Keshorn Walcott, Mutaz Essa Barshim, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Allyson Felix, David Rudisha and Christian Taylor at the Doha press conference (© Errol Anderson)
David Rudisha, the World and Olympic 800m Olympic champion who opens his IAAF Diamond League campaign in Doha on Friday, could be forgiven for lacking a little motivation this season after his stupendous World record performance at London 2012.
But the quietly-spoken Kenyan insisted here today that his motivation was renewed after a long talk with his coach. And he added that he was planning an excursion over 1000m this year which might yield him another World record.
“It is a dream for athletes to win the Olympic title, and I have achieved that, and to get a World record as well was absolutely fantastic. But it is always good to be motivated to win more, and I want to defend my World title in Moscow this year.
“I sat down with my coach and talked about this year, and we agreed that it will be important to defend my title in Moscow. What you have is not important – what you do not have is the important thing. In the past there have been athletes who have won many titles.”
Rudisha added that he had changed his usual practice of starting his year early in Australia and running a 400m. Of his prospective 1000m race, he said with a smile: “I have never competed at 1000m before. This year I am looking to have a race in Ostrava and we will see what happens. But there is no pressure on me because whatever time I run will be a personal best.”
Despite his renewed enthusiasm, Rudisha said it would be very hard to continue breaking records year after year, and added that it would also be very difficult to repeat his performance of Olympic gold in a World record time of 1:40.91.
“When I ran in London I was not thinking about the World record,” he said. “But I knew I could run 1:41 and that if I could do that this would make it difficult for any other athlete to chase me. And that’s what I did.”
Allyson Felix, the IAAF World Athlete of the Year, is competing here in a 400m which includes World champion Amantle Montsho and Olympic silver medallist Christine Ohuruogu, but she has made it clear this week her plans lie over 100m and 200m later in the season.
She listened impassively as the athlete to her right, double Olympic 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, explained how she was learning how to run the 200m, which she will run on Friday.
“I just want to execute a good 200m and see what is the best I can do,” said Fraser-Pryce. “The 200m is not my best event and it’s something I am learning. It is a new challenge. I didn’t used to like it because I found it difficult to distribute the speed all the way round. I am learning the best strategy and I am looking forward to the Moscow World Championships.”
Asked how she felt about a potential new rival at the distance over which she won the Olympic title last year, Felix responded: “I think it’s a great thing. Definitely the potential is there when you see how Shelly-Ann has run over 100m. It’s exciting to have different talents in the 200m.”
For Keshorn Walcott, surprise winner of the London 2012 Javelin gold, this is the first appearance in an IAAF Diamond League meeting. How often has that been the case for an Olympic champion?
“Winning the Olympic title was great, and hopefully things will go good this year,” said the 20-year-old from Trinidad and Tobago. “I am young and always learning. This is officially my first Diamond League meet, and hopefully the next goal is the World Championships in Moscow.
“I won the World junior title in 2012, but the Olympics was a big step up and winning it was a huge bonus for me.”
Asked about whether the previous double Olympic champion Andreas Thorkildsen would have an advantage over him given that the Norwegian has had a training base here since April 20, Walcott responded with a grin: “Andreas has got a head start on me, and not just because of training here. I have always looked up to him and have learned a lot from him. Competing against him is something special."
Christian Taylor confirmed that the goal of beating Jonathan Edwards’s 18-year-old World Triple Jump record of 18.29m was firmly in his sights. “Absolutely,” said the US World and Olympic champion. “I have a lot of respect for how far that is. If you look at it, it’s a pretty solid distance.
“But I believe that with a crowd behind me, and maybe a little tailwind… there are so many variables… but I want to be the best, I want to put a stamp on the field event. I believe the record can be broken.
Home star Mutaz Essa Barshim, the Olympic High Jump joint bronze medallist, was a little cautious in his hopes for Friday. “I am just looking to get a good start. I have had a lot of problems with my back lately. I am happy to be here to represent my country. But I am looking forward to the season, and to setting a personal best. It should be something good, to get 2.40m.”
Despite being only 19, Mohammed Aman has been the only athlete to find a way of defeating David Rudisha in the past two years, and on the eve of his latest meeting with the World and Olympic champion the young man from Ethiopia is in an ebullient state of mind.
“I am always willing to become better and there is always room for improvement. I trained hard in my country Ethiopia and I feel confident ahead of the new season,” said Aman. “Hopefully I will find the way to beat David Rudisha again. I have a plan but I am not going to reveal it. You will see me on the track!”
Aman, whose Ethiopian record stands at 1:42.53, doesn’t feel that he had luck on his side when he beat Rudisha.
“It didn’t happen accidentally or because David wasn’t at his best form. If you check the times you will see that both races went under 1:43 and 1:44 minutes.
“I took a lot of lessons from the Olympics (he finished sixth in the 800m final). Staying out of the medals didn’t disappoint me. On the contrary I learned a lot from this experience, running against the best athletes in a full-packed stadium.”
As for the question of whether a sub-1:40 time is attainable, Aman replied: “I believe it is possible to break that barrier. I am trying really hard in training to reach that sort of level. To run that fast I believe that a 48-49-second 400m split is needed.”
Meanwhile Germany’s Olympic and European Pole Vault silver medallist, Bjorn Otto, has turned up in Doha in revision mode, carrying a text book around with him which he needs to study ahead of a crucial exam in his progress towards becoming a commercial airline pilot.
The 35-year-old, who also won 2012 World indoor and 2013 European indoor silver, is looking ahead to a season in which he will seek to defeat the current World, European and Olympic champion, Renaud Lavillenie of France.
“I will try to beat him this year. In the last two weeks I did it two times,” said Otto, who cleared 5.80m in Des Moines to earn the first win over the Frenchman on April 26. “So he is beatable. He is not a machine. He is only human. “
Poland’s mighty double Olympic Shot Put champion Tomasz Majewski, who has never won in Doha in four attempts, plans for greater success in a season when his aim will be to gain an elusive World title.
“I hope the Doha Diamond League will be the first stage of a good season,” said Majewski, who underwent an elbow operation in December but who is now back to full fitness. “You always have to find new motivation after two Olympic gold medals in 2008 and 2012.”
World gold is his goal – “I went close in Berlin, I missed my chance in Daegu, and now I want to win gold in Moscow,” he maintained. Nobody was arguing with him.
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF