05 May, 2017

2017 IAAF DIAMOND LEAGUE SEASON KICKS OFF IN STYLE AS THOMAS RÖHLER THROWS SECOND FURTHEST JAVELIN DISTANCE IN HISTORY

Home crowd given plenty to celebrate as Team Qatar’s Abdulrahman Samba achieves stunning 400m hurdles victory and Mutaz Barshim shows strong early season form

Doha, Qatar: Doha has once again kicked off a successful IAAF Diamond League season with a thrilling night of outstanding athletics that created a phenomenal atmosphere inside Qatar Sports Club. The eighth successive Doha Diamond League meeting saw three meeting records broken and six world lead times as multiple Olympic and World Champions came together for the first time since last summer’s Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Commenting at the end of the evening’s entertainment, President of the Qatar Athletics Federation, Dr Thani Abdulrahman Al Kuwari:

“Our ambition in the run up to the Doha Diamond League was to raise the bar once again and organise an exceptional event. To us this meant bringing the excitement of athletics to new audiences, inspiring young athletes and continuing to develop our sport to even greater levels across Qatar and the Middle East.”

“Tonight the atmosphere inside the Qatar Sports Club was electric, the competition terrific and together we have once again inspired a host of talented new athletes, who will continue to showcase this fantastic sport. I’m looking forward to next year already!”

The clear highlight of the night came when Germany’s Thomas Röhler threw 93.90 to achieve the second furthest javelin distance in history in his opening competition of the season, breaking the IAAF Diamond League record in the process and begging the question of whether he can break Jan Zelezny’s 11-year-old world record of 98.48 this year. Reflecting on his performance, Röhler said:

“I did not see that coming. I did not expect that in the first start of the season. I’m second best ever. It will take some days to realise that.”

A further stand-out performance of the night came when Team Qatar’s Abdulrahman Samba stunned an incredibly strong field and stormed to victory in the 400m hurdles, beating reigning Olympic Champion, Kerron Clement by over a second with a time of 48.44. The young Qatari was running for only his third time in this discipline, promising a hugely exciting season and career ahead. Speaking afterwards he said:

"I competed against champions and this is such an honour. The focus is on the World Championships now and I'm very happy with the outcome."

In the men’s high jump, Mutaz Barshim did not disappoint the home crowd as he sailed to victory after clearing 2.36 on his first attempt and achieving a world-lead in the process. Barshim clearly had more height in him but chose not to try any further heights after closest rival Robbie Grabarz of Great Britain failed to clear 2.35. Speaking afterwards, Barshim said:

“We came here to take two targets – the win and the lead. I got that so I do not want to exhaust myself. I’ll be in Shanghai in five days so hoping for the best.”

Meanwhile, Qatar’s large Kenyan community had plenty to cheer for with the athletes once again dominating the middle distance events. Kenya’s Rio 2016 silver medallist Hyvin Kiyeng set yet another meeting record with a world-latest time of 9.00.12, beating team-mate Beatrice Chepkoech into second, with Olympic Champion Ruth Jebet of Bahrain finishing a surprising third. In the men’s 1500m, the stadium erupted with Kenya taking the top five places in a race that was won by Elijah Mannangoi in a world-lead time of 3.31.90, ahead of Silas Kiplagat in second and Bethwell Birgen in third. A further Kenyan world-lead time came from Ronald Kweimoi in the 3000m who beat Rio 2016 silver medallist Paul Chelimo into second place, with Rio 2016 3000m steeplechase champion Conselsus Kipruto finish a disappointing 12th.

In the women’s 800m Caster Semenya continued her domination of the event with a new meeting record of 1.56.61. Despite the huge reception from the Ethiopian members of the crowd, reigning World 1500m champion Genezebe Dibaba finished a surprising fifth in her first attempt at the new shorter distance. Commenting after her victory, Semenya said:

“The race was fantastic, the field is great. I’m looking forward to having great races, my only concern now is to finish my studies. I’m left with two semesters, so I need to graduate and get my focus back on the track”.

In the women’s 200m Elaine Thompson beat rival and 2015 World Champion Dafne Schippers, with a season’s best time of 22.19, continuing the sprint domination that saw her become the first female since Florence Griffith-Joyner in 1988 to win the Olympic sprint double in Rio 2016. Reflecting on the race, Thompson said:

“This is my first time in Doha, and my first race of the season. I just wanted to get the race right and see how far I am in the season, and I just wanted to execute.”

There was a shock result in the 100m race as South African Akani Simbine defeated an impressive field of world-class sprinters with a time of 9.99s - dipping under 10 seconds despite a strong headwind and leaving pre-race favourite and Rio 2016 silver medallist Justin Gatlin trailing in fourth. Rio 4x100m gold medallist Jamaica’s Asafa Powell finished second and the ‘fastest man in Asia’  - Qatar’s Femi Ogunode, came in third. Commenting on his victory Simbine said:

“This was the first race of the season and I’m looking forward to the World Championships. I’m happy with my shape now, just to come up here and motivate myself for the rest of the season is what I was hoping for.”

The spectacular night ended on an incredible note with the men’s triple jump event where USA’s Christian Taylor once again wowed Doha’s audience by snatching victory in the last round with a fantastic jump of 17.25m and claiming his fourth Doha Diamond League victory.

Commenting on his success at the start of the Diamond League series, a beaming Taylor said:

“It’s been a slow start – I had big dreams of a big start. So I’m looking forward to August – I’d like to focus on that and set the record in London. I always love competing here it’s a great atmosphere.”