles.

Olympic champion Emmanuel Korir gets his 2024 campaign under way in the men’s 800m, taking on fellow Kenyans Emmanuel Wanyonyi and Wyclife Kinyamal, as well as world bronze medallist Ben Pattison, Spain’s Adrian Ben and Botswana’s in-form Tshepiso Masalela.

In the women’s event, Ethiopia’s Habitam Alemu lines up alongside South Africa’s Prudence Sekgodiso and Benin’s Noelie Yarigo.

Ethiopians also feature heavily in the women’s 5000m, with Medina Eisa, Melknat Wudu and Fotyen Tesfaye taking on Kenya’s Edinah Jebitok.

Elsewhere, there could be a Jamaican 1-2-3 in the women’s 400m hurdles as world leader and world bronze medallist Rushell Clayton takes on Commonwealth champion Janieve Russell and compatriot Shiann Salmon.

In the women’s jumps, recent Doha winner Angelina Topic headlines the high jump field, while 2017 world champion Ekaterini Stefanidi and Slovenia’s Tina Sutej clash in the pole vault.