Poonia, Om Prakash feature in elite Doha Diamond League
On Friday evening, the desert city of Doha is set to embrace some of the world’s most incredible athletes in the first event of the Diamond League extravaganza which will witness the perfect amalgamation of glamour, razzmatazz and true athletic spirit.
The elite outdoor event will be a major distraction from the numerous doping stories that had ravaged Russian athletics for the past few months. And what should make the headlines now is the fact that as many as 10 Olympic champions will make their presence felt in the simmering competition, which has reasons for Indians to get excited as well. Marquee discus thrower Krishna Poonia will be out to gauge herself against the world’s best, while Om Prakash Karhana will be seeking his fortunes in the shot put category.
The first Indian to win a Commonwealth gold medal in track and field, Poonia is slowly getting back to form as she is still trying to shake off the rust of the off-season. The ace discus thrower, who recently celebrated her 36th birthday, didn’t have the required spark in the first two events she had taken part in this season. Poonia, who has a personal best of 64.76m achieved at Wailuku (USA) last year, was way below her mark at the Federation Cup in Patiala, with a throw of 57.25m. At the first leg of the Asian Grand Prix series held in Bangkok, the national record holder couldn’t live up to the expectations by finishing a disappointing fourth after registering a 56.31m throw.
But the determined athlete is showing signs of improvement with her season’s best throw of 59.43m and a second-place finish which she achieved at the second leg of the Asian Grand Prix series held at Chonburi. Maybe a field which is led by the reigning Olympic champion Sandra Perkovic of Croatia will inspire the gritty Indian to produce a commendable performance.
Shot putter Om Prakash, however, has struggled to put up an encouraging performance this season before locking horns with the elite. He began with a 18.91m throw at the Federation Cup, but could not improve on it further since then. The rest of his performances saw a dip, with two sixth-place finishes at the first and second legs of the Asian Grand Prix series with 17.68m and 17.64m throws respectively.
But the 25-year-old, who is the youngest Indian to win a medal in the Asian Championships, has oodles of talent and his resume boasts of a stunning outdoor throw of 20.69m achieved at Szombathely in Hungary last year. He will be up against a star-studded field comprising twice-Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski, World Indoor champion Ryan Whiting and London Olympic bronze medallist Reese Hoffa. However, the season is still in nascent stage and many of these star performers usually bring about their very best as the season progresses. Perhaps that will present Prakash, who had faltered in the qualification stage at the London Olympics, a great opportunity for redemption.
The Diamond League series guarantees an assembly of heavyweights as each of the events offers a huge purse of $30,000 out of which the top-finisher ends up with $10,000. For many of the athletes who descended at Qatar Sports Club, this is a perfect precursor to the prestigious Asian and World Championships that will take place in July and August respectively. Naturally, the Qatar capital promises a delectable display of athletics and intense competition.
In the absence of Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake, who have been hogging most of the limelight in the sprint section, defending 100m champion Justin Gatlin will be looking to start his season with a bang. Kenyan David Rudisha, the Olympic champion and world record holder, will be looking to continue with his immaculate display in the 800m. However, Men’s javelin throw is one discipline where a crowded field will be involved in a seething competition to achieve glory, and it will also see the return of Nordic javelin legend Andreas Thorkildsen from injury.
On the women’s side, the crème de la crème of the sprinters will be showing up, with the front-runner being IAAF Female Athlete of the Year 2012 Allyson Felix, who captured three gold medals in the last Olympics. She remains unbeaten in the Qatari capital and, naturally, it looks next to impossible to quell her challenge in the 400m. Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who had conquered the 100m as well as the 200m disciplines in Beijing, is the reigning Olympic silver medallist in 200m. She will return to extend her stranglehold of this event against a quality field.
The IAAF Diamond League, which was incepted in 2010, had been in the news recently for the massive setback it received after its title sponsor Samsung had pulled out. With Doha ready to produce a sporting spectacle on Friday, it’s time to put all questions and doubts over the future of the series to rest.