Olympians to star at Diamond League opener
DOHA, Qatar -- The season-opening Diamond League meet has the feel of a victory parade for stars of the London Olympics.
There will be 29 medalists from London taking part Friday in what is considered the traditional start to a season that culminates this year with the world championship in Moscow. Allyson Felix, who won three golds in London, and David Rudisha, won broke the world record in winning gold in the 800, are the big names alongside a lineup that is dominated by the Americans.
Olympic gold medalist Brittney Reese will be the favorite in the women's long jump while reigning Olympic and world champion Christian Taylor competes in the triple jump.
Justin Gatlin, who won bronze in the 100 meters in London, will defend his Doha title in a weakened field that includes Nesta Carter of Jamaica and fellow American Michael Rodgers. World champion Yohan Blake withdrew due to injury and six-time Olympic champion Usain Bolt isn't here.
Olympic silver medalist Dawn Harper will also revive her long-running rivalry with Lolo Jones in the 100 hurdles. Jones, who finished fourth in London to again miss out on an Olympic medal, holds the edge 14-13 but Harper has beaten her in the last seven races.
Felix has acknowledged it's been a challenge to get motivated following her success in London. She took two months off -- the longest break of her career -- and said she is still not race ready.
"After any major championship, it's kind of hard to regroup and pick up," said Felix, the IAAF athlete of the year in 2012. "I've been taking things slowly and this is year where I kind of gradually get everything together. By nationals, I'm hoping everything will be where it needs to be."
The 27-year-old Felix will only be competing in the 400, an event she has not run since the 2011 world championships and is considered one of her weakest. She will not race in the 200, and there is no women's 100 at this meet.
Felix could find it a challenge to defend her 10-race winning streak in Doha. She is up against 2011 world champion Amantle Montsho of Botswana who beat her in South Korea and 2008 champion and 2012 silver medalist Christine Ohuruogu of Great Britain.
"Of course, I would love to keep winning. Let's see how it goes." She said. "It's a great field I'll race on Friday."
With Felix out of the 200, the favorite will be Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica who just lost to the American in London. The two-time Olympic champion in the 100, Fraser-Pryce said she is just beginning to feel comfortable in the 200.
"The 200 is something I'm getting to love," Fraser-Pryce said. "Before I didn't like to do 200 because I felt it was too difficult to even the distribution of speed. The more I run it, the more I learn what is best technique or best strategy to use to run 200. I'm definitely looking forward to running both events in Moscow.
Rudisha is the biggest name in the middle and long distance races, which are short of Olympic stars in Doha.
The Kenyan is coming off a two-year reign in the 800, where he won Olympic gold, the world championship and broke the world record three times. It would seem the soft-spoken Kenyan has little more to prove, but he said there's still plenty more he wants to achieve.
"We have legends and athletes who have done tremendously well before. They have gone and won several titles in Olympics and world championships," Rudisha said. "That is what we are looking forward to. I don't have the two titles at world championship and I want to defend this year in Moscow."
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
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