Soufiane El Bakkali races in Rabat (© Geoffroy Van der Hasselt for Diamond League AG)
Rivalries will be renewed in Rabat when some of the sport’s biggest stars compete in the second Wanda Diamond League meeting of the season on Sunday (28).
Moroccan home favourite Soufiane El Bakkali will hope to put on a show in his first 3000m steeplechase race since the Diamond League Final in Zurich last year, while Fred Kerley and Trayvon Bromell clash in the 100m, and Grant Holloway goes head-to-head with Hansle Parchment in the 110m hurdles. Yaroslava Mahuchikh will have her sights on another two-metre-plus clearance in the high jump, while world champions Shericka Jackson and Jakob Ingebrigtsen will aim to make a statement when they return to the Meeting International Mohammed VI d'Athletisme de Rabat.
El Bakkali was among the five finalists for the Men’s World Athlete of the Year honour in 2022, a year in which he became world champion, won the Diamond League title and remained unbeaten. Among his winning performances was the 7:58.28 world lead he set in Rabat – his second-quickest ever time behind the 7:58.15 PB he recorded in Monaco in 2018. Speaking ahead of the World Athletics Awards in December, El Bakkali again voiced his career goal of breaking the world record of 7:53.63 that was set by Saif Saaeed Shaheen in 2004.
Whether he goes for it on Sunday or uses the event more to test his steeplechase form after a 3000m PB of 7:33.87 in Doha, the certainty is that he won’t want to lose on home soil. Looking to challenge him will be Kenya’s two-time world and 2016 Olympic gold medallist Conseslus Kipruto and Ethiopia’s world and Olympic fourth-place finisher Getnet Wale, as well as Kenya’s Commonwealth Games champion Abraham Kibiwot and Leonard Bett, who finished second and third respectively at the Continental Tour Gold meeting in Nairobi earlier this month.
Track clashes aplenty
Italy’s Olympic champion Marcell Jacobs may have withdrawn from the meeting – postponing his 100m clash with world champion Kerley – but Rabat will still host a sprint showdown as the US star goes up against his compatriot Trayvon Bromell, the 2016 world indoor 60m champion who claimed world 100m bronze in Oregon. Both Kerley and Bromell have the chance to race for a second Diamond League 100m crown in 2023 – Kerley won his in 2021, while Bromell claimed his last year – and they kick off their campaigns in Rabat.
Kerley raced the 200m in Doha and won in 19.92 but it’s not just Bromell he’ll need to watch if he’s to triumph again as the field also features Yohan Blake, Akani Simbine, Letsile Tebogo and Ferdinand Omanyala.
Fred Kerley on his way to 200m triumph at the Doha Diamond League (© AFP / Getty Images)
Like Kerley, Jamaica’s world 200m champion Jackson also opened her Diamond League campaign in Doha, where she finished runner-up to Sha’Carri Richardson in the 100m in 10.85. Jackson races the 200m in Rabat, going up against USA’s Kayla White and Tamari Davis, plus Anthonique Strachan of The Bahamas.
The men’s 110m hurdles pits world champion against Olympic champion. The last time USA’s two-time world gold medallist Holloway clashed with Jamaica’s Olympic Games winner Parchment was at the Diamond League Final in Zurich, where Holloway won and Parchment finished third. Their career head-to-head record stands at 4-1 to Holloway, but that sole win for Parchment did come at the Olympic Games. Looking to push them will be Devon Allen, Rasheed Broadbell, Freddie Crittenden and Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, who makes his season debut.
A lot of hype also surrounds the men’s 1500m, as training partners Yared Nuguse, Oliver Hoare and Mario Garcia take on Olympic champion Ingebrigtsen.
Ingebrigtsen, who won world 5000m gold and 1500m silver in Oregon last year, is the man to beat as he opens his outdoor season, but USA’s Nuguse demonstrated his strong form with area indoor records in the 1500m, mile and 3000m earlier this year and will be looking to build on that outdoors as he races Ingebrigtsen in a 1500m final for the first time. The field also features Kenya’s Abel Kipsang, the world indoor bronze medallist behind Ingebrigtsen in Belgrade last year.
Another world and Olympic champion is in action in the men’s 800m, as Kenya’s Emmanuel Korir takes to the track along with his compatriots Wyclife Kinyamal and Emmanuel Wanyonyi, plus Canada’s Marco Arop and Morocco’s Moad Zahafi.
World indoor 1500m record-holder Gudaf Tsegay of Ethiopia, who ran 4:16.16 for the mile and 8:16.69 for 3000m indoors in February, makes her outdoor season debut in a race also featuring her compatriot Freweyni Hailu and Australia’s Linden Hall. In the women’s 800m, Australia’s world leader Catriona Bisset, who ran 1:58.32 in April, races Kenya’s reigning Diamond League champion Mary Moraa, who clocked 1:58.83 to win in Nairobi earlier this month, plus Natoya Goule, Anita Horvat and Noelie Yarigo, who races her first 800m of the season after an indoor breakthrough.
Mary Moraa races in the Diamond League Final (© Matthew Quine for Diamond League AG)
Olympic champion Steven Gardiner of The Bahamas races USA’s Vernon Norwood and Britain’s Matthew Hudson-Smith in the men’s 400m, while the women’s 400m hurdles features 2019 world champion Dalilah Muhammad in her first race over the barriers since the Diamond League Final last year, plus her US compatriot Shamier Little, the 2015 world silver medallist, and Jamaica’s Janieve Russell and Rushell Clayton.
Fierce field action features Mahuchikh and Ceh
Ukraine’s world indoor high jump champion Mahuchikh became the first athlete this season to soar over two metres with her performance at the Continental Tour Gold meeting in Nairobi and she will be looking for more of the same in Rabat, where she claimed one of her five wins on last year’s Diamond League circuit.
She competes against her compatriots Iryna Gerashchenko, the Olympic and world fourth-place finisher, and Yuliya Levchenko, the 2017 world gold medallist, plus Italy’s world bronze medallist Elena Vallortigara, Britain’s Morgan Lake and U20 stars Karmen Bruus and Angelina Topic.
Yaroslava Mahuchikh competes at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Brussels (© Dan Vernon for Diamond League AG)
Slovenia’s world discus champion Ceh will be looking to extend a six-meeting win streak in the Diamond League, having taken top spot at all five events in 2022 and then won the 2023 season opener in Doha with a meeting record of 70.89m.
Sweden’s Olympic champion Daniel Stahl was second and USA’s Sam Mattis third in Doha and they both form part of the competition again in Rabat, where they will be joined by 2017 world champion Andrius Gudzius and Olympic silver medallist Simon Pettersson.
Portugal’s world and European indoor champion Auriol Dongmo takes on world bronze medallist Jessica Schilder, Commonwealth Games champion Sarah Mitton and 2018 world indoor gold medallist Anita Marton in the shot put. In the women’s triple jump, Thea LaFond will aim to retain her Rabat title in a competition that puts her up against world indoor silver medallist Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk, two-time world outdoor silver medallist Shanieka Ricketts and world fourth-place finisher Leyanis Perez.