Mondo Duplantis in Doha (© AFP / Getty Images)
Seven individual gold medallists from last year’s Olympics, along with several other world champions and Olympic relay winners, will descend on the Qatari capital for the Ooredoo Doha Meeting as the 2022 Wanda Diamond League series gets under way on Friday (13).
Pole vault superstar Mondo Duplantis pieced together one of the greatest indoor campaigns in history earlier this year. The 22-year-old cleared six metres in all six of his competitions, improving with each meeting and breaking world records in Belgrade both before (6.19m) and during the World Indoor Championships (6.20m).
He hasn’t competed since then, though. And although Duplantis can seemingly vault six metres on any given day, it might not necessarily be enough for victory – especially as USA’s Olympic silver medallist Chris Nilsen has already achieved that benchmark this year, clearing 6.00m last weekend.
Three other six-metre performers – former world record-holder Renaud Lavillenie, multiple global medallist Piotr Lisek and USA’s KC Lightfoot – will make the event even more competitive. Duplantis cannot afford to have a day off in his outdoor season opener.
For the first time since their iconic joint victory at the Tokyo Games, Olympic champions Mutaz Barshim and Gianmarco Tamberi will compete against one another in the high jump.
Theirs is about as friendly a rivalry as you can get in sport, though once they step on to the infield, they will be determined to come out on top. Both men will be making their outdoor debut. Barshim, in fact, hasn’t competed at all since the Tokyo Olympics. Tamberi, meanwhile, went on to win the Diamond League title last year and made a last-minute decision to compete at the World Indoor Championships two months ago, leaving Belgrade with a bronze medal.
Mutaz Barshim in action in the high jump (© Hasse Sjogren)
Barshim will have home crowd advantage, of course, but it’s difficult to gauge the form of an athlete who hasn’t competed for more than nine months. If recent form is anything to go by, then world indoor champion Woo Sanghyeok could start as the marginal favourite. The Korean was fourth at the Olympics last year, cleared a world-leading 2.36m earlier this year and then won the world indoor title. He opened his outdoor season last month with a 2.30m win in Daegu.
Other contenders include Commonwealth champion Brandon Starc, world indoor bronze medallist Hamish Kerr of New Zealand and US jumps talent JuVaughn Harrison.
The women’s 400m in Doha sees the high jump’s two Olympic gold medals and raises it by another two.
Not only does the line-up feature four of the top five women from the Tokyo Games – including Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo – but it also includes three women who earned gold medals in relay events in the Japanese capital.
Miller-Uibo, who won the world indoor title two months ago, will take on Olympic silver medallist Marileidy Paulino, Jamaican duo Stephenie Ann McPherson and Candice McLeod, US pair Lynna Irby and Kendell Ellis and Poland’s Natalia Kaczmarek.
The men’s 200m is similarly loaded as three individual reigning global champions clash. Olympic champion Andre De Grasse takes on world champion Noah Lyles and world indoor 400m champion Jereem Richards. Add in the likes of Olympic 100m silver medallist Fred Kerley, Olympic 4x100m champion Filippo Tortu, and Canadian duo Aaron Brown and Jerome Blake – winners at recent Continental Tour Gold meetings – and this could well end up producing the track highlight of the meeting.
When it comes to Olympic rematches, the men’s steeplechase does a pretty good job as it reunites the top five finishers from the Tokyo final.
Gold medallist Soufiane El Bakkali renews his rivalry with world and Olympic silver medallist Lamecha Girma of Ethiopia, Olympic bronze medallist and Diamond League champion Benjamin Kigen, Ethiopia’s Getnet Wale, Eritrea’s Yemane Haileselassie and Kenya’s Abraham Kibiwot, winner at the recent Continental Tour Gold meeting in Nairobi.
The women’s 3000m will be an enthralling meet-in-the-middle clash between Olympic 1500m champion Faith Kipyegon and Diamond League 5000m champion Francine Niyonsaba.
Faith Kipyegon wins the 1500m at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Monaco (© AFP / Getty Images)
Kipyegon often runs well in Doha. She has won the 800m here for the past two years, she broke four minutes for 1500m for the first time here in 2013, set her 3000m PB of 8:23.55 in 2014 and earned world silver in 2019.
But Niyonsaba is one of the few runners who can match Kipyegon’s versatility and finishing speed. The Burundian set a world 2000m best last year, clocked a world-leading 8:19.08 for 3000m, won the Diamond League 5000m title and finished fifth over 10,000m at the Olympic Games.
Beatrice Chebet, the surprise 3000m winner in Doha last year, is also in the field, as is world steeplechase champion Beatrice Chepkoech and current world 5000m leader Girmawit Gebrzihair.
Global medallists assemble
Even in events where the individual Olympic champion won’t be present, most will feature clashes between numerous major championships medallists.
Five of the top six finishers from the iconic Olympic men’s 400m hurdles final will be in the Qatari capital. World and Olympic silver medallist Rai Benjamin, the second-fastest man in history for the event, will face world bronze medallist Abderrahman Alsaleck (formerly known as ‘Samba’), Olympic bronze medallist Alison Dos Santos, Commonwealth champion Kyron McMaster and 2017 world silver medallist Yasmani Copello.
Rai Benjamin wins the Wanda Diamond League 400m hurdles in Doha (© Getty Images / AFP)
World champion Dina Asher-Smith will contest her first 200m of the year. The Briton has tested her form in some early low-key season races over 400m and 300m, clocking a PB of 36.41 in the latter. But this will be her biggest test of the season so far as she takes on Olympic 100m bronze medallist Shericka Jackson, Olympic 200m bronze medallist Gabby Thomas, sub-22-second performer Tamara Clark of the USA and in-form Bahamian Anthonique Strachan.
All three podium placers from the recent World Indoor Championships will take on two Olympic medallists in the women’s 100m hurdles. World record-holder Kendra Harrison, Olympic bronze medallist Megan Tapper, world indoor champion Cyrena Samba-Mayela, world indoor silver medallist Devynne Charlton and world indoor bronze medallist Gabbi Cunningham are all in the line-up, as is African champion Tobi Amusan and Olympic finalist Britany Anderson.
Timothy Cheruiyot will open his season over his specialist distance, the 1500m, in the city where he won the world title in 2019. The Kenyan will face Ethiopia’s Yomif Kejelcha, world indoor bronze medallist Abel Kipsang, Australia’s Stewart McSweyn and Ethiopia’s Teddese Lemi.
Another world middle-distance champion, US 800m runner Donavan Brazier, also makes his 2022 Diamond League debut. He will face the likes of Olympic silver medallist Ferguson Rotich, Australia’s Peter Bol and Canada’s Marco Arop.
Loaded shot put, javelin and triple jump line-ups
The field events in Doha will be every bit as thrilling as the track action.
In a loaded women’s shot put field, world indoor silver medallist Chase Ealey takes on world indoor bronze medallist Jessica Schilder, Olympic silver medallist Raven Saunders, world silver medallist Danniel Thomas-Dodd, all-round throws talent Maggie Ewen and US Olympian Jessica Ramsey.
Shot put winner Chase Ealey at the Diamond League meeting in Shanghai (© Errol Anderson)
In the men’s javelin, 2016 Olympic champion Thomas Rohler of Germany and world champion Anderson Peters of Grenada take on the two Czech men who made it on to the Olympic podium last year: silver medallist Jakub Vadlejch and bronze medallist Vitezslav Vesely. Germany’s Julian Weber and Moldova’s Andrian Mardare, both highly consistent performers, are also in the line-up.
And the women’s triple jump is essentially a clash of global silver medallists as Olympic runner-up Patricia Mamona faces world silver medallist Shanieka Ricketts, world indoor silver medallist Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk and 2018 world indoor silver medallist Kimberly Williams.
Jon Mulkeen for World Athletics