Diamond League has Olympic feel in Doha

With the London Olympics less than three months away, the

season-opening Diamond League meet on Friday offers a chance for

many of the world’s elite athletes to chart their progress and

renew old rivalries.

Some of the most intriguing matchups are in the 100 meters, with

Jamaica’s Asafa Powell facing his countryman Nesta Carter and

American Justin Gatlin. Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce

faces off against Veronica Campbell-Brown in the women’s 100 in a

possible prelude to London. Also in the race is Allyson Felix, a

three-time world champion in the 200 and two-time winner in the 100

in Doha.

David Rudisha, the 800 world champion and Olympic favorite, will

be looking to set a season best in a field missing his main rival

Mohammed Aman of Ethiopia, who pulled out.

Powell, a former world record holder, has been overshadowed in

recent years by Usain Bolt and his fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake, who

won the 100 at the world championships last year after Bolt false

started.

The 29-year-old Powell missed the worlds with a groin injury,

but believes he still has it in him to win Olympic gold.

”This one will be very difficult,” Powell said of the London

Games. ”It’s just the best man on that day will win. You have to

be prepared.”

Gatlin sees London as maybe his last chance for an Olympic

medal, after winning the 100 at the 2004 Athens Games. At a 2006

meet in Doha, Gatlin tied Powell’s then-world record of 9.77

seconds. His time was erased weeks later after Gatlin tested

positive for excessive levels of testosterone, which led to a

four-year ban.

”It is just good to be in strong competition once again,” said

Gatlin, who has beaten Powell in six of their nine meetings. ”I’m

always a competitor at heart. … It will be a great gauge for me

going into the next step of my season.”

Felix will be hoping a victory over Campbell-Brown can set her

on the way to a historic season. She is considering running the 200

and 400 meters in London and wants a gold to go along with her two

Olympic silver medals.

”Doha has been very good to me and so I hope for a good race,”

she said. ”I’m running the 100 meters, so of course it will be

tough. I’m just excited to put it together.”

Campbell-Brown also welcomed the chance to face off against

Felix again, having beaten her at this distance in all five of

their meetings. She will be looking for her third straight Olympic

gold in the 200 in London.

”It’s a great field and I’m sure we will push each other and

entertain the crowd,” said Campbell-Brown, who defended her

60-meter title at the world indoors in March.

There are plenty of other attractions as well.

In the women’s 800, Olympic champion Pamela Jelimo will be

looking to turn the tide on her fellow Kenyan Janeth Jepkosgei who

has beaten her in the last six races.

Olympic 5,000 and 10,000 champion Kenenisa Bekele is returning

from injury to run in the 3,000 and will be looking to show he’s

healthy.

Jelimo wants to build on her success at the world indoors, where

she won the 800. Great things were expected of the Kenyan after she

dominated the 2008 season and won gold in Beijing, but she has

struggled with injuries.

Bekele, too, is hoping his injury woes are behind him. The

Ethiopian great who has three Olympic and 16 world titles to his

name said he hopes to run the 10,000 and 5,000 in London. He had a

disastrous worlds last year, withdrawing from the 5,000 after

dropping out of the 10,000.

”I’m feeling happy,” Bekele told reporters. ”I’m free of

injury and training is going well. I expect maybe it will (be a)

fast race and I hope everybody will be fresh and will push

everybody.”

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