Doha Diamond League: Sha’Carri Richardson, Chopra steal the show
India’s Neeraj Chopra overcomes windy conditions to win men’s javelin as US sprinter Richardson stuns in women’s 100m.
Doha, Qatar – Neeraj Chopra, the reigning men’s Olympic javelin throw champion, made his Doha Diamond League debut in style by winning the competition in the Qatari capital.
India’s Chopra recorded a world-leading distance of 88.67 metres in his first throw of the javelin final on a breezy moonlit Friday night at a packed Qatar Sports Club Stadium.
The 25-year-old had his sights set on breaking the elusive 90-metre barrier at the season-opening World Athletics’ track and field competition.
“Doha is famous for 90-metre throws and, hopefully, tomorrow will be a great result for all,” Chopra had told reporters ahead of Friday. However, unusually strong winds got in the way of Chopra and other competitors as they repeatedly struggled to get past the 85-metre mark.
Jakub Vadlejch of the Czech Republic finished second with a best of 88.63 metres, while Grenadian world champion Anderson Peters finished third with a best of 82.62 metres.The breeze did not get hamper Sha’Carri Richardson’s fiery 10.76-second sprint in the women’s 100 metres race. The American sprinter was visibly overjoyed with the result as she beat the world-leading time of 10.82 seconds set by Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson, who finished second at 10.85 seconds. The United Kingdom’s Dina Asher-Smith (10.98 seconds) finished third.
Richardson’s extended celebrations – complete with shrieks, flicks of her dreadlocks and hops across the track – endeared her to the crowd seated close to the finish line.
After the race, the 23-year-old said: “I found my peace back on the track and I’m not letting anything or anybody take that any more.”
African party in the stands
Qatar’s multi-national expatriate community turned up in their thousands to watch possibly the last outdoor sport event of the season before the start of the country’s typically hot and humid summer.
More than half of the nearly 15,000 spectators were from Qatar’s African community, with Ethiopia and Kenya leading the way.
Morocco fans, who evoked memories of their boisterous celebrations during their men’s football team’s unprecedented run at the FIFA World Cup in December, took up a block of the stadium and turned it red in anticipation of Soufiane El-Bakkali’s run.
However, fans from Ethiopia formed the largest and most vociferous part of the crowd and their presence in the stands was reflective of the dominance of Ethiopian runners on the track. Families turned up in big numbers with children of all ages, who ran up and down the aisles as older members of the crowd kept their eyes glued to the track.Emotions ran high among the Ethiopian crowd, particularly during the men’s 3,000-metre race as Morocco’s El-Bakkali briefly threatened to spoil the East African country’s party. It was not to be and Lamecha Girma (7:26.18) led Ethiopia’s top-three finish with Selemon Barega (7:27.16) and Berihu Aregawi (7:21.61) behind him.
Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon, the reigning women’s 1500-metre world and Olympic champion, stamped her authority on the race despite a close run by Ethiopia’s Diribe Welteji. Kipyegon finished with a world-leading time of 3:58.57, while Welteji took second with 3:59.34.
Hometown hero’s disappointment
There was no lack of support for the host country’s star athlete Mutaz Barshim either. The Olympic champion high-jumper’s mere presence and warm-up routines were enough to get the crowd excited. Barshim endeared himself to the crowd with his trademark languid walk around the competition area and his sunglasses that famously stay on even during night-time competitions. However, he had a disappointing few jumps and finished third.JuVaughn Harrison of the US won the competition, while Sanghyeok Woo of South Korea finished second.
Moon overcomes ‘mental challenge’
Katie Moon of the US cleared a 4.81-metre jump to win the women’s pole vault event a day after admitting her biggest challenge as an athlete was her own mind.
Moon said the pole vault is “a very mental sport” while speaking at the pre-tournament press conference.
“It’s easy to believe in yourself when it’s going well but to [believe] when you’re struggling a little bit, that’s the biggest struggle for me so far,” she said.