Four Diamond League champions from Kenya including Hellen Obiri will compete in Doha – the first leg of the 2019 IAAF Diamond League – which will be held for the first time in the state-of-the-art Khalifa International Stadium on 3 May.
Obiri, who will contest the 3000m in Doha, has already made history this year by winning gold at the IAAF/Mikkeller World Cross Country Championships Aarhus 2019. In doing so, she became the first athlete – man or woman – to win titles at the World Championships, World Indoor Championships, World Cross Country Championships and the IAAF World Relays.
“It was a difficult race but I was determined to win as it was one of the few titles missing from my collection,” said the world 5,000m champion. “However, my focus is now on the track.”
Obiri will be looking to start her track campaign on a high as she builds up to the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 from 27 September to 6 October.
“Of course I have great memories of Doha which is where I set my African 3000m record of 8:20.68 in 2014,” she said. “I am excited to race in the Khalifa International Stadium next month and I also look forward to returning for the World Championships later this year when I plan to contest both the 5,000m and 10,000m.”
Obiri is unbeaten so far in 2019 but her winning streak will be put to the test in Doha. The Ethiopian contingent is headed by world indoor record-holder Genzebe Dibaba, winner of the 3,000m at the past three World Indoor Championships.
Obiri also faces opposition from teammates Caroline Kipkirui – who won in Doha 12 months ago in 8:29.05 – as well as world steeplechase record-holder Beatrice Chepkoech and 2017 world cross-country champion Agnes Tirop.
Kipruto and El Bakkali to renew steeplechase rivalry
Another eagerly awaited clash on the track is the men’s 3,000m steeplechase which features Kenya’s world and Olympic champion Conseslus Kipruto and 2018 world leader Soufiane El Bakkali of Morocco.
They were involved in one of the most dramatic and unforgettable races of 2018 in Zurich where Kipruto overhauled El Bakkali in the home straight to clinch the Diamond League title – 8:10.15 to 8:10.19 – despite losing his left spike on the second lap.
“That was a victory I will never forget,” said Kipruto. “I had a lot of pain in my left foot but I fought until the end.
“I am looking forward to opening my track season here in Doha where I expect another tough race against Soufiane. My main goal in 2019 is to defend my title at the World Championships but I want to start my track season with a victory here.”
The line-up also features fellow Kenyans Amos Kirui, Benjamin Kigen and Leonard Bett along with Ethiopia’s Chala Beyo, who won the steeplechase in Doha last year when it was a non-scoring event.
Korir and Cheruiyot to highlight middle distance action
Emmanuel Korir began his unbeaten campaign on the IAAF Diamond League circuit last year with victory over 800m in Doha and he will be seeking a repeat performance this year – albeit on a different track.
“I'm delighted to be kicking off my Diamond League season in Doha,” he said. “I've had a long build up through the off-season in Nairobi and can't wait to race the best in the world once again. My aim is to be back here in October for the World Championships so it's a unique chance to experience the new track.
Korir moved to sixth on the world all-time list with 1:42.05 in London before winning the Diamond League title in Brussels.
Korir faces opposition from Botswana’s 2012 Olympic silver medallist Nijel Amos – the joint third fastest 800m runner in history – who handed Korir his sole defeat of 2018 at the African Championships in Asaba.
USA’s Donavan Brazier was one of the in-form runners during the indoor season and the 21-year-old will be making his outdoor season debut in Doha. Brazier set a North American indoor 800m record of 1:44.41 and broke the world indoor 600m best at the US Indoor Championships with 1:13.77.
Other standout names include multiple European champions Adam Kszczot and Marcin Lewandowski from Poland and the recently crowned European indoor champion Alvaro de Arriba from Spain.
There is also a strong Kenyan presence in the 1,500m with training partners Timothy Cheruiyot and Elijah Manangoi both confirmed.
World champion Manangoi had the beating of Cheruiyot at both the Commonwealth Games and African Championships last year but Cheruiyot overturned these results to win the Diamond League final in Zurich.
“I'm delighted to be kicking off my Diamond League season in Doha,” said Cheruiyot, who broke the 3:30 barrier for the distance twice on the Diamond League circuit in 2018. “I've had a long winter of training in Nairobi and I can't wait to race the best in the world once again.
“My aim is to be back here in October for the World Championships so it's a unique chance to experience the new track.”
Ronald Kwemoi, who won the 3000m in Doha two years ago, returns to action after a low-key season in 2018 while other leading runners on the start-line include Djibouti’s 2014 world indoor champion Ayanleh Souleiman and 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Abdelaati Iguider from Morocco.
Elijah Manangoi’s younger brother George, the world U18 and U20 1,500m champion, also competes. - IAAF