5/3/2017 8:31:17 AM

FASTER, HIGHER, STRONGER

FASTER, HIGHER, STRONGER

EXCITING battles and sub plots are lined up for the Diamond League season opener, to be held at the Qatar Sports Club on Friday.

With the World Championships set to be held in London in August, the competitors would be keen to kick-start their season on a bright note.

Qatar’s high jump star Mutaz Essa Barshim will once again be the cynosure of all eyes, both from a local perspective and an international angle in an elite field, which comprises as many as 16 reigning Olympic and world champions. 

The Rio Games silver medallist’s personal best of 2.43M is the second-best jump in history, behind Cuba’s Javier Sotomayor’s long-standing record of 2.45 set in 1992.

Many predict this could be the season of reckoning for the talented high jumper, a fact which he himself has admitted at times.

“One day, I’ve to do it. I don’t like to doubt myself. I’ve to believe that I can break the world record, because if you don’t have belief, it means it doesn’t exist,” said Mutaz.

The Doha Diamond League would be a perfect platform for the 24-year-old to set the tone for the season.

“Based on my performance in Doha, I’ll know what to do for the next couple of months, what to adjust and how I feel. I want to go there and improve while competing,” added Mutaz, who fine-tuned his preparations with a gold at the GCC Championships in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, last month. 

The Doha event will also be a chance for Mutaz to exact revenge on Canada’s Derek Drouin, who pipped him for high jump gold at the Rio Olympics.

As usual, the men’s 100M, the blue-riband event of every meet, has drawn a star cast this time too, with the likes of America’s Justin Gatlin, compatriot Kim Collins, Jamaica’s Asafa Powell and Qatar’s Femi Seun Ogunode, who is Asia’s fastest man, in the fray.

Men’s triple jump is another event to watch out for as all three Rio Games medallists — America’s Christian Taylor, compatriot Will Claye and China’s Bin Dong — are set to renew their rivalry.

There is no shortage of action in the women’s category, with the 200M featuring Elaine Thompson of Jamaica and Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands — the reigning Olympic and world champions  respectively — going head to head.

Another epic showdown is also on the cards in 800M, between Olympic medallists Caster Semenya, Francine Niyonsaba and Margaret Wambui, an event in which Genzebe Dibaba, always a darling among the large Ethiopian expatriate community in Doha, is making her debut. 

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