The 2017 season gets into full swing with the opening leg of the 2017 Diamond League series in Doha on Friday as the Road to London 2017 truly begins!
The early entry lists are fairly strong so it looks like many are trying to get in some early markers and there are a couple of fascinating duels particularly on the women’s side. Here are my top 5 events to look out for:
WOMEN’s 800 METRES
The most intriguing race for me is the women’s 800 metres. Caster Semenya and Genzebe Dibaba in the same race for the first time is intriguing and will definitely have people talking. It’s been discussed in the last year or so about how quick could Dibaba go at this distance and having the dominant Olympic Champion be in the race makes it all the more appealing. I would be more than surprised if Dibaba was to beat Semenya but how close to her can she be and what kind of time can she run? Besides those two you also have the Olympic silver and bronze medallists in Nyonsaba and Wambui making this one of the most competitive line-ups of the evening.
WOMEN’S 200 METRES
If Bolt vs Gatlin has been the men’s sprinting rivalry of the last few years then Schippers and Thompson has basically become that for the women especially over the longer sprint. They line-up against each other again in Doha as the Olympic Champion takes on the World Champion with only Torie Bowie missing from the Rio medallists. Marie-Josee Ta-Lou could potentially surprise after her 4th place finish in Rio for both the 200 and the 100 and evergreen Veronica Campbell-Brown has had a pretty good start to her year with a 22.60. I’ll be interested to see how Desiree Henry goes in what is one of the strongest fields, if not the strongest, she would have lined up against at this distance.
MEN’S HIGH JUMP
The local interest will likely heavily feature around the men’s high jump as Mutaz Barshim competes in front of a home crowd having already jumped an early WL of 2.35m a couple of weeks ago and starts as the big favourite to take the first victory of the Diamond League series.
There are some big names beside Barshim who will be having their first competition including Rio 4th placer and European silver medallist both (indoors and outdoors) Robbie Grabarz as well as 5th and 6th placers Erik Kynard and Andriy Protsenko (who surprisingly has a 2.40 PB!). However all the attention will likely be on Barshim and if he can improve on his world lead.
WOMEN’S POLE VAULT
Another competitive line-up which has the top 2 from Rio in last year in it with both showing early year form. Olympic Champion Ekaterini Stefanidi won the European Indoors in what was for a while a tense competition with the German Lisa Ryzih (also competing in Doha) with 4.85m while Olympic silver medallist Sandi Morris just jumed 4.72m at the Drake Relays last weekend to go 3rd on the world outdoor list this year and is the highest ranked competing here.
The reigning World Champion Yarisley Silva coming off her disappointment of 6th in Rio opened with a 4.40 this year and will be looking for better here and this year in general as she looks to defend her title this year. The field also contains last year’s 5th and 6th placers from Rio in Holly Bradshaw and Nicole Buchler who are both having their openers for this season.
MEN’S 100 METRES
While the women’s 110 metre hurdles may be a better overall and competitive field, the men’s 100 makes the list because of something that happened at the world relays that I found very interesting. In the heats for the men’s 4×100 (not the final where everyone but the USA failed to get the baton round). Andre de Grasse found himself a two metres shy of Justin Gatlin but then, with what looked like relative ease, was able to gradually pass him and look over to him 3 times before crossing the line.
Whatever your thoughts on Gatlin there haven’t been many who have been able to glide pass him in the same way. Now, you could argue that perhaps Gatlin wasn’t going at full speed as it was a heat but I think it shows just how good de Grasse is. A win in Doha and it will start to seriously look like he will be the one to take over Bolt’s sprinting mantle. On a side note is it just me that would be rather fascinated by a van Niekerk and de Grasse duel in the 200!
Outside of those two, I’ll be interested by how Simbine goes with the rise of the South African sprinters dominating the early word lists as well as Ronnie Baker who was exceptionally quick over the 60 metres indoors this year.
Well that’s my preview for the Doha Diamond League, the 1st event of this year’s Diamond League, I hope you all enjoy the action and until next time!