As Rabat prepares to host Africa’s first International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Diamond League meeting tomorrow, some of the continent’s finest competitors are readying themselves for some potentially gripping rivalries on the track.
Wilfried Meert, the Meeting Mohammed VI coordinator and the long-time promoter of the Van Damme Memorial Meeting in Brussels, believes the ninth Rabat meeting will be the best yet, distinguished as it will be by the participation of 20 Olympic medallists, including six champions, and 39 world outdoor championships medallists.
The men’s 800 metres features London 2012 silver medallist Nijel Amos of Botswana and Ethiopia's former world champion Mohammed Aman, both of whom have won the overall Diamond Race trophy twice since the event started in 2010.
With world and Olympic champion David Rudisha faltering at the last Diamond League meeting in Shanghai, both men have the opportunity to take an early Diamond Race lead, and to set down an Olympic marker, in their 2016 Diamond League debut in Morocco's capital.
In the women’s 800m, South Africa’s 2009 world champion Caster Semenya has already got off to a winning start in the Diamond League at Doha, and she faces Kenya’s 2013 world champion Eunice Sum, while the men’s 3000m steeplechase features Kenyan rivals Conseslus Kipruto, the 2013 Diamond Race winner and victor in Doha, and the man who has won on the last two occasions, Jairus Birech.
But it is a South American rivalry that will command attention in the women’s triple jump as Venezuela’s 20-year-old world indoor champion Yulimar Rojas prepares for another attempt to inflict the first defeat on Colombia’s world champion Caterine Ibarguen since the London 2012 final.
Yulimar set a national record of 14.92m in Doha, prompting Ibarguen to secure her 32nd consecutive victory with a fifth round jump of 15.04m.
Watch out for another drama in the Complexe Sportif Moulay Abdellah.
The women’s pole vault also promises to be highly competitive given the presence of Cuba’s world champion Yarisley Silva, Diamond League champion Nikoléta Kiriakopoulu, world indoor championships silver medallist Ekaterini Stefanidi and the three-times Diamond League champion Silke Spiegelburg.
The men’s discus features six athletes from last summer’s Beijing World Championships final including world champion Piotr Malachowski and silver and bronze medallists Philippe Milanov and Robert Urbanek, as well as the 2008 Olympic champion Gerd Kanter.