Sandra Perkovic smashes the meeting record in the Discus at the 2013 Doha Diamond League (© Errol Anderson)
Judging by their early season form, shot putter Joe Kovacs and Olympic discus champion Sandra Perkovic are poised to produce fireworks at the Doha 2015 meeting on 15 May, organisers of the IAAF Diamond League meeting announced on Monday (4).
The pair are among the latest athletes who will compete at the opening competition of the 14-meeting IAAF Diamond League series which gets underway for the sixth straight year in the Qatari capital.
Perkovic, who is also the world champion, has already thrown beyond 70 metres this season, reaching 70.08m at the Croatian winter championships, a throw exactly one metre shy of her career best.
No stranger to Doha, the 24-year-old won here in 2013 with a 68.23m meeting record and has claimed the Diamond Race in each of the past three seasons.
Kovacs, meanwhile, is the latest star to rise from the loaded US shot put stable. The 2014 US champion threw a personal best of 22.35m in California in early April, moving him to 12th on the world all-time list.
“Sandra and Joe’s fabulous early season form bode really well for the prospects of some very good performances in the throwing events,” said Dahlan Al Hamad, President of the Qatar Athletics Federation.
“The strong competition they’ll face and the near perfect conditions we expect could result in performances athletes will be chasing all season,” he added.
Perkovic will take on Australia’s Dani Samuels, the 2009 world champion who improved her career best to 67.99m last year, and Melina Robert-Michon, who claimed the world silver medal in 2013.
Kovacs will face Germany’s two-time world champion David Storl and another US shot putter, Ryan Whiting, who knows Doha well and set the 22.28m meeting record in 2013 en route to winning that season’s Diamond Race.
Whiting also took back-to-back world indoor titles in 2012 and 2014.
Into the bargain, Reese Hoffa, a four-time winner in Doha who won his second Diamond Race last season at the age of 37, is in the field.
Sanchez vs Culson and Jackson
Another veteran of the sport is Felix Sanchez from the Dominican Republic.
The 37-year-old 400m hurdler has illustrated phenomenal longevity, winning consecutive world titles in 2001 and 2003, followed by Olympic gold in 2004 and then eight years later in 2012.
He’ll be facing a strong field that includes Puerto Rico’s Javier Culson, the Diamond Race winner in 2012 and 2013 and a two-time World Championships silver medallist.
Two-time Doha winner and meeting record holder LJ Van Zyl of South Africa, who ran 48.11 in 2011, will also be in the field, along with the USA’s former world champion Bershawn Jackson, another past winner in Doha.
There will be no shortage of star power in the men’s javelin either, with a field that features Olympic champion Keshorn Walcott from Trinidad and Tobago and Czech Republic’s Vitezslav Vesely, the world champion.
Walcott, who only turned 22 last month, took the world by storm with his surprise victory at the London 2012 Olympic Games, less than a month after claiming the world junior title. Last season he finished second at the Commonwealth Games and then took third at the Continental Cup.
Vesely, who won in Doha in 2013, will nonetheless start as the man to beat.
The 2012 and 2013 Diamond Race winner won the IAAF Continental Cup last year and took silver at the European Championships. He has an 88.34m personal best to his credit from 2012.
No one in the field, however, has thrown as far as Finn Tero Pitkamaki, the 2007 world champion, who has a 91.53m career best from 2005. He showed that he is still a force to be reckoned with when he took the silver medal at the 2013 World Championships.
Finally, the women’s 3000m steeplechase features yet another Ethiopia-versus-Kenya battle.
The former will be well represented by Sofia Assefa and Hiwot Ayelew; at 9:09.00 and 9:09.61 respectively they are the fastest in the field.
Assefa took the bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics Games and 2013 World Championships while Ayelew finished runner-up at last season’s Continental Cup.
Defending Kenyan honour will be Lidya Chepkurui, the 2013 world silver medallist who set the Doha meeting record of 9:13.75 in 2013.
Organisers for the IAAF
2015 IAAF Diamond League calendar
Doha, QAT – 15 May
Shanghai, CHN – 17 May
Eugene, USA – 30 May
Rome, ITA – 4 June
Birmingham, GBR – 7 June
Oslo, NOR – 11 June
New York, USA – 13 June
Paris, FRA – 4 July
Lausanne, SUI – 9 July
Monaco, MON – 17 July
London, GBR – 24-25 July
Stockholm, SWE – 30 July
Zurich, SUI – 3 September
Brussels, BEL – 11 September