African star athletes Vivian Cheruiyot (Kenya), Almaz Ayana (Ethiopia) and Eunice Sum (Kenya) are eager to open their outdoor season at the Doha Diamond League meeting today.
Vivian Cheruiyot and Almaz Ayana rarely compete against each other.
After the Kenyan and the Ethiopian were crowned world champions in 2015, the former in the 10,000m and the latter in the 5000m, an “event to watch” tag is surely added in Doha’s 3000m race.
So far Ayana holds a slender 2-1 lead over Cheruiyot, with her latest win occurring in Zurich’s Diamond League final last September. That race was a turning point in Ayana’s career since she suffered a knee injury right afterwards and prevented her from competing since.
“After Zurich I felt overload,” Ayana said. “My left knee didn’t stop hurting me and spoiled my whole preparation plan towards the 2016 season. I didn’t do any races indoors or outdoors yet, so Doha will be my first.
“I am not fully recovered, but I’ll try my best tomorrow and we’ll see how it’s going to end up.”
Vivian Cheruiyot skipped the indoor season as well and ran only once - a road in Portsmouth, UK- following the Diamond League final, but thankfully the reason behind it wasn’t any sort of injury.
“My training went well, but you’ll never know what will happen in a Diamond League race. I don’t have any particular plan for tomorrow. It all depends on how the race will develop.”
Another Kenyan, the 2013 world champion Eunice Sum, will be leading a very strong line-up in the 800m.
— Athletics Africa (@athleticsafrica) May 5, 2016
Experts predict a season with extremely fast times with so many great runners, including Francine Niyonsaba (Burundi) who stormed to the world indoor title a couple of months ago in Portland, and the re-emerged former world outdoor champion Caster Semenya (South Africa) who recently clocked 1:58.45, the world’s fastest time this year, being in the frontline.
“It’s true the 800m is going to be tougher in 2016. Caster and Francine have gone really fast, Ajee Wilson as well," said Sum.
"I am ready to run faster than my personal best judging from the training I’ve been doing, but there is no reason to change my usual tactics. Tomorrow I will be running my own race."
Regarding their Olympic aspirations, all three were reluctant to reveal much.
“I’ll go to Rabat and then to the Olympic trials. For sure I’ll run only the 800m this year,” said Sum, while Ayana has yet to decide whether she will try the 10,000m as well.
“Technically I am ready to do both the 5000m and the 10,000m but all depends on my physical condition.”
As far as Cheruiyot is concerned she will be waiting until the Kenyan Olympic trials to make up her mind about the disciplines she will try in Rio. Until then, she will run both the 3000m and 5000m in meetings, while her young son will be watching his famous mother on TV.
“I am feeling blessed and happy to have a son. He’s a lovely boy and he is now at an age that he understands his mom is on TV.”