Bekele leads star-studded line-up for Diamond League meet
TRIBUNE NEWS NETWORK
DOHA A PLENTY of middle and long distance star powerhouses will be at work during the Samsung Diamond League opener in Doha on May 11.
Olympic 5,000m and 10,000m champion Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, fit again after being sidelined by an injury for two years, is one of the highprofile runners in the line- up the Qatar Association of Athletics Federation (QAAF) has managed to attract to participate in the meet.
Qatari star Femi Seun Ogunode will not take part in the meet but high jumper Mutaz Issa Barshim is a certainty.
At a press conference on Monday, QAAF President Abdulla Ahmed al Zaini announced that Bekele has confirmed to race in the Doha event which has been developed from a Grand Prix venue to Super Grand Prix and is now Samsung Diamond League host.
“The outdoor season will once again begin in Doha. This year, the challenge to get famed athletes looks bigger as we have the Olympic Games.
Also around the same time, the Kingston meet and US Trials are taking place. As a result, we won’t be able to get many of the athletes we wanted to bring here.
“The same thing happened last year and we took a tough stand on this. So this time, the IAAF allowed us to contact athletes individually. We have been successful in getting the best of middle and long distance runners in both the men and women categories. I can assure that the number of star athletes would be bigger than the past meet,” Zaini added.
Arguably the world’s greatest long distance runner Bekele returned from host of injuries and staged a winning comeback by winning the 10,000m in Brussels in 26:43.16 last year.
Now, for the first time since 2009, the 5000m and 10,000m Olympic champion will commence his outdoor season injury-free and he elected Doha to launch his quest for a fourth Olympic gold medal. through debut race in 3,000m.
Vivian Cheruiyot, who won a historic double of 5000m and 10,000m in the Daegu World Championship last year, will be another star in the women’s 3000m.
The fastest female 800m runner during the last 30 years, Pamela Jelimo will also make her bow in Qatar. The Kenyan reigning Olympic champion was recently crowned world indoor champion in Istanbul. Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba, also world champion, will lead the charge in the 1500m race.
Doha-based 800m vice- World Champion Abubaker Kaki also returns to Qatar’s capital after clinching gold in 2010 world indoor championships.
The strong Sudanese will try the 1500m in his warm- up for the ultimate Olympic target he set earlier this season: the 800m and 1500m trophies.
Kaki’s main rivals are likely to be current Olympic and world champion Asbel Kiprop, 2011 World Championships silver medalist, Silas Kiplagat and 2011 world’s No. 3 Augustine Kiprono Choge Other notable entries are former 1500m world champion Maryam Jamal from Bahrain; 2012 World Indoor bronze medallist in 3000m Ethiopian Gelete Burka; 800m Olympic bronze medalist Alfred Kirwa Yego from Kenya; three times World Championships finalist in both 800m & 1500m, Moroccan Amine Laalou and Indian 800m record holder Tintu Luka.
The Doha meet has included three events which were not scheduled earlier - men’s 100m, 800m and 3000m.
This has been done to draw a big gathering of fans to the venue. “Our biggest challenge is to attract more spectators for this meeting. This year we are willing to present the best ever event to the public. We are confident that we will have more star athletes than last year”, said athletes’ consultant Sandro Giovanelli.