Obiri, Chepkoech to light up Doha meet
Chief Athletics Writer
Fireworks are expected on Friday as a galaxy of stars renews their rivalry in the last meeting of the 2020 Diamond League series in Doha, Qatar.
The Khalifa International Stadium which hosted the 2019 World Championships will once again burst into life on Friday as world champions return to the same venue almost a year later.
World 5,000m champion Hellen Obiri and world 3,000m steeplechase champion Beatrice Chepkoech lead a strong field in the women’s 3,000m race with the pair set to be joined by compatriots; world silver medallist Margaret Chelimo, African Games 1,500m champion Qualyne Kiprop, World Under-20 5,000m champion Beatrice Chebet and the 2015 world cross-country champion Agnes Tirop.
Obiri opened her outdoor campaign in Monaco last month, winning the 5,000m in a world-leading 14:22.12; just four seconds shy of her Kenyan record. She has fond memories of Doha, too, as it is where she set a Kenyan 3,000m record of 8:20.68 in 2014, following it with victories over 3,000m at Doha’s Diamond League meeting last year and over 5,000m at the World Championships at the same venue.
Chepkoech also opened her outdoor season in Monaco, clocking 14:55.01 for 5,000m, and she followed it with a 9:10.07 run for second place in the steeplechase at the Continental Tour meeting in Berlin earlier this month. The steeplechase world record-holder is one of four women in the field with a personal best (PB) inside 8:30.
Elsewhere, world 3,000m champion Conseslus Kipruto will drop to 1,500m race where he will renew his rivalry with Lamecha Girma of Ethiopia and Soufianne El Bakkali of Morocco who clinched silver and bronze respectively at the 2019 World Championships in Doha behind Kipruto.
Ethiopia’s Selemon Barega, the world 5,000m silver medallist, will also step down to the mile in a bid to improve on his recent PB of 3:36.07.
World 1,500m champion Timothy Cheruiyot has also decided to step down to 800m and will compete alongside world bronze medallist Ferguson Rotich.
Cheruiyot has been undefeated since May 2019, but this will be his first 800m race for more than a year, whereas almost everyone else in the field has sharpened up over two laps and arrive in Doha with sub-1:45 season’s bests.
Also joining the duo are World Championships fourth-place finisher Bryce Hoppel, 2016 European bronze medallist Elliot Giles, Pan American silver medallist Wesley Vazquez and Australian duo Peter Bol and Joseph Deng.
Similarly, Olympic 1,500m champion Faith Kipyegon will line up in the 800m race alongside the 2013 world champion Eunice Sum and Uganda’s Winnie Nanyondo.
Kipyegon, the world silver medallist has notched up two victories over 1,000m this year, producing two of the five fastest times in history with her 2:29.15 run in Monaco and 2:29.92 win in Brussels. She followed it with a dominant 3:59.05 run over 1,500m, her specialist distance, at the Continental Tour Gold meeting in Ostrava.
Friday’s race will be her first 800m outing in five years, but her two-lap splits from Monaco (1:59.7) and Brussels (1:59.2) suggest she’s ready to run fast and could even challenge her PB of 1:58.02.