Athletes have been arriving in Doha for several days ahead of the first IAAF Diamond League meeting of 2014 and several of them who will compete on Friday in the Qatari capital faced the media at a series of ‘press points’ on Wednesday (7).
Christian Taylor, the Olympic triple jump champion, is making 2014 his year to ‘mix it all up'. Accordingly, the US athlete will take part in the long jump on Friday.
“I try to mix it all up; 400 metres, long jump, triple jump,” said Taylor.
“I train to be an athlete. I tailor things towards triple jump, because this is my bread and butter and my passion, but I train to be the best all-around athlete in the world.
“It is also good for the longevity of my career, I am fairly young and I want to extend my career. For the 400m I’d like to break the 45-second barrier. I will be pleased to do over 8.20m on Friday and break my personal best. If I do that, my confidence will go out of this roof.”
Taylor’s US colleague Curtis Mitchell, who had a breakthrough bronze medal in last year’s IAAF World Championships 200m with a 19.97 career best, commented: “I’ve heard good things about Doha and I want to make a good performance, to have fun. I just want to run fast and prove myself and to compete at the highest level. I want to (eventually) attack the US record in the 200 metres. I just want to keep healthy and put myself among the greatest.”
It’s also the first time in Doha for 33-year-old Ryan Wilson, who took 110m hurdles silver in Moscow last summer.
“It’s the first Diamond League of the season and my first time in Doha,” commented Wilson. “I want to run fast, under the 13-second barrier; these next three years are the last championship cycle for me. I want to stay as fresh as possible and remain at the highest level.”
Ezekiel Kemboi, the Olympic steeplechase champion in 2004 and 2012, is relishing a return to the Qatar Sports Club track.
“I always do well in Doha,” said the exuberant Kenyan. “I won here in 2009 and then wound up winning almost all of my races that season.”
Kemboi clocked 7:58.85 that year, the second-fastest performance of his career. He’s confident that he can go faster at some point this season.
Asbel Kiprop, Kenya’s double world 1500m champion, will seek a second consecutive victory at the Qatar Sports Club, but he is expecting anything but an easy race.
“The track in Doha is fast, the level of competition is very high and the conditions are always good,” said the 24-year-old Kiprop, who also took the Olympic gold in 2008. “It is no surprise that you get fast times here. It’s a good opportunity for athletes to gauge themselves and to look forward to opening their season in a good way. There are many strong athletes here and I do not underestimate anyone.”
His compatriot Eunice Sum, a surprise winner of the 800m title at last year’s IAAF World Championships, is also looking forward to the start of her first full IAAF Diamond League campaign.
In terms of targets, Sum says her first goal is to run a personal best, which will mean getting inside the 1:57.38 that brought her gold in the Russian capital last summer. “And to educate myself in Diamond League races,” she promised.
Great Britain’s Andrew Osagie, who took an 800m bronze medal at both the 2012 and 2014 IAAF World Indoor Championships, is looking forward to a swift run which will give him an idea of his early season form in a race where the injured world record-holder David Rudisha has been replaced at short notice by Ethiopia’s current world outdoor and indoor champion Mohammed Aman.
“Even without Rudisha, there is Aman,” reflected Osagie.
“He is the fastest now, I still have to catch up to him. I know for Rudisha it won’t be easy to come back. I hope he does though, and gets back in very good form.”
Meanwhile Osagie’s compatriot Jenny Meadows, the former European indoor 800m champion, is hoping a high quality field including Sum will help her run a fast time over two laps of the track in what will be her first outdoor race since September 2011 following a persistent achilles tendon problem.
“It’s a very long time,” said the 33-year-old former World Championships bronze medallist Meadows. “I feel really excited ahead of my race here in Doha. I have just got a little bit more nerves than usual.
“To qualify for the Commonwealth Games, we have to run 1:59.90 or under twice in May; that’s pretty tough but here in Doha it’s a very good field of people. I hope I can get stuck in, and that some of these girls can help me to perform well.”
For Britain’s discus thrower Brett Morse this will be his first competition in Doha.
“I am pretty excited,” said the 25-year-old Welshman. “It’s going to be a great competition against the world’s best. I’ve been in Doha in 2010 in a training camp in Aspire for the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
“In my discipline, we have the longest standing men's world record. [Virgilijus] Alekna and [Gerd] Kanter went close but I am not sure it’s going to be broken soon,” added Morse, thinking about the distance of 74.08m that then East German Jurgen Schult threw in Neubrandenburg back in 1986.
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF