Reigning world and Olympic 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce will kick off her 2014 IAAF Diamond League campaign at the Doha 2014 meeting on 9 May, organisers announced on Sunday (16).
There’s not a bigger name in the world of women’s sprinting at the moment than the 27-year-old Jamaican, who dashed to the IAAF World Indoor Championships 60m title in Sopot one week ago, and just seven months after winning global titles in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay at the 2013 IAAF World Championships.
She was also the 2013 World Athlete of the Year.
“I enjoy running in Doha,” said Fraser-Pryce. “The stadium is close and intimate which makes you feel connected with the fans.”
Her appearance in the opening event of the fifth season of the IAAF Diamond League series takes on added meaning as she sets out to defend her 100m and 200m double Diamond Race victory from 2013.
“The 200m is the event I want to get better at. I am doing okay but I believe there is a lot more to give, so this season a lot will be placed on being better and faster at the 200m.
“Capturing another double would definitely top the year for me. Let's see what happens.”
Fraser-Pryce won the 200m in Doha last year, a victory that set her on course towards her first world title in the longer sprint. In 2012, she also sped to Olympic silver over the distance.
This season, making her third appearance in Doha, Fraser-Pryce will contest the 100m against what is already shaping into a formidable field.
Fraser-Pryce faces formidable foes
Nigeria’s Moscow double sprint finalist Blessing Okagbare will lead the challenge.
Last year, the 25-year-old improved the African 100m record to 10.79. Fraser-Pryce’s compatriot Kerron Stewart, a 100m finalist at the World Championships last season and 2008 Olympic 200m silver medallist, is also confirmed.
Leading the charge for the US is 21-year-old 2013 national champion English Gardner, who finished fourth at the World Championships last year and has a 10.85 career best to her credit, and Alexandria Anderson, who last year joined the event’s sub-11 club with a 10.91 personal best.
Both Gardner and Anderson were on the silver medal-winning 4x100m relay quartet for the USA in Moscow. Barbara Pierre who recorded the world’s fourth-fastest time in 2013 with 10.85, will also be in the field.
There will be lots of speed on display throughout the programme. The men’s 400m will feature the season’s first rematch of last year’s World Championships medallists.
USA's LaShawn Merritt flew to a commanding 43.74 victory for his second global title. Behind him, compatriot Tony McQuay edged Luguelin Santos by just 0.02 in 44.40 to take the battle for silver over the young Dominican.
Joining the trio will be a rising star in the event, Czech Republic’s Pavel Maslak, who followed up his fifth place at last year’s World Championships with a powerful run to win the World Indoor Championships title last weekend. Maslak, just 23, is also the reigning European champion indoors and out.
Saudi Arabia’s 2013 World Championships finalist Youssef Ahmed Masrahi leads the Arab athletes’ attack.
Weir v Mitchell in the 200m
The men’s 200m field can boast of the reigning silver and bronze medallists from the World Championships.
Jamaica’s Warren Weir followed up his bronze medal performance at the London 2012 Olympic Games with a runner-up finish behind his compatriot Usain Bolt in Moscow last year. Illustrating his growing consistency and confidence, the 24-year-old twice clocked a personal best 19.79 in 2013.
US sprinter Curtis Mitchell, the 2013 World Championships bronze medallist who improved to 19.97 last season, will lead the opposition.
The field also includes reigning European champion Churandy Martina of the Netherlands and the Jamaican pair of Jason Young and Nickel Ashmeade.
"Although the Doha 2014 meeting is being held at the beginning of the outdoor season, we will bring on dozens of Olympic and world champions and medallists," said Qatar Athletics Federation President Dahlan Al Hamad.
“We are really looking forward to welcoming the world’s top athletes and especially Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the finest women’s sprinter in the world, back to Doha this year. Her early announcement already shows that the meeting will be of a very high calibre with top athletes competing as usual,” he added.
Qatar Athletics Federation Secretary General Mohamed Al-Kuwari concurred.
"As happens every year, we will see many great performances that will set the tone for the season,” Al-Kuwari said. “Fans will experience a fantastic event with many surprises.”
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