DOHA – Five South African athletes will open their IAAF Diamond League campaigns on Friday night, with world 800m champion Caster Semenya leading a strong contingent of local athletes at the first leg of the annual series in Doha, Qatar.
In superb form this season, after winning the 800m and 1500m titles at the Commonwealth Games in Australia last month, Semenya will turn out in her first Diamond League race over the metric mile after winning the 800m series in the last two years in a row.
She is up against four women who have previously run faster than her 4:00.71 national 1 500m record set at the Gold Coast Games, with another quick time on the cards against a strong field.
Two other South African record holders are also in the start lists for the Doha Meeting.
Sprinter Carina Horn goes in the 100m women’s sprint, after clocking 11.03 earlier to break the South African record as she inched closer to the sub-11 barrier.
Horn will face tough competition in Doha, with reigning Olympic champion Elaine Thompson of Jamaica, reigning 200m world champion and Olympic silver medallist Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands in attendance.
Also in the field are 2017 world silver medallist in the 100m and 200m, Marie-Josée Tao Lou of the Ivory Coast, and her compatriot 2018 world indoor champion over 60m, Murielle Ahouré.
Former Commonwealth Games champion Cornel Fredericks will compete in the 400m men’s hurdles race, as he looks to begin his build up to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Fredericks admits to his form not being 100 percent what it should be, but still, he is quietly confident of improving at least on his season’s best time of 49.63 seconds.
“Doha is one of my favourite tracks. I think it is going to be a good race as some of the best hurdlers are competing,” said Fredericks.
“It is guaranteed to be fast. If I can race from the front, I might surprise myself. For me, the race is the proverbial ‘icebreaker’ to see where I am at the moment.
“My main goal for the season is to dip under 49 seconds as that is what I should do if I want to be competitive in international races.
"The ultimate will be to represent South Africa at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Luckily it is still two years away, so I got times to sort out the last little injury niggles that are hampering me.”
In other events, former Olympic Long Jump silver medallist Khotso Mokoena lines up in the men's triple jump and Pieter Conradie is in the entry lists for the flat 400m men’s race.
The IAAF Diamond League series will consist of 14 meetings, with athletes earning points to qualify for two lucrative finals, to be held in Zurich and Brussels on August 30 and 31.
Schedule of SA athletes:
5.50pm - triple jump men, Khotso Mokoena
6.03pm - 400m men, Pieter Conradie
6.13pm - 1500m women Caster Semenya
6.26pm - 100m women, Carina Horn
6.53pm - 400m hurdles men, Cornel Fredericks.
African News Agency (ANA)