Spectacular Doha kick-starts Diamond League

Spectacular Doha kick-starts Diamond League

Doha, May 10, 2013 – It was a spectacular night for Olympic Champions as the 2013 Diamond League kicked off in Doha – even though the biggest crown of all in the Qatar event finally fell.

The most eagerly awaited events of the night didn’t fail to impress, with some incredible performances across the board – including 11 new World Leads and seven Meeting records.

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Allyson Felix’s reign over Doha was brought to an abrupt end by an inspired performance by Botswana’s Amantle Montsho. In the 400m race, the African’s time of 49.88s was too much for Felix to beat, the American settling for second with a time of 50.19. Christine Ohuruogu, runner-up in London 2012, was third in a new season best of 50.53.

After the race, Montsho was ecstatic. “The Doha Diamond League is such a fantastic meeting,” she said. “The fans helped me run this fast, and it’s a great way to start the season. I am confident I can run below 49 seconds and retain my World Championship title in Moscow.”

There was no risk of failure for David Rudisha, instead. The Kenyan, running against a classy field including Mohammed Aman, led the race comfortably until the last 300m, when he unleashed all his power to finish in 1:43.87. Aman had no reply for this time, closing in 1:44.21 and keeping Job Kinyor at bay to prevent a Kenyan 1-2.

In the opening competition of the day, the Women’s Discus Throw, Olympic Champion Sandra Perkovic showed her London 2012 form hasn’t faded over the winter. Perkovic opened her account with a spectacular 67.37m and proceeded to record four more throws over 65m to claim an undisputed victory. Her final throw, a 68.23m, set a new World Lead and Meeting Record.

Lithuania’s Zinaida Sendriute seemed to be the only athlete capable of bringing a challenge to the Croat, but she was unable to match her second throw of 63.92m. Anna Ruh of Germany clinched a last-gasp helping of Diamond League points courtesy of her sixth throw of 63.01.

“I was a little nervous before starting,” said Perkovic. “I changed coach and I had an injury in January that kept me out for a month. But everything was great and I can now focus on my next competition in New York.”

There was no competition for another dominant Olympic Champion, triple jumper Christian Taylor. The American had no problem winning his event with a 17.25m effort, yet he was not completely satisfied with his performance.

“It’s not good for my potential, no,” commented Taylor, “but it’s still a season best and it shows I am on the right path.

Benjamin Compaore, at his first ever appearance in the Diamond League, was second with 17.06, pushing Alexey Fedorov of Russia into third. With Fedorov leaping to 16.85, only the top two jumpers achieved distances over the 17m barrier.

Calm and controlled – yet powerful – was the performance Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce put in to claim the 200m race from her compatriot Sherone Simpson. The winning time of 22.48 – with Simpson crossing the line in 22.73 – may not be indicative of the real level of form of the multiple Olympic Champion, but time are not a priority for Fraser-Pryce.

“The most important thing was to start with a win. I am really tired after a long trip from Jamaica, but I enjoyed the atmosphere in Doha,” commented the winner. “The cheering reminds me of the crowds at home, and throughout my stay everyone has made me feel really comfortable.”

A strong series of throws saw Ryan Whiting obliterate the meeting record owned by fellow American Christian Cantwell. Whiting claimed the lead with his first throw (21.14m), improving his distance further with 21.62m on the second attempt.

A new Area Record for Argentine German Lauro – 21.26m his throw – closed down the gap a little, but there was no further improvement from the athlete. Whiting then proceeded to put matters beyond contention with a fifth throw of 22.28m – a new World lead and meeting record. Reese Hoffa’s 21.01m earned the American third place.

“I was expecting to throw such a distance – I have been throwing this far in training,” explained Whiting after the event. “I hope I can throw these distances again, but I am under no illusion it’ll be easy in Moscow. Storl, Majewski, Hoffa – they will all be there when it counts the most.”

An athlete who could also be in the mix in Moscow is Lauro, who knows he needs to perform at the highest level.

“I am so happy for the Area Record – it’s a fantastic feeling,” he declared. “The competition was great, but I know I need to throw better if I want to make it at the World Championships.”

Blessing Okagbare seemed headed towards a famous win in this warm Doha night, but the Nigeria was to be denied by a vintage performance by Olympic Champion Brittney Reese.

With the African talent ahead after the first three trials, courtesy of her windy 7.14m jump, it took a new Meeting Record and World Lead of 7.25m for Reese to claim a lead she would not relinquish until the end, despite two foul jumps.

“This results makes me feel pretty confident in beating the US record this season” commented the 26-year-old about her aim for the 7.49m distance. “I know I am right there, even though today the wind caused me to foul my first two attempts”.

Olympic bronze medallist Janay Deloach Soukup was third with 7.08m, while London 2012 runner-up Yelena Sokolova was off in fifth, 6.91 her distance.

The anticipated battle between Olympic silver Bjorn Otto and friend Kostas Filippidis failed to materialise – as the two achieved some very different results on the night. The Greek performed flawlessly to set a new personal best of 5.82m – a National Record and a new Meeting Record. His performance was equalled by Malte Mohr, the German classified second on countback.

Germany claimed the rest of the top eight, with the exception of sixth place Sergey Kucheryanu. Raphael Holdzeppe was third with 5.70m, ten centimetres more than Tobias Scherbarth. For Bjorn Otto, an early exit at 5.50m meant a seventh place very distant from his expectations.

Local favourite Mutaz Essa Barshim set a season best at 2.30m, but that wasn’t enough to prevent surprise winner Bohdan Bondarenko of Ukraine from claiming the first Diamond League event of the season. Having seen his younger brother Muamer exit the competition at 2.09, Mutaz was keen to impress his home crowd. Having surpassed Olympic rival Robbie Grabarz (fourth with 2.24) and edged past Aleksandr Shustov, he was powerless to stop an inspired Bondarenko leaping to a new Meeting Record.

There were thrills and spills in the 400m Hurdles, with the race decided by a fateful final barrier. Having earlier lost Jack Green at the 300m mark, a grandstand finish was on the cards between Michael Tinsley, Bershawn Jackson and Cornel Fredericks. Clipping the last hurdle costed the win to Jackson, who finished second in 49.12, three tenths slower than Tinsley. Fredericks crossed the line in 49.35, edging Tristan Thomas for third.

“It wasn’t a fast race and I made a few mistakes” said Tinsley; “New York now, and my target is to make it to the US team before I start thinking of Moscow.”

Rival Jackson was finding the positives in his performance: “I suffered an injury recently, but I am going back for more training and hopefully I will be ready for the summer competitions.”

One of the top performances of the night was the way Abeba Aregawi won the 1500m race. A time of 3:56.60, this early in the season, is a sign of great things to come. In a very close race, Aregawi surprised Genzebe Dibaba and young Kenyan Faith Kipyegon – who set a new National Record of 3:57.98 – to set a new World Lead and Meeting Record. For Dibaba, there remains the satisfaction of a new PB of 3:57.54.

A late surge by Andreas Thorkildsen couldn’t stop Vitezslav Vesely from claiming victory in the Men’s Javelin. The Czech jumped on top of the rankings with his second throw, an 81.78, before putting the competition beyond his rival’s reach with an 85.09m effort.

Finn Tero Pitkamaki went closest, but his 82.18 was just enough for second, keeping a healthy distance from Thorkildsen’s 81.51. World Champion Matthias De Zordo was two further centimetres behind with 81.49.

“It was a good start of the season,” commented Vesely. “This year there is more quality compared to the past, and today it was not an easy win. We are still fighting to find our form, and this applies to me as well.”

Rival Thorkildsen, who had an injury-riddled 2012, acknowledged his supporters, who always turn out in droves in Doha. “It was wonderful to see the stadium full of people,” he said, “my legs aren’t that fresh after a difficult season but I tried my best.|

As one of the closing events of the night, there were huge expectations for the Men’s 100m.

The USA’s Justin Gatlin won with a 9.97 performance, edging out compatriot Michael Rodgers and Jamaican Nesta Carter, who were both classified with a time of 9.99.

“I had the flu last week, but I ran well. It’s still early in the season so I’ll take this” declared the winner. “I don’t know if I am going to do the double at the trials, but I will go out on the 200 in Shanghai. I am training my acceleration and power and I am looking forward to the challenge of a Championship. I do well in crunch situations.”

Runner-up Rodgers was happy to have edged Carter for second as part of a USA 1-2.

“Of course there is a rivalry with the Jamaicans and recently they seem to have the upper hand” he commented, “but today we came on top.”

2008 Olympic Champion Dawn Harper-Nelson showed the time never passes for some, as she stormed to a World Lead-setting victory in the 100m hurdles. The American led a USA clean sweep, with Kellie Wells and Queen Harrison following her.

The winning time of 12.60 satisfied Harper-Nelson, who sees improvements in her running.

“I have started the season well, and I see the work we do in training paying off. My coach and I have worked hard on my weakest points, in particular the beginning of my race.”

Happiness in the performance was tinged with a tone of regret for runner-up Wells. “It’s getting easier to race and I am happy with that, but not with finishing second. It’s ok for now, however,” she commented about her SB 12.73 – just 0.01 ahead of Harrison. “I love racing in Doha, it’s always great to run here – every single time.”

The Women’s 3000m Steeplechase race was another chapter in the Ethiopia vs Kenya battle – and despite the former placing three athletes in the top four, it was a representative of the latter who triumphed.

Lidya Chepkurui set a new Meeting Record and World Lead with a convincing 9:13.75, beating to the line Sofia Assefa (9:14.61) and Hiwot Ayalew (9:17.60). Pushed on by a sizeable Kenyan crowd in the stands, Chepkurui seized control of the race at the 2000m mark and didn’t relinquish the position of control.

“I am feeling good, my body responded well,” she stated after the race. “I pushed at the last kilometre and it went ok. I hope this is a sign for the season to come.” Kenya got one over their historical rivals in the 1500m, with one of the pre-race favourites, Asbel Kiprop, bringing home the win.

“The crowd was fantastic, cheering and shouting all the time – I want to say thank you to these amazing fans,” acknowledged the Beijing 2008 winner. Commenting on his 3:31.13 win, he also added: “It was a good race – it’s great to come out of it with the World Lead.” Compatriot Bethwell Birgen was second, ahead of Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman.

It was Ethiopia, however, to have the last laugh. In the 3000m, World Junior Champion Hagos Gebrhiwet stormed to a dominant victory in front of ecstatic fans.

Crossing the line in 7:30.36 – a time that gives promise of a new World Junior Record in this season – for a new World Lead, Gebrhiwet was unstoppable for Thomas Longosiwa of Kenya or compatriot Yenew Alamirew.

As the Ethiopian crowd mobbed the winner, and later celebrated into the night with the music of national singing hero Teddy Afro, the curtain drew on an amazing night of athletics in Doha – a majestic start to a new season of Diamond League.

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