DOHA: With 100 days to go until the start of the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019, action is heating up across the global athletics landscape, promising a full slate of thrilling competition when the sporting world's attention turns to the Qatari capital from 27 September to 6 October.
With Mutaz Barshim, one of Qatar’s biggest sporting stars, at the centre of attention, the men’s high jump will be among the most eagerly-awaited disciplines on the programme. The 2017 world athlete of the year was forced to the sidelines with an ankle injury for much of 2018, and is now rounding into form just in time. History’s second highest jumper, at 2.43m, is scheduled to return to action at the London leg of the IAAF Diamond League on 20 July in the same stadium where he jumped to the world title two years ago.
Likewise, a pair of his key competitors, Bogdan Bondarenko of Ukraine, the 2013 world champion who topped 2.42m in 2014, and Italy's Gianmarco Tamberi, the 2016 world indoor champion with a 2.39 lifetime best, also appear to be on a successful rebound from injury. Bondarenko cleared 2.31m in Rome in one of his two Diamond League victories this season.
With Qatar’s Abderrahman Samba as its chief driving force, the men’s 400m hurdles has become one the most exciting events on the international circuit. The World Championships final in Doha on 30 September promises to feature one of the greatest showdowns in the event’s history.
Last year, the full-lap hurdles race was all about Samba, who spent much of the season rewriting the all-time list. He ended 2018 as the second fastest man of all time at 46.98, on paper just a few hundredths of a second faster than Rai Benjamin, who ended 2018 equal third fastest after his 47.02 performance at the NCAA Championships.
Both have started well - Samba leading the world with 47.27 from Shanghai, and Benjamin clocking 47.58 to win in Rome. But so has reigning world champion Karsten Warholm of Norway, who improved all the way to 47.33 in Oslo to break the European record. Meanwhile, Samba was forced to the Oslo sidelines with a bout of bursitis, an early season injury that adds yet another element of drama to that inevitable showdown.