Kenyan athletes lead quest for honours at Doha Diamond League meeting

Nairobi, May 4 (IANS) Kenya will on Friday send a big squad of 29 athletes, including three former world and Olympic champions, to the Diamond League season opener in Doha which also serves as first stop in the road to Rio Olympics.

Kenyans Asbel Kiprop, who has ruled out going for the world record in the 1,500 metres this season, will be the man to beat over the shorter 800m distance, reports Xinhua.

“I have done enough test runs in Kenyan meetings and am comfortable with what I have attained so far. But this is a level higher and it will require full commitment and hard work to beat the world’s best,” Kiprop said on Tuesday from Eldoret.

Kiprop came close to breaking Hicham El Gourej world 1,500m record (3:26.00 minutes) in Monaco two seasons ago when he clocked 3:26.69.

But he has opted to focus on reclaiming his Olympic title in Rio than run for the world record. However, should the field in Doha inspire him to bring his best, then he will be ready for a fast time.

“The world record? That is very early in the season to think of. Maybe we will get some fast time in the run up to the Rio Olympics and Doha am stepping down to the 800m. Maybe on my return to Monaco in July,” he said.

Ezekiel Kemboi, who has continued to defy the odds to hold on as the best ever steeplechaser will meet the man who beat him at the Beijing Olympics, and his training mate Brimin Kipruto.

Kemboi is aware this might be his last chance to impress at the Olympics having won two titles in Athens and London. He has nothing to prove and apart from the norm of winning, he will be happy with a top three finish.

“We are just starting off after a long recess and I believe we will do just fine to get the right results. Kipruto is strong contender and I have to be at my best form to beat him,” he said.

The Kenya squad of 29 athletes will depart for Doha on Wednesday as they launch their campaign for the Rio Olympics.

However, despite its early season position on the competitive calendar, the Doha Diamond League has traditionally attracted the elite of athletics, resulting in numerous records being broken and personal bests being set.

The 2016 edition, set for May 6, won’t be an exception, with 38 champions and 80 medallists from past Olympic Games and world indoor and outdoor championships heading to the Qatari capital to open their Diamond League campaign.

On the men’s side of the programme, six athletes have won Olympic gold: LaShawn Merritt, Aries Merritt and Christian Taylor of the United States and Kenyans Kiprop, Kemboi and Kipruto.

As many as 14 athletes have been crowned world champion outdoors — nine last year in Beijing — and nine earning a world indoor title.

Additionally 21 athletes have won an Olympic medal, 30 a World Championships medal and 19 a World Indoor Championships medal. In all, 20 men have bagged gold at a global competition and 43 left with medals.

In the women’s events Doha will welcome 18 global champions and 37 medallists. Of those, Olga Rypakova and Veronica Campbell-Brown have struck Olympic gold, 11 have claimed world titles outdoors — seven in Beijing — and seven indoors.

Furthermore, six have finished among the top-three at Olympic Games, 21 at world championships outdoors and 22 indoors.

Overall 206 athletes (125 men and 81 women) will compete at the 2016 Doha Diamond League representing 50 nations from five continents.

Hosts Qatar will field 14 athletes, while Kenya’s presence will be the largest with 29 — composed of 20 men and nine women — with the United States bringing the largest women’s contingent with 14.



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