Mutaz Essa Barshim at the 2016 IAAF Diamond League meeting in Lausanne (© Gladys von der Laage)
A slew of Olympic and world champions will kick off their outdoor seasons at the Doha 2017 meeting in the Qatari capital on 5 May, the first stop of the 2017 IAAF Diamond League series.
Barshim vs Kynard and Grabarz
Qatar’s most successful athlete, high jumper Mutaz Barshim, will ensure an electric atmosphere as he returns to compete in front of a home crowd for the first time since taking silver at last year’s Olympic Games.
Barshim, the 2014 world indoor champion, cleared 2.43m that year to become the second highest jumper in history, and went on to clinch the Diamond Race titles in 2014 and 2015. He lost the title to Erik Kynard of the US in 2016 and the two will go head to head once again in Doha this year in a bid to get their 2017 seasons off to a successful start. They will be challenged by Robbie Grabarz of Great Britain who shared the bronze with Barshim at the 2012 Olympics, setting up another captivating men’s high jump competition.
Thompson vs Schippers at 200m
One of the most highly-anticipated events of the evening will be the women’s 200m where Olympic 100m and 200m champion Elaine Thompson of Jamaica will face last year’s Diamond Race winner, the world 200m champion and Olympic silver medallist Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands.
Thompson, who became the first woman to capture the Olympic sprint double since Florence Griffith-Joyner in 1988, ran a world-leading time of 21.78 in Rio’s 200m final to defeat Schippers and reverse their positions from the 2015 World Championships final in Beijing. With the IAAF World Championships London 2017 on the horizon later this year, both athletes will be eager to stamp a strong early mark in their first competition of the season.
However, they will face further strong opposition from 2004 and 2008 Olympic champion and multiple World Championships medallist Veronica Campbell-Brown of Jamaica. Marie-Josee Ta Lou of the Ivory Coast, who finished fourth in the Rio 2016 200m final, will also be in the field.
Merritt vs James in 400m showdown
The men’s 400m also promises to set the Qatar Sports Club alive with a thrilling head-to-head between 2012 Olympic and 2011 world champion Kirani James and 2008 Olympic champion Lashawn Merritt, who also took the 2009 and 2013 world crowns.
James, who became Grenada’s first-ever Olympic medallist, is one of only nine athletes in history to win world titles at youth, junior and senior level. Merritt, winner of last year’s Diamond Race, is the sixth fastest man ever over 400m and is one of only four men in history to have broken 20 seconds for the 200m and 44 seconds for the 400m. The Doha Diamond League will provide an early opportunity to see the form of both sprint sensations at the beginning of a World Championships season.
Stefanidi to take on Morris and Silva
Doha’s large Greek community will be able to cheer on Olympic champion Ekaterini Stefanidi in the women’s pole vault. The 2016 Diamond Race winner will face tough competition from Olympic silver medallist Sandi Morris of the USA and world champion Yarisley Silva of Cuba in what promises to be one of the most riveting events of the evening.
“We are very excited to welcome so many world-class athletes to Doha once again this year, including freshly crowned Olympic champions,” said Thani Abdulrahman Al Kuwari, President of the Qatar Athletics Federation.
“There will be some enthralling rivalries ensuring a thrilling evening of memorable athletics. This is Doha’s 10th year of hosting world-class athletics events and we aim to build on our past success and stage this year’s event to the highest possible level, getting the 2017 IAAF Diamond League series off to the successful and momentous start that it deserves.”
Organisers or the IAAF
2017 IAAF Diamond League calendar
5 May – Doha, QAT
13 May – Shanghai, CHN
27 May – Eugene, USA
8 Jun – Rome, ITA
15 Jun – Oslo, NOR
18 Jun – Stockholm, SWE
1 Jul – Paris, FRA
6 Jul – Lausanne, SUI
9 Jul – London, GBR
16 Jul – Rabat, MAR
21 Jul – Monaco, MON
20 Aug – Birmingham, GBR
24 Aug – Zurich, SUI
1 Sep – Brussels, BEL