DOHA, There is excitement in the air as international athletics makes a return to Doha at the final leg of the abridged version of the 2020 Wanda Diamond League at the Qatar Sports Club, home of athletics in Doha, on Friday, September 25.
A total of 27 Olympics and World medallists, including six reigning world champions and three reigning Olympic champions, are leading a star cast of about 116 athletes who have made it to Doha this year despite the global coronavirus pandemic.
The revised 12-event programme, the fourth and final competitive meeting of the season, will feature sprint hurdles and 800m for both men and women; 100m, 3000m and long jump for women; and 200m, 400m, 1500m and pole vault for men.
Now in its 11th consecutive year, the Wanda Diamond League in Doha is regarded as one of the most successful in the prestigious series. This year’s edition is particularly significant as it rounds up a year where the global pandemic has significantly affected sports events across the world.
Addressing a press conference on Thursday, September 24, Khalid Al Marri, the Assistant Meeting Director of the 2020 Wanda Diamond League Doha, noted that the organisers had worked tirelessly to deliver an event of the highest standards in order to ensure that the international athletics family is finishing the last leg of the Wanda Diamond League in Doha with a great experience.
“It is a pleasure to host you all here once again, as we bring you this event under unusual conditions that are affecting sport globally. I want to thank each of you for joining us here today and helping us promote the very best of athletics. We wish all of the athletes the best of luck, and we hope that they have everything they need to give their best,” he said.
At the press conference were the two-time world pole vault champion and the defending champion in Doha Sam Kendricks of the USA, double Olympic sprint champion Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica, and the Kenyan duo of Hellen Obiri, the Olympic 5000m silver medallist and 2019 World Cross Country champion, and Timothy Cheruiyot (Kenya), the world 1500m champion, who will be competing in the 800m race.
Nothing much has changed despite the unusual year: Thompson-Herah
Jamaica’s double Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah said her racing and training experiences haven’t changed too much despite 2020 being an unusual year in many ways.
“As a sprinter, you have to learn to block everything else out anyway, so I’ve got used to racing in a stadium without any fans,” she said. “Nothing much has changed with my training. My coach is a genius, though, so I do what he tells me to do.”
The 28-year-old who won the 100m in a world-leading 10.85 at last week’s Rome meeting added that she was a little bit surprised with her run in Rome.
“I hadn’t raced for a few weeks, but I knew I was capable of running fast because I’d put in the work. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to race in Rome and Doha. I’d raced a few times in Jamaica, but the level and intensity of competition weren’t the same.”
Advising the upcoming generations, Thompson-Herah, the fourth-fastest in the women’s 100m history, said, “Please enjoy life as much as you can, and don’t rush. There are lots of opportunities ahead and take things one step at a time.”
The Jamaican will go head-to-head with multiple World Championships medallist Marie-Josée Ta Lou (Ivory Coast) in the women’s 100m.
Positivity, the watchword for Kendricks
Rio 2016 Olympic Games bronze medallist and two-time world pole vault champion Sam Kendricks remains optimistic about the unusual season despite its many challenges.
“I’m just so grateful because meeting organisers have gone above and beyond to make sure competitions can happen. It’s been an adventure. We’ve all just kind of rolled with it this year, and that’s been cool.”
“You get to put the whole world aside when you step on to the track,” he added. “And when you’re on it, time goes fast and the whole world melts away.”
“Not that I don’t care about the problems of the world, but they don’t matter when you’re standing there on the track. At that moment, it’s all about how fast you can run or how high you can jump.”
On his rivalry with Sweden’s Armand “Mondo” Duplantis, the 18-time Diamond League winner said, “If you want to compete, especially against Mondo, then you have to get ready and be willing to jump higher than anyone did.”
Duplantis jumped 6.15 in Rome last week to hold the world record in both the indoors and outdoors.
Cheruiyot in Doha to test speed endurance
The world 1500m champion Timothy Cheruiyot will be competing in unfamiliar “territory” as he steps out on the track tomorrow to participate in the 800m race on a global stage for the first time in his career.
“I chose to do the 800m here because I wanted to test my speed endurance,” he said. “All of my 800m races have been in Kenya, so I’m excited to do an 800m in the Diamond League.
“I need to work on my speed endurance because it’s an important part of 1500m running. Last year in Lausanne, I ran the first 800m in 1:49 but still finished in 3:28.77, just outside my PB (3:28.41). I know I have endurance, but I lack a bit in my finishing speed, so that’s what I want to work on.”
The 24-year-old, who has won 16 consecutive races since his defeat by compatriot Elijah Motonei Manangoi at last year’s meeting in Doha, added that he feels blessed to be able to race despite the challenges of 2020.
It’s going to be like a championship race: Obiri
Hellen Obiri, the 5000m World champion and silver medallist at the 2016 Rio Games, expects the women’s 3000m to be more of a championship race than a Diamond League competition considering the quality of the field in Doha.
Friday’s race will bring together Kenyan quartet Hellen Obiri and Beatrice Chepkoech, 2019 world champions over 5000m and 3000mSC respectively. Additionally, Olympic 3000mSC silver medallist Hyvin Kiyeng; world 5000m runner-up Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi; world 1500m bronze medallist Gudaf Tsegay (Ethiopia); and world 10,000m bronze medallist Agnes Jebet Tirop (Kenya) are also in the fray of what promises to be the most exciting event of the night tomorrow.
“I expect a tough challenge tomorrow, the Cross Country champion said. “I’ve trained well, and when I train well I have no doubts in a race,” said the world cross-country champion. “Whenever I line up for a race, I’m focused on doing my best. I don’t feel the pressure. Maybe I’ll do something special.
“I’ve always enjoyed racing in Doha,” she added. “In 2014 I set my PB over 3000m (8:20.68), and last year I won the World Championships here. I like racing here because it’s favourable to me.”
Source: Qatar Olympic Committee