Olympic 800m champion and world record-holder David Rudisha will return to IAAF Diamond League action at the Doha 2014 meeting on Friday 9 May.
Rudisha’s appearance in the Qatari capital, the seventh of his career, will signal the Kenyan’s eagerly anticipated comeback after a knee injury cut his 2013 season short after just two races.
“Of course I was injured last season,” said the 25-year-old Kenyan, who won in Doha last year for the fourth time. “That was disappointing but I’ve worked hard to get fit and healthy again and I am looking forward to running the 800m in Doha.”
Rudisha, who produced one of the finest moments in Olympic history with his spectacular 1:40.91 world record run in London, has been a familiar fixture in Doha since his first appearance in 2007.
That year, as a junior, he finished sixth, but returned the following year to claim his first victory in 1:44.36. He was fourth in 2009 but bounced back with solid victories in 2010 and 2012, clocking 1:43.00 and 1:43.10 respectively, both early season world-leading marks.
“I am very happy to be coming back to Doha. It’s a meet that has always had good races and been a good start to my season,” Rudisha said. “This is a year without a major championship so I have time to progress and get back to my best. I hope to run in Glasgow at the Commonwealth Games however before that I am pleased to be back running in the Diamond League meetings.”
“We are really looking forward to welcoming back David Rudisha for the second time after his historical performance at the London Olympics,” said Qatar Athletics Federation secretary general Mohamed Al-Kuwari. “He truly is one of the best athletes in the world, already a legend of his event. Like many other athletics fans, we will be very interested to see him back in competition after he missed most of last season due to injury.”
Leading the charge against the Kenyan will be Nijel Amos of Botswana who finished second to Rudisha in London, clocking a world junior record of 1:41.73, while Qatar will be well represented by national record-holder Abdulrahman Musaeb Bala (1:43.93), the 2013 Asian champion.
Andrew Osagie, another London 2012 finalist, will also be in the field on the heels of his second successive world indoor bronze medal-winning run.
Third time lucky for Barshim?
For the home crowd, no appearance will be as keenly awaited as high jumper Mutaz Essa Barshim’s, as Qatar’s biggest athletics hero takes the stage as the freshly-minted world indoor champion.
“I always want to give my best,” said Barshim, who after a third-place finish in 2011 and runner-up showing last year will be looking for his first victory on home turf. “It’s my home town. My family and friends are there. You just want to do your best. I hope to do something better this year.”
He won’t have it easy with Olympic champion Ivan Ukhov of Russia leading the challenge. Ukhov equalled the European record of 2.42m in February, a height which only world record-holder Javier Sotomayor has surpassed either indoors or out.
Barshim defeated Ukhov at the IAAF World Indoor Championships last month so you can expect the fiercely competitive Russian to seek some solace with revenge in the Qatari’s backyard.
“We’re extremely happy that Mutaz will compete this year as a reigning world indoor champion,” said Qatar Athletics Federation president Dahlan Al Hamad.
“We know that he thrives on strong competition so we’re also very pleased that he will be challenged by Ivan Ukhov, yet another Olympic champion to compete in Doha this year. This great duel shows our commitment to bringing the best athletes to Doha and to showcase another meeting to remember.”
There will be a complete reunion of the London 2012 podium with USA’s Olympic silver medallist Erik Kynard as well as Canadian Derek Drouin and Briton Robbie Grabarz, who shared bronze with Barshim, also in the field.
Genzebe Dibaba to bring record-breaking momentum to Doha
Despite Rudisha and Barshim’s credentials, the most exciting track and field athlete in the world at the moment is Genzebe Dibaba who will headline the women’s 3000m in Doha.
In a span of just five days in February, the 23-year-old Ethiopian shattered two world indoor records, first over 1500m in Karlsruhe and then at 3000m in Stockholm.
Her 3:55.17 run in the 1500m knocked more than three seconds from the previous mark while her 8:16.60 performance in the 3000m smashed the old record by more than seven seconds. It was the fastest performance the world has witnessed since 1993 indoors or outdoors; only three women have ever run faster, all outdoors.
Dibaba, the younger sister of Olympic champion Tirunesh, then capped her indoor campaign with a world indoor 3000m title in Sopot last month. With that sort of momentum, she’ll be extremely difficult to beat.
Kenyans appear poised to provide the strongest challenge, led by world 5000m silver medallist Mercy Cherono. Also in the field are world 5000m finalist Viola Kibiwott, 2012 world indoor 3000m champion Hellen Obiri and Ethiopia’s world 5000m bronze medallist Almaz Ayama.
Organisers for the IAAF
2014 IAAF Diamond League calendar
Doha, QAT – 9 May
Shanghai, CHN – 18 May
Eugene, USA – 31 May
Rome, ITA – 5 Jun
Oslo, NOR – 11 Jun
New York, USA – 14 Jun
Lausanne, SUI – 3 Jul
Paris, FRA – 5 Jul
Glasgow, GBR – 11-12 Jul
Monaco, MON – 18 Jul
Stockholm, SWE – 21 Aug
Birmingham, GBR – 24 Aug
Zurich, SUI – 28 Aug
Brussels, BEL – 5 Sep