On a day of high wind at the Qatar Sports Club Friday, the favourites fell by the wayside at the Diamond League season opener. The windy conditions did not spare even home favourite and Olympic champion Mutaz Essa Barshim as the Qatari finished second in front of a vociferous packed crowd.
South Korea’s Sanghyeok Woo, the world leader coming into season’s opening event, cleared 2.33m to pip Barshim into first, while joint Olympic gold medallist Gianmarco Tamberi bowed out after three failures at 2.24m.
There were surprises galore as the US sprinter Gabrielle Thomas and Brazilian hurdler Alison Dos Santos claimed victories with meet records in women’s 200m and men’s 400m hurdle respectively. Olympic silver medallist Marileidy Paulino also grabbed an impressive win in women’s 400m with Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo finishing a disappointing third.
There was heartbreak for the crowd who had come to watch pole vault superstar Armand Duplantis as the event fell victim to high winds and was cancelled. But the javelin throwers thrived as the weather conditions caused their spears to fly huge distances as Grenada’s Anderson Peters smashed his personal best with a stunning 93.07m to claim victory.
On an action packed day, all eyes were on Barshim in the far right corner of the stadium as the two-time world champion was competing for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics. The 30-year-old cleared 2.16 and 2.20m without much ado, before stumbling at 2.24. But he regrouped quickly and cleared 2.30 before coming unstuck at 2.33. A couple of attempts to clear 2.35 also did not materialize as Barshim settled for second spot.
Sanghyeok, who was fourth at the Olympics last year, had soared over 2.33 as the South Korean finished on top. Tamberi, meanwhile, had a poor night as the Italian finished only seventh. Barshim, who is gunning for a hat-trick of world titles in Eugene, US, in July, was not unhappy with a second-place finish.
“This year is different because I have not been jumping since Tokyo, but you have to be smart and take your goals step by step. Anyways it is a good start in front of an amazing crowd. The atmosphere gave us strong competition, I produce my best when it is crowded with fans,” he said.
Meanwhile, Olympic champion Andre De Grasse of Canada finished fourth in the men’s 200m, with American Noah Lyles sprinting to victory in 19.72 secs after a close battle with compatriot Fred Kerley (19.75). De Grasse completed the race in 20.15 seconds and finished just behind Jereem Richards of Trinidad and Tobago, who also posted the same time.
The 24-year-old Lyles, aiming to bounce back from a disappointing 2021 when he managed only a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics, led from start to finish. But with finishing line sight, Kerley closed the gap but Lyles had enough power to claim victory, though none of the meeting times would count because of the wind.
“I came here to get my energy for the season. I perform under pressure, it helps me to get excited about the season,” said Lyles who expressed optimism for the season but added that rivals should expect “trouble” if he does not reclaim his world title in Eugene in July. “When I lose I come for blood,” he joked. De Grasse said he was not concerned but admitted that he will have to go home and “work on some things”.
Britain’s world champion Dina Asher-Smith managed only third in her first 200 metres of the year as Olympic bronze medallist Gabrielle Thomas stormed to victory as Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson came second. “This was a big one to start the season, there was a lot of competition,” Thomas said. “I have a will to win, I fight to the end.”
Anderson Peters, the reigning world champion at the World Championships in Qatar in 2019, went to No 5 on the world all-time lists after a wind-assisted throw of 93.07m. Olympic silver medallist Jakub Vadlejch of Czech Republic also broke the 90-metre mark but Peters took victory with a huge, last-gasp effort.
Only world record-holder Jan Zelezny with 98.48m plus Germans Johannes Vetter (97.76m) and Thomas Röhler (93.90m) and Finland’s Aki Paviainen (93.09m) have ever thrown further. “I came here twice. I love to be here in Doha trying to get better and to be more in shape,” said the 24-year-old winner. The men’s 1,500m also saw an upset, with three-time Diamond Trophy winner and reigning champion Timothy Cheruiyot coming second behind fellow Kenyan Abel Kipsang.