Teddy Tamgho, Mutaz Essa Barshim and Renaud Lavillenie on the eve of the Samsung Diamond League Doha (Bob Ramsak) © Copyright
General News Doha, Qatar

Doha LOC Press Conference Highlights – Samsung Diamond League

Cautious confidence was the prevailing theme shared by six of the sport’s biggest stars who met with the international press corps at the official press conference of the Samsung Diamond League Doha meeting today.

Four of those in attendance - Allyson Felix (USA), Asbel Kiprop (KEN), Renaud Lavillenie (FRA) and Teddy Tamgho (FRA) – will begin their quest to repeat their Diamond Race Trophy victories from last year when the 14-meeting Samsung Diamond League series kicks off at the Qatar Sports Club Stadium on Friday (6). Two others, two-time World indoor 60m Hurdles champion Lolo Jones (USA) and Mutaz Essa Barshim (QAT), the reigning World junior champion in the High Jump, will be hoping to join them.

Also joining the press conference were Abdullah Ahmen Al-Zaini, the President of the Qatar Association of Athletics Federation (QAAF) and Chairman of the Local Organising Committee; Adel Mohamed al Baker, General Secretary of the QAAF; IAAF President Lamine Diack; IAAF General Secretary Pierre Weiss, IAAF Deputy General Secretary Nick Davies.

Here are some of the highlights:

- Allyson Felix (USA), two-time defending World 200m champion, 2010 Samsung Diamond Trophy winner in the 200 and 400m, who will be competing in the 400m on Friday night -

Is she planning to turn her Diamond double success to a double at the World Championships in Daegu?

“It’s definitely something that I’m considering. It’s definitely a big toll on your body. My training is progressing so we’re just evaluating to see if it’s something that my body can handle. It’s a decision that I’m going to make a little later in the year.”

Is another Diamond League 200m/400m double possible in a World Championship year?

“It’s definitely not my focus. I’m running less this year. I’m not running as many of the 200s and 400s together. My focus is definitely on Worlds this year.”

Her goals for Friday on a track on which she’s already won on eight occasions:

“I’m feeling good about my ninth time here. It’s just an opening to see where I’m at in training.”

On her upcoming 200m/400m double race at Rome’s Compeed Golden Gala Samsung Diamond League appearance where she’ll face compatriot Sanya Richards in both races:

“I’m definitely looking forward to Rome. I think they’re going to be two very exciting races. I think it should prove to be a really good competition with Sanya.”

- Lolo Jones (USA), two-time World indoor 60m Hurdles champion, who won five Samsung Diamond League races in 2010, including in Doha -

On comparing her success indoors (she won her second World indoor title in Doha in March 2010) to outdoors:

“I’m definitely happy with my indoor success, but a lot of people try to peg me as an indoor runner. I like them both equally. I feel like I am a successful outdoor hurdler. But outdoors I want more success that is viable to other people. Because I know that I’m a successful outdoor hurdler. Other people, because they saw the Olympic failure, they try to peg me as not. I’d like to prove to them that I am when I go to Daegu and come back with a medal, and then obviously again at the Olympics.”

On her sciatica nerve injury which cut short her 2011 indoor season:

“I’m a little concerned with my injury. Normally I get a solid base of seven to eight races indoors in Europe.  But this year that just didn’t happen. My sciatica nerve was enflamed. After two races I had to go back to the US and saw numerous doctors. So I don’t have that base or that confidence of just running.”

“At the Drake Relays this year (where she finished second), I just felt race rusty. The sharpness I would normally have coming off of a strong indoors was just not there.”

“I love racing. I’m just looking forward to racing. I’ve got a string of them lined up. I’m not a Tyson Gay or Usain Bolt who’s going to race four races a year. I’d like to run four races in a week!”

More detail about her injury:

“It’s better than it was indoors. Indoors it got to the point where I couldn't even jog or run. I still feel pain. I don’t think it’s going to completely heal until the end of the season. But I can hurdle with it now.”

Asbel Kiprop (KEN), Olympic 1500m champion who will be contesting the 800m on Friday (6) night –

With the pre-meet focus on David Rudisha and Abubaker Kaki, both who were forced to withdraw due to injury, did he feel any frustration about being ignored?

“It’s not a frustration. My event is the 1500m, so these things happen.”

Does he expect a sub-1:44 race?

“I think we can run sub-1:44. It’s the first race of the season but I hope so.”

Kiprop’s personal best in 1:43.17, set in Doha in 2009. Is he capable of running under 1:43?

“It depends on how the race comes, but it’s possible. There are a lot of possibilities.”

- Mutaz Essa Barshim (QAT), the reigning World junior champion in the High Jump, with a 2.31m personal best -

On his dramatic rise in the event over the past year:

“I proved a lot last year, and worked very hard with my coach. If someone would ask, I wasn’t expecting that from the beginning. But I started seeing myself improving a lot, and I’m very happy with that.”

On sharing the stage with Teddy Tamgho and Renaud Lavillenie:

"It’s amazing for me to be sitting here, especially competing in the Diamond League for the first time. Hopefully I will one day achieve what they have achieved."

- Teddy Tamgho (FRA), World indoor champion, World indoor record holder, and 2010 Diamond Trophy winner in the Triple Jump -

On his coaching relationships with Long Jump legend Ivan Pedroso of Cuba:

“He gave me his experience as an athlete, and technically he’s from the Cuban school, which I think, for me, is the best school to learn the Triple Jump and Long Jump. The relationship between us is very, very good, and I think I’m going to continue with him.”

On his goal for Friday night:

“I want to do something good. And I of course want to win. But it will be difficult. We have a very strong field. So it’s going to be difficult. But I’m a little confident and I know what I got to do.”

- Renaud Lavillenie (FRA), European indoor and outdoor champion, 2010 Diamond Trophy winner in the Pole Vault -

On Sergey Bubka’s legendary 6.15m World Record – what will it take to break it?

“It’s a combination of  many things - more speed, physical strength, mental belief. Because that bar is very high. It’s still 12 centimetres more than I’ve done. I need to be stronger in every part of my jump. It will also take good conditions. I’m not actually focused on that, but I am training to go higher.”

On returning to Doha, where he failed to reach the final at the 2010 World Indoor Championships:

“Last year in Doha was my first disappointment in a big event. But that happens. I made mistakes. Every great athlete knows defeat. After that I was ready to focus on the season ahead, and then I won the Diamond League and the European Championships. It was a learning experience.”

“This year, I don’t want to make the same mistake. But it’s different. It’s not a major championships and it’s early in the season. I just want to enjoy it, give a good performance, and avoid injury.”

Bob Ramsak for the IAAF