The climax of an exciting diamond league opener in Doha was the men’s 3000m steeplechase race where the order of the top two from the Tokyo Olympics remained the same as Soufiane El Bakkali edged Lamecha Girma by a micro-second to win the race in a world-leading 8:09.66. Just like in Tokyo, a Kenyan came in third. But this time around, it was Abraham Kibiwot finishing at 8:16.40.
Being the first Diamond League meeting, it was the perfect time for fans to tell who the athletes to watch out for will be in the different events leading up to the World Athletics Championships in Oregon later in the year.
However, the windy conditions witnessed at the stadium may have caused some fans and athletes not to be contented with the results here and to still look forward to some re-matches in the upcoming races to tell for sure who the best athletes this season are.
The women’s 3000m race progressed into an epic battle between Faith Kipyegon and Francine Niyonsaba. Given her past as an 800m specialist and her present as a 5000m specialist, it was going to be hard to find the right tactic to beat Burundi’s Niyonsaba in the 3000m event where she led almost entirely from gun to tape. For Kipyegon, it would seem like her plan was to wait until the last few hundred meters of the race before unleashing a surprise finishing kick. She did exactly that with 200m to go, but Niyonsaba took advantage of the inside lane to mount a strong resistance as the two runners fought hard running almost parallel on the home stretch. Niyonsaba edged Kipyegon by a fraction of a second to win the race in a world-leading time of 8:37.70 against Kipyegon’s 8:38.05.
Fortunately, for Kenyan fans, Kipyegon and Niyonsaba will be doing different races at the world championships in Eugene, Oregon as they will be moving to their distances of specialty; Kipyegon to the 1500m and Niyonsaba to the 5000m.
Time didn’t matter much in the men’s 800m given the windy conditions at the track in Doha, but Noah Kibet appeared to have been doing some good speed workouts to ensure that he got to edge his opponents when the kick mattered; in the last 200m of the race. While opening his outdoor track season in Kenya, Kibet had participated at the Uasin Gishu County Championships where he won both the 100m and 400m races, which he did mostly to sharpen his speed; the speed that allowed him to hold off and even extend his lead against Peter Bolt of Australia and Marco Arop of Canada who would finish second and third respectively.
The men’s 1500m race was a battle between Timothy Cheruiyot and Abel Kipsang. Kipsang led for most of the race, just behind the pacesetters then turning into a pacesetter for the rest once the group on the last lap. Cheruiyot stuck behind him and made an effort to overtake at the last bend, but Kipsang managed to hold on to the finish line winning the race in 3:35.70 as Cheruiyot registered a seasonal best time of 3:36.16 for second place.