Local athletics fans will surely witness a sizzling night on May 15 at Qatar Sports Club track, with so many great names in every event’s starting list– including the IAAF World Athlete of the Year Renaud Lavillenie and the long distance double Olympic and World Champion Mo Farah– but will also have the chance to cheer for Qatar’s strong squad of talented youngsters.
The “Face of Qatar Athletics”, Mutaz Essa Barshim may be missing from this year’s Doha international athletics meeting, due to the absence of the Men’s High Jump from the schedule, but the rest of Qatar’s most prominent athletes our out to impress at the grand opening of the 2015 IAAF Diamond League season.
Starting from the 100m, the hosts will be represented by the reigning Asian champion and Area record holder with 9.93 Femi Ogunode – the unofficial No. 2 in the hierarchy of Qatar athletics. The 24-year-old Ogunode, the 2014 60m World Indoor Championships bronze medalist and a five-time Asian champion in the sprints, has already started the outdoor season with a superb 10.15 100m outing in Tampa, USA, where he trains under the guidance of Dennis Mitchell along with Justin Gatlin, one of his major rivals on May 15 in Doha. At the recent Arab Championships in Manama, Bahrain, Ogunode ran even faster, 10.04 but he was assisted by an illegal 4.1 m/sec tailwind.
Ogunode is one of the most successful Qatari athletes in the history of the Doha meeting. He may boast of his second-place finish in the 200m race in 2011 and a third-rank in 2014, when he matched Mutaz’s Doha record (third in 2011 and second in 2013).
The 800m race will feature the likes of Musaeb Abdulrahman Balla and Jamal Hairane. Balla, 26, feels confident enough for a long awaited international quantum leap, following his brilliant 2015 indoor season which saw him topping the world rankings with an awesome 1:45.48 clocking win in Stockholm, a new national record. Balla already posted an Arab Championships win in Manama in April with a time of 1:46.74. 21-year-old Hairane, the 2014 Asian Games bronze medalist, elected to open his 2015 outdoor campaign in the 1500m. He won silver at the GCC Championships and was sixth at the Arab Championships. In Doha he will check his progress in the 800m, against the world’s best two-lap athletes the likes of World Champions Mohammed Aman and Asbel Kiprop and he will be looking to improve his 1:47.61 personal best.
Finally, athletics aficionados will enjoy Qatar’s new wonder kid Abdalelah Haroun’s Diamond League debut in a non-scoring 400m race scheduled exclusively for Asian athletes. Haroun, just 18, was the sixth fastest in the world indoors with 45.39, a new Asian senior record and has already ran 44.68 twice outdoors – once in the high altitude of Sasolburg, South Africa in March and again at the end of April at sea level in Manama during the Arab Championships. His time was fast enough to help him win gold in Manama, his first international title, while it was just two hundreds of a second shy of the Asian junior record, owned by Saudi Arabia’s Hamdan Odha Al Bishi. This performance puts Haroun third in the 2015 outdoor list so far, an unbelievable breakthrough for an athlete who was completely unknown until last winter.
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