SA quartet ready for Doha Diamond League

Updated: May 5, 2017

​Four of South Africa’s in-form track stars will open their international campaigns on Friday night, as they tackle the global elite at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Doha.
Sprinter Akani Simbine, middle-distance runner Caster Semenya and hurdlers Cornel Fredericks and LJ van Zyl will all compete at the opening leg of the annual series.
Simbine, who leads the national rankings with his 9.92 performance in Pretoria in March, will turn out in the men’s 100m dash.
Preparing for a baptism of fire in his first international race of the year, the Olympic finalist will meet American Justin Gatlin, a former world and Olympic champion, 22-year-old Canadian prospect Andre de Grasse, the bronze medallist at last year’s Rio Games, Jamaican powerhouse Asafa Powell, a former world record holder, and African champion Ben Youssef Meite of the Ivory Coast.
Though some of the other favourites have not yet raced outdoors this year, Simbine has displayed superb form by clocking five of the seven fastest times in the world at this early stage of the season, and he will go into the short-sprint battle among the favourites for victory.
Semenya, who cemented her place at the top of the national women’s 800m rankings with her 2:00.99 victory at the SA Student Championships in Cape Town last week, has shown good form over a variety of distances this year, and she will be eager to take a chunk off her season’s best in the two-lap event.
She faces a full-strength line-up which includes Kenyan athlete Margaret Wambui, who earned the bronze medal behind Semenya at the Rio Olympics.
Adding further excitement to a quality race, Ethiopian star Genzebe Dibaba will drop down in distance to tackle the best two-lap stars on the circuit.
Dibaba, the 1 500m world record holder, set an indoor 800m personal best of 2:00.62 in Madrid in February and her long kick will give her a chance against the shorter distance specialists.
South Africa, meanwhile, will launch a double-edged attack in the men’s 400m hurdles event, with Commonwealth Games champion Fredericks and SA record holder Van Zyl both turning out in the one-lap dash over the barriers.
Abderrahaman Samba of Qatar, who clocked 48.31 in Sasolburg in March, is the only man in the line-up to have run faster than the South African duo this season, but they will face an onslaught from Olympic gold medallist Kerron Clement of the United States, as well as Kenyan world champion Nicholas Bett and countryman Boniface Mucheru, who bagged Olympic silver in Rio.
Having settled in first and second place respectively in the 2017 national rankings, Fredericks (49.27) and Van Zyl (49.29) will hope to approach the 49-second barrier and make a statement ahead of a lengthy international season.

Programme of SA athletes competing at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Doha on Friday night (SA times):

6.25pm – Caster Semenya (800m, women)
7.25pm – Akani Simbine (100m, men)
7.35pm – Cornel Fredericks, LJ van Zyl (400m hurdles, men)

* The meeting will be broadcast live on SuperSport