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Asbel Kiprop toe-to-toe with favoured Aman in Doha season opener

Thursday May 14 2015

Kenya's Asbel Kiprop celebrates after winning the men's 800m event during the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Diamond League competition at Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on July 5, 2014. PHOTO | MIGUEL MEDINA

Kenya's Asbel Kiprop celebrates after winning the men's 800m event at Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on July 5, 2014. PHOTO | MIGUEL MEDINA AFP

STEVE OMONDI
By STEVE OMONDI
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If the World Championship titles are the yardsticks used to predict the competitiveness of a race, then that honour belongs to the men’s 800m race of the IAAF Diamond League season opening meeting tonight in Doha, Qatar, at least according to race organizers here and one of the local dailies, The Qatar Tribune.

This is a view quite justifiably informed by the fact that two reigning World Champions, Asbel Kiprop (1,500m) of Kenya and Ethiopia’s Mohammed Aman (800m), will be going toe-to-toe starting 7:29pm tonight at the Qatar Sports Club Stadium in Doha.

The paper describes the two as being “among the biggest stars at the World Championships two years ago in Moscow, Russia”, while in a pre-race press release yesterday the race organizers billed the race as “the most anticipated on the programme.”

Understandably, Kiprop seems to be relishing the prospects of facing off with the world’s top athlete in the two-lap race.

EXPECT TOUGH COMPETITION

“I expect a tough competition and that is why I am happy to be here. I am not an 800m runner, but I am glad to be part of the competition,” Kiprop is quoted by The Qatar Tribune from a press conference on Wednesday.

“I want to run faster than last year. It is possible with good pacesetter,” he added when asked if it is possible to break the 3:26.00 world record in the event that belongs to retired Moroccan athlete Hicham El Guerrouj.

Kiprop, who holds the meeting record in 1,500m (3:28.18), and Aman both have very fond memories of their previous visits to Doha.

The Kenyan has won both the 800m and the 1,500m race in Doha, the former in 2011 and the latter at the meeting’s last two editions.

Aman, on the other hand, won over the distance here last year in a non-scoring race. The Ethiopian, who already has three world titles to his credit – one outdoors and two indoors – is equally hungry for a perfect start to the new season.

“My main season’s goal is to win the Diamond race for the third time. That is in line with my ambition in Doha and to remain the world champion in Beijing this summer,” said Aman

NOTABLE ABSENTEE

The field also includes, French record holder Pierre Ambrose Bosse (1:42.53, PB) and Kiprop’s compatriot Ferguson Rotich Cheruiyot (1:43.84, PB). Other Kenyans on the start list are Job Kinyor (1:43.76), Jeremiah Mutai (1:45.60) and Alfred Kipketer (1:45.00).

Notable absentee in the race will be the reigning Commonwealth Games champion Nijel Amos of Botswana and of course world record holder and reigning Olympics champion David Rudisha. Other mouthwatering clashes are lined up. Olympics 5,000m bronze medallist Thomas Longosiwa said tonight’s Doha Diamond League will provide a perfect launching pad to his season.

Longosiwa will line up against multiple World and Olympic champion Mo Farah of Britain in the 3,000m men’s race that has drawn a stellar cast including among others compatriot Edwin Soi in tonight’s showstopper. However, Longosiwa downplayed the significance of this early season showdown.

With the Briton saying that his focus was on a good start to the season with the 2015 World Athletics Championship in Beijing, China in mind.

“Farah is not the kind of athlete who pushes the field and I don’t expect him to play that role in tomorrow’s (Friday) race. In the past, he always left it to the opposition – Kenyans and Ethiopians – to stretch the field before taking over,” Longosiwa said in an interview with the Daily Nation Sport in Doha.

“But I still expect a competitive race because the track here is very fast. My pre-season in Iten has been very good and without any incident or injury. My target here is to improve on my personal best of 7:30.09 which I attained here in Doha in 2009.”

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