Seven Australian athletes have made the trip to Doha, to compete alongside 17 World and Olympic champions, as the first leg of the IAAF Diamond League Series starts at the Qatar Sports Club.
Commonwealth Games champion Dani Stevens (NSW) leads a healthy Australian contingent, opening proceedings in the discus circle, with Doha the first of a 14-leg series with a total prize pool of USD$8 million.
Stevens’ winning throw of 68.26m on the Gold Coast hinted at the promising personal best form of 2017, where Stevens threw an Australian record of 69.64m at the World Championships. Sandra Perkovic (CRO) will continue her rivalry with Stevens, the two-time World and Olympic champion enters the weekend having thrown 69.13m this season. Perkovic is the owner of the longest throw in women’s discus since 1992, indicative of the calibre of competitor set to push Stevens throughout the series.
Four Aussie metric milers will line up in Doha, as Ryan Gregson (VIC) and Jordan Williamsz (VIC) take on a field dominated by middle-distance powerhouses, Kenya and Ethiopia.
Training partners and Commonwealth Games finalists, both gentleman will enter the race with personal goals, as Gregson will look to establish himself on the Diamond League circuit, following a successful 2017 series which included four top-eight finishes in the Diamond League series. Gregson possesses the fourth fastest personal best in the race (3:31.06), and will run with positioning and a wicked finishing kick in mind.
Williamsz’s personal best (3:36.74) was set in 2012, followed by four years learning racecraft and honing his tactical abilities at Villanova University in the American collegiate system. The Elwood resident will be searching for a quantifiable improvement in an assuredly fast field, following an encouraging period of training consistency.
Race favourites include 3:28.79 World and Olympic medalist Abdelaati Iguider (MAR), closely followed by World Relay Championship specialist, 3:30.34 athlete Collins Cheboi (KEN).
The Victorian theme continues in the Women’s 1500m, as Linden Hall and Zoe Buckman enter a Commonwealth Games rematch with in-form Caster Semenya (RSA).
Buckman and Hall both departed the Gold Coast track frustrated for separate reasons, Hall fell just short of the podium following brave front-running, whilst Buckman attempted to build competitive momentum in the final following a physical heat. In a race where Semenya may target the 2013 meet record of 3:56.60, watch for Hall to tuck in for the first 3 laps and finish strongly with Sarah Jameison’s elusive 4:00.93 national record in mind.
Fresh off a Commonwealth Games silver medal, Hamish Peacock (TAS) finds himself in a field brimming with Olympic and World Championship medalists.
A competitive battle is sure to transpire between German rivals Thomas Roehler and Johannes Vetter, as the respective reigning Olympic and World champions duel toward the 95 metre mark. An enthralling competition possesses all the necessary competitive elements for Peacock to launch past his 2016 personal best of 84.39m, as an 83.63m season’s best signals a return to career-best form.
Genevieve LaCaze (VIC) has juggled injury and Commonwealth Games aspirations in an uncharacteristically sparing domestic season of racing. The 28-year old arrives on the Diamond League circuit with a renewed sense of determination to return to the form that saw her set a national record at the 2016 Paris Diamond League.
The final event of the evening program in Doha, the seven and a half lap race features recently crowned Commonwealth Games 5000m champion Hellen Obiri. The reigning World Champion ran her personal best 3000m time in Doha during the 2014 season (8:20.68), the fastest time since 1993. Obiri will be spurred on by seven athletes faster than 8:50.00 in the field, including Jenny Simpson (USA), hot off an American record run over 2 miles at the Drake Relays (9:16.78).
The premier global one-day athletic series, the 2018 Diamond League meetings will be staged in Doha, Shanghai, Eugene, Rome, Oslo, Stockholm, Paris, Lausanne, Rabat, Monaco, London, Birmingham, Zurich and Brussels.
Sean Whipp for Athletics Australia.
Image: Dani Stevens (Getty Images)
Men: | 200m | 400m | 800m| 400m hurdles | High Jump| Triple Jump | Javelin Throw
Women: | 100m | 1500m | 3000m | 100m hurdles | Pole Vault | Discus
Dani Stevens (Discus)
Linden Hall (1500m)
Zoe Buckman (1500m)
Ryan Gregson (1500m)
Jordan Williamsz (1500m)
Hamish Peacock (Javelin)
Genevieve LaCaze (3000m)
IAAF Diamond League | Doha, Qatar | May 4
Watch it live on Eurosport.