A packed to the brim crowd, as many as 13 world leading performances, four meet records and a record-equalling feat in women’s pole vault marked the season-opening Diamond League, the first of the 14-meeting series at the Qatar Sports Club here yesterday.
However, it was not a very satisfying day for the local hopes, with high jump star Mutaz Essa Barshim leading the disappointment with a below-par jump. Sprinters Femi Ogunode and the up-and-coming Abdalelah Haroun too could only finish third in their respective events.
The evening’s highlight was Sandi Morris of US, who equalled the Diamond League record with her leap of 4.83 to win the women’s pole vault. The earlier mark was in the name of Greece’s Nikoleta Kiriakopoulou, set at last year’s Paris DL meeting. Morris did attempt a height of 4.93 in her final attempt but failed.
“I feel so good. I was feeling a bit tired and jet-legged. I landed here after a 20-hour flight and hardly had enough time to rest. So this performance indeed feels incredible,” said Morris.
The biggest draw of the evening, Barshim, proved to be the biggest disappointment for the packed crowd as the Qatari, one of the country’s biggest medal hopes in Rio, bowed out from the competition after failing to clear the bar at 2.29m.
After clearing 2.26 on his third attempt, Barshim failed to clear what should have been a comfortable height for him to continue with his winless streak in the Doha Diamond League
American Erik Kynard, the Olympic silver medalist, took the top honours in high jump with a 2.33m clearance, followed by promising Chinese Guowei Zhang (2.31) with Marco Fassinotti of Italy coming third (2.29).
Barshim, however, said he wasn’t disappointed. “It’s all part of the plan. This being the Olympic year, I am taking things slow. Last year, I peaked early and by July I was practically dead. I am not going to repeat that mistake this year. The idea is to take things slow and steady. I thank the fans for cheering me on. I promise not to disappoint them in Rio,” the Qatari jumper, who won the bronze in London 2012, said.
It was also a disappointing showing from Qatari sprinter Femi Ogunode, who could only finish third in men’s 200m with a rather slow 20.10. Ameer Webb of the USA won the race at 19.85, followed by Panama’s Alonso Edward (20.06).
“This was my first 200m race of the season and I can’t say I am disappointed. I made a mistake at the turn and that’s what cost me a better finish. I am going to work on it now. I promise I shall push myself hard for a medal at the Rio Olympics. I thank all my fans for being there and cheering me on,” said Ogunode, whose 200m personal best stands at 19.97.     
It was also a not-so-happy outing for Qatar’s latest sprint prospect, the 19-year-old Abdalleleh Haroun, in the men’s 400m. Running his first Diamond League race in his home city, Haroun led for the better part of the race before being overtaken by former Olympic and two-time world champion LaShawn Merritt of the US, and Trinidad and Tobago’s Machel Cedenio in the final stretch. Merritt’s winning time of 44.41 was well below his personal best of 43.65, while second-placed Cedenio’s timing of 44.68 was his best of the season.
Haroun’s timing of 44.81 too was below his personal best of 44.27, but he didn’t sound overtly concerned. “It was not a bad race. I tried to chase LaShawn but he was quite fast. Next stop for me will be the Eugene Diamond League,” said Haroun.
LaShawn said everything went as he had planned. “I executed the race as I wanted to. It was a bit humid today but the conditions were the same for everyone. My focus is on the US Olympic Trials in July and I think I am on the right track,” said the American.
The evening’s big upset came in women’s 100m when the up-and-coming Tori Bowie, who won the bronze at last year’s Beijing Worlds, stunned the quality field with a world leading and meet record timing of 10.80 to finish ahead of pre-race favourite Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands, the reigning 200m world champion. Schippers came second at 10.83, followed by veteran Jamaican Veronica Campbell-Brown at 10.91.
Bowie was ecstatic with her win. “I gave this race in Doha my everything. This is the Olympic year and every win adds to your confidence. I think I am a much better runner now than I was last season, thanks to my coach,” she said.
Schippers rued her start. “I think I ran a perfect race but for my start. It was a great feeling racing in Doha for the first time. The crowd and atmosphere was great.”
It was a Kenyan sweep in men’s 1500m with three-time world champion Asbel Kiprop keeping his dominance intact with a world leading time of 3:32.15, followed by compatriots Elijah Motonei (3:33.67) and Silas Kiplagat (3:33.86).
“I won’t read too much into this timing as it’s just the start of the season and there’s a long way to go. I always enjoy running in Doha. The crowd, as always, was superb,” said 2008 Olympic champion Kiprop.
In women’s shotput, Tia Brooks of US opened her outdoor season with a personal best throw of 19.48m, in her third attempt, to win ahead of Hungary’s Anita Marton (19.22) and Emel Dereli of Turkey (18.57). Brooks’ compatriot Michell Carter, the pre-event favourite, dropped out after her third throw of 17.83.
“It feels great to start the season with a win,” said Brooks, while adding that her target is to cross the 20m barrier. “It’s definitely possible. Everything has been going on fine till now. I want to peak at the Olympics.”
Carter didn’t sound much concerned though. “I was not at my best today. My timing was completely off. But I am not concerned because this is just the start of the season. I will go back home and just keep training hard. This is the Olympic year and I want to peak by July.”
Christian Taylor’s love affair with Doha continued as he won the triple jump competition with a world leading 17.23m leap, which came on his sixth attempt. It was well below the reigning Olympic champion’s personal best of 18.21 but was enough to take him past China’s Bin Dong (17.07) and Cuban Alexis Copello (16.98).
“I love competiting in Doha, I love the crowd, I love the atmosphere, and I am happy to win here again. This is where I got my first 18-plus jump.”
South African Caster Semenya won the women’s 800m with a world leading time of 1:58.26 to serve an early warning to her Olympic rivals. “My next race will be in Rabat and I plan to do three more races before the Olympics. My training has been going on really well and I am feeling good with my body,” said Semenya, the reigning Olympic silver medalist.
Reigning world champion Almaz Ayana won the women’s 3000m with a world leading time of 8:23.11 in the evening’s final race to make a perfect start to her outdoor season.  
In a side race earlier in the evening, Qatar’s Abubaker Haydar Abdalla won the regional 800m race, not part of the Diamond League in Doha but serving as an Olympic qualifying race, with a personal best time of 1:45.28 to book a ticket to Rio. “I am so happy. I have qualified for the Olympics and this is also my personal best timing. I will train hard to improve further. It feels great to win before my home fans.

Results
Men
High Jump: 1. Erik Kynard (USA) 2.33m; 2. Guowei Zhang (Chn) 2.31m; 3. Marco Fassinotti (Ita) 2.29m
400m: 1. LaShawn Merritt (US) 44.41; 2. Machel Cedenio (TTO) 44.68; 3. Abdalleleh Haroun (Qat) 44.81
1500m: 1. Asbel Kiprop (Ken) 3:32.15; 2. Elijah Motonei Manangoi (Ken) 3:33.67; 3. Silas Kiplagat (3:33.86)
Triple Jump: 1. Christian Taylor (USA) 17.23m; 2. Dong Bin (Chn) 17.07; 3. Alexis Copello (Cub) 16.98
3000m Steeplechase: 1. Conseslus Kipruto (Ken) 8:05.13; 2. Jairus Kipchoge Birech (Ken) 8:08.28; 3. Abraham Kibiwott (Ken) 8.09.25
200m: 1. Ameer Webb (USA) 19.85; 2. Alonso Edward (Pan) 20.06; 3. Femi Ogunode (Qat) 20.10
110m Hurdles: 1. Omar McLeod (Jam) 13.05; 2. Hansie Parchment (Jam) 13.10; 3. Orlando Ortega (ESP) 13.12
Discus Throw: 1. Piotr Malachowski (Pol) 68.03m; 2. Philip Milanov (Bel) 67.26m; 3. Victor Hogan (SA) 65.59m

Women
100m: 1. Tori Bowie (USA) 10.80; 2. Dafne Schippers (Ned) 10.83; 3. Veronica Campbell-Brown (10.91)   
400m Hurdles: 1. Eilidh Doyle (GBR) 54.53; 2. Kemi Adekoya (Brn) 54.87; 3. Kaliese Spencer (Jam) 55.02  
Pole Vault: 1. Sandi Morris (USA) 4.83m; 2. Nicole Buchler (Sui) 4.78m; 3. Katerina Stefanidi (Gre) 4.73m
ShotPut: 1. Tia Brooks (USA) 19.48m; 2. Anita Marton (Hun) 19.22m; 3. Emel Dereli (Tur) 18.57m
Triple Jump: 1. Caterine Ibarguen (Col) 15.04m; 2. Yulimar Rojas (Ven) 14.92m; 3. Olga Rypakova (Kaz) 14.61m
Javelin Throw: 1. Sunette Viljoen (SA) 65.14m; 2. Kathryn Mitchell (Aus) 63.25m; 3. Lu Huihui (Chn) 62.42m
800m: 1. Caster Semenya (SA) 1:58.26; 2. Habitam Alemu (Eth) 1:59.14; 3. Eunice Jepkoech Sum (Ken) 1:59.74  
3000m: 1. Almaz Ayana (Eth) 8:23.11; 2. Mercy Cherono (Ken) 8:26.36; 3. Gelete Burka (Eth) 8:28.49