Allyson Felix desperately chasing down Amantle Montsho in the final of the 400m (© Getty Images)
Allyson Felix will seek to maintain her perfect record in Doha in Friday’s first IAAF Diamond League event of 2013. But gaining her 11th victory in Qatar since 2005 will be a steep task indeed for the 27-year-old US sprinter given that she is racing over 400m, which by her own admission is not her specialist distance, against a field which includes the reigning World champion and defending Diamond Race winner, Amantle Montsho of Botswana.
The additional presence of Britain’s 2012 Olympic silver medallist and 2008 Olympic champion, Christine Ohuruogu, means that this Diamond Race will get off to a scintillating start in the Hamad Bin Suhaim Stadium.
Felix has the joint highest number of Diamond League wins to her credit since the IAAF Diamond League began in 2010, numbering 13 along with fellow US sprinter Carmelita Jeter and France’s Olympic Pole Vault champion Renaud Lavillenie.
She has earned two Diamond Race victories, completing the 200m and 400m double in 2010, although Montsho has annexed the 400m Diamond Race since then and has an overall total of eight wins, making her the joint eighth best-performing woman in the event.
In terms of Diamond League consistency, however, Montsho can claim a better record than her US rival, having finished on the podium in 18 races, one more than Felix, from a total of 20 races.
When it comes to overall Diamond League points gained, however, the rivals stand exactly equal with 58 points each, joint fourth in the women’s list behind Kaliese Spencer of Jamaica, who has 72, Valerie Adams of New Zealand (70) and Jeter (69).
During their careers as a whole, Felix and Montsho have raced against each other 14 times. Montsho won their two most recent clashes, but Felix triumphed in their 12 meetings before then. They have met four times in Doha, and on three of those occasions they have finished 1-2, with Felix getting the advantage each time.
“I am very proud of my ten-win streak in Doha,” said the reigning Olympic 200m champion. “It’s an early season meet, and it has just worked out that way. Of course I would love to keep winning here but we will have to see how it goes against a pretty great field when we all race on Friday. It’s going to be a great competition.
“I think these Diamond League races are really important leading up to a World Championships. You get to face a lot of the same people that are going to be there and it is always a test when you get these types of races.”
Felix added that the framework of the Diamond Race was a vital element in terms of the overall season for both herself and her closest rivals.
“I think it is great,” she said. “I’m an athlete that really thrives on competition – I like to go up against the best runners, and the Diamond League is good in getting those races underway, so I think it’s a benefit.”
Montsho is also looking forward to gaining a good start to her season after a year in which her defence of the Diamond Race 400m title went some way to consoling her for missing out on an Olympic medal in London.
“I always like to compete in Doha because it is a good meeting and the track also is good,” she said. “And I always compete with top athletes like Allyson Felix.
“This year I want to do the same as I did in Daegu and win the World title. That means a lot to me. But at this time of the year you don’t know how you are running and how the other runners are, so I don’t really know what will happen on Friday.”
That indeed remains to be seen – but whatever the outcome, given the quality of those taking part, it will be worth keeping a close eye on.
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF