Opening Day Is Here! 2023 Diamond League Season Begins Friday in Doha

The calendar has turned to May, and in the track & field world, that’s when things start to get a little more serious. If you’re a world-class athlete running outdoor track in February or March, you’re probably having fun somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere to escape the cold. April is for a local meet, a season opener to get the wheels turning again. If anything goes badly, it’s easy to write it off with three words: it’s still early.

The World Championships in Budapest (August 19-27) are still more than three months away, but we’re now less than weeks away from the NCAA Championships in Austin (June 7-10) and the USATF Championships in Eugene (July 6-9) are starting to peek over the horizon. By the end of this month, almost every major star will have opened their season.

It’s still kind of early, especially for athletes who already know they’ll be in Budapest, but the results will start to matter soon. Not just because every day brings us closer to Worlds, but because the level of competition is rising.

That’s why we love the Doha Diamond League, aka track & field’s Opening Day. It’s a chance to see the biggest stars of the sport competing on the same stage again — not spread across multiple days at some college meet, not on some janky stream from a random track in Florida, but in a major stadium in a two-hour TV window, one after another.

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Doha is also great because the fields are typically very strong. For this year’s edition, which will be held on Friday, we’ve got Sha’Carri Richardson against world champs Shericka Jackson and Dina Asher-Smith in the women’s 100, world champs Fred Kerley and Michael Norman in the men’s 200, and an absolutely loaded men’s 3000 featuring Olympic champs Selemon Barega and Soufiane El Bakkali plus indoor world record holder Lamecha Girma and the 3000 debut of former 1500 world champ Timothy Cheruiyot. By Friday evening, we’ll have the answer to some questions (Is Sha’Carri ready to take on the world’s best? Can Girma take his WR-setting form outdoors?) and a whole bunch of new storylines to digest following all of the races.

It’s going to be a lot of fun. And as we always say at LetsRun.com, the sport is more enjoyable if you know what’s going on. So check out our preview of the best events below, then find a TV on Friday and settle in for two hours of world-class track & field. And afterwards, head to LetsRun.com because we’ll be doing a live post-Doha podcast/video show immediately after the meet (~2 p.m. ET). Happy Opening Day!

What: 2023 Doha Diamond League
Where: Qatar SC Stadium, Doha, Qatar
When: Friday, May 5. DL track events (and the Peacock broadcast) begin at 12:00 p.m. ET.

How to watch: This meet will be streamed live in the United States on Peacock from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. ET on Friday. For full TV/streaming details, see below.

Full Doha schedule/entries/results * TV/streaming information

Want to play fantasy track & field? Friend of LetsRun Harry Prevor is running a Doha prediction contest on GitHub. It’s super simple — just pick two athletes in each event and the winning time in the women’s 1500 as a tiebreaker. The winner gets a free LRC Supporters Club membership for a year and an LRC t-shirt, while 2nd and 3rd place win LRC t-shirts. And it’s completely free to play. Enter here.

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Women’s 3000 steeplechase: Who will be the new queen?

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The women’s steeple is going to look different in 2023. World champion Norah Jeruto, who went undefeated for the last two seasons, has been suspended for an Athlete Biological Passport violation. It’s possible the silver medalist could be sidelined by World Athletics’ new DSD rules. There’s a vacancy at the top, and most of the candidates to fill it will be in Doha on Friday.

Going off last year’s results, Ethiopia’s Mekides Abebe (Worlds bronze) or Bahrain’s Winfred Yavi (4th at Worlds) are in the strongest position, and their pbs rank them 5th and 6th on the all-time list (or 3rd and 4th among those who haven’t served doping bans). Both are fairly young — Abebe is 22, Yavi 23 — but they’re already under threat from an even younger crop of athletes. Check out the top six from last year’s Diamond League final in Zurich. Four of the six are 20 or younger.

Place Name Country Current age Time Note
1 Werkwuha Getachew ETH 27 9:03.57
2 Winfred Yavi BRN 23 9:04.47
3 Faith Cherotich KEN 18 9:06.14 2022 World U20 champ
4 Zerfe Wondemagegn ETH 20 9:06.37 8th at ’21 Olympics
5 Jackline Chepkoech KEN 19 9:11.06 2021 World U20 champ
6 Sembo Almayew ETH 18 9:14.10 Set World U18 best of 9:09 in ’22

On the other end of the age spectrum, 31-year-old world record holder Beatrice Chepkoech is still around (she’s entered in Doha even though she only raced two steeples last year), as is 32-year-old Emma Coburn. Coburn’s incredible US championships win streak is still alive (she’s a perfect 10-0 in her career) and she showed flashes of the old Coburn by running 9:07 in Monaco last year. But her other three DLs in 2022 weren’t great by her standards — 8th at Pre, 8th at Brussels, 7th at Zurich, none faster than 9:18 — and she has run poorly in the last two global finals. How much does she have left in the tank? We’ll start finding out in Doha, where Coburn will also face 2021 Olympian Val Constien, who just signed a Nike contract after winning the 3k at USA Indoors.

Olympic champ Peruth Chemutai of Uganda, who came back to Earth in 2022 after a breakout 2021 season, is also in the field, while Americans Courtney Frerichs and Courtney Wayment are sitting this one out.

Men’s 800: This one’s anyone’s guess

There were seven Diamond League men’s 800m races in 2022 and seven different winners, so good luck figuring out this event. Kenya’s Emmanuel Korir has been the best when it counts, winning the last two global titles and last two DL finals, but he’s not in this race. 19-year-old Noah Kibet, who has been training with Union Athletic Club and coach Pete Julian, won this race last year and is back in 2023 alongside Algeria’s Slimane Moula (2022 Stockholm DL winner) and Djamel Sedjati (2022 Worlds silver), 2022 NCAA champ Moad Zahafi of Morocco, and 2022 Commonwealth Games champion Wyclife Kinyamal. American Clayton Murphy is also in the field after finishing 7th at the Botswana Golden Grand Prix last week.

Kibet, who has looked impressive so far in 2023 (1:44 win at Millrose, 3:36 1500 pb at Bryan Clay in April), is the best bet for the win here, but most of the other men entered haven’t raced much this year so it’s hard to tell who is in shape.

Women’s 100: Sha’Carri vs Dina vs Shericka

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Sha’Carri Richardson is, undoubtedly, one of the most talented female sprinters who has ever lived. The numbers are there for everyone to see: 10.75 as a 19-year-old. Yet in her first three years as a full-time professional, she has not been able to translate that into success on the sport’s biggest stages. 2020 was lost to COVID — there was no big stage to perform on. In 2021, Richardson was brilliant at the Olympic Trials but shot herself in the foot by testing positive for marijuana and missing the Olympics. And last year? Last year was a rollercoaster: Richardson went AWOL early in the season, then looked to be rounding into form in June only to bomb out in the first round at USAs.

Is 2023 the year that Richardson finally puts it all together and delivers the medal-winning performance she is capable of? Richardson passed her first test with flying colors, sprinting to a wind-aided 10.57 in Miramar on April 8. Now comes a bigger challenge against two of the world’s top sprinters: world 200 champ/100 silver medalist Shericka Jackson of Jamaica and 2019 world 200 champ Dina Asher-Smith of Great Britain. Asher-Smith went undefeated indoors this year, twice breaking the British record in the 60 (she had a best of 7.03), while Jackson opened up quickly in the 100, running 10.82 two weeks ago in Kingston.

Though Richardson has had some high-profile flops on the DL circuit (2021 Pre) and has never won a DL race, she has finished second on two occasions — including last year at Pre, beating both Jackson and Asher-Smith. A win here doesn’t guarantee anything in July or August, but for Richardson, it would be a massive affirmation that she is on the right path.

Sha’Carri Richardson’s Diamond League 100m races

Date Race Time Wind Place
6/30/19 Pre Classic 11.15 0.3 4th
5/23/21 Gateshead 11.44 -3.1 2nd
8/21/21 Pre Classic 11.14 0.9 9th
5/28/22 Pre Classic 10.92 0.7 2nd
9/2/22 Brussels 10.93 0.6 5th
9/8/22 Zurich 11.13 -0.8 7th

Richardson isn’t the only US sprinter making the trip to Doha; reigning US 100 and 200 champs Melissa Jefferson and Abby Steiner are also entered, as are 2019 US champ Teahna Daniels and TeeTee Terry, who won the 100 in Botswana last week in 11.05.

Who wins the women's 100 in Doha?

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Men’s 3000 meters: Olympic champs, a world champ, a world record holder…this race has it all

This one is a distance fan’s dream. You’ve got the Olympic 10k champ in Selemon Barega, the Olympic steeple champ in Soufiane El Bakkali, the World XC silver medalist in Berihu Aregawi, and a former 1500 world champ stepping up for his 3k debut in Timothy Cheruiyot. Plus Adel Mechaal (7:30 pb), Stewart McSweyn (7:28 pb), and Getnet Wale (7:24 pb).

Lamecha Girma broke the indoor 3000m world record in February (photo by BAPTISTE DANIEL)

Yet the favorite has to be Lamecha Girma, a man who has never won a global title despite coming very close (three silvers in the steeple and one more in the 3k indoors). Girma loves to run fast, and after ripping off three sub-8:00 steeples in a 10-day span last summer, he showed up indoors and ran 7:23 without barriers to break Daniel Komen‘s 25-year-old world record in the indoor 3000.

That run prompted a few questions. Namely: Should Girma give up the steeple and switch to the 5000? Or does this mean Girma is finally ready to win a global title in the steeple?

Let’s tackle the first question first: probably not. Girma is a near-lock for a medal in the steeple and has three straight silvers in that event. It only makes sense to switch events if his shot at gold is better in the 5,000, and it isn’t. 7:23 is crazy fast — only Komen and Hicham El Guerrouj have ever gone faster, indoors or out — but it doesn’t necessarily mean Girma’s kick is any stronger than it used to be. After consistently being outkicked by El Bakkali, why would we suddenly expect Girma to be able to outkick the likes of Jakob Ingebrigtsen in the 5,000?

The other issue is that the 5,000 is far deeper than the steeple. Remember, in 2021 Girma’s countryman Getnet Wale ran 7:24 indoors, then showed up to the Olympics and didn’t even make the 5,000 final (granted, the 5,000 prelims were the day after the steeple final). In the steeple, Girma only has to worry about El Bakkali (and maybe Conseslus Kipruto). In the 5,000, he has to worry about a whole bunch of guys: Ingebrigtsen, Aregawi, Barega, Joshua CheptegeiOscar ChelimoJacob KropNicholas Kipkorir

As for the second question: yes, this could finally be the year Girma wins gold. We have enough evidence to suggest Girma probably won’t outkick El Bakkali, but he could finally be strong enough to drop him. Last year, when Girma ran 7:58 in the steeple, he ran 7:30 indoors. It doesn’t necessarily mean that because Girma ran 7:23 indoors, he’ll now be able to run 7:51 in the steeple…but would you really be shocked if he did? The men’s steeple WR of 7:53.63 has stood for more than 18 years, and now we’ve got supershoes and a guy who has run 7:23 for the flat 3k.

That’s for later. Girma has a big enough challenge to focus on in Doha. With a large, deep field, and men like McSweyn, Girma, and Aregawi who prefer a fast pace, expect this one to go out fast. The meet record of 7:27.26 by Yenew Alamirew dates all the way back to 2011 (3rd in that race? Eliud Kipchoge) but could go if the guys decide to get after it on Friday. And if Girma can run faster than Komen indoors, is there any chance he could threaten Komen’s legendary 7:20.67 outdoor 3k record — generally regarded as the strongest distance record on the books?

Who wins the men's 3000 in Doha?

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Men’s 200: Kerley vs Norman in battle of world champs

The 100m world 100m champ against the 400m world champ at 200 meters? Sign us up!

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Between Fred KerleyMichael NormanNoah LylesErriyon KnightonTrayvon BromellMarvin BracyKenny Bednarek, and Christian Coleman, the US sprint ranks are overflowing with talent right now, which means we should get a number of big-time head-to-heads before USAs and Worlds. The DL opener features Kerley, Norman, and Bednarek, plus Olympic champ Andre De Grasse of Canada (though De Grasse was only 7th in Botswana last week in 20.41).

Kerley and Norman also faced each other at this meet in 2021, but a lot has changed in the ensuing two years. Back then, both men were focused on the 400, and Norman won their matchup, 44.27 to 44.60. But Kerley wound up dropping down to the 100 with great success — Olympic silver in 2021, world gold in 2022 — and now Norman will be attempting to replicate Kerley’s success after claiming gold in the 400 at Worlds last summer.

200m is a nice middle ground for Norman vs Kerley. Norman has the faster pb (19.70 to Kerley’s 19.76) and has two career Diamond League wins to Kerley’s one; Norman is also the only man ever to defeat Noah Lyles in a DL 200. But Kerley has won their last three matchups (two at 100m, one at 200m) and Norman didn’t look great in his 2023 opener, running a wind-aided 10.02 (+3.0) at Mt. SAC on April 15, where he finished 3rd behind Cravont Charleston and Kyree King.

Picking a winner is tough; if Friday’s race is anything like their last matchup at 200 meters at Mt. SAC a year ago, it should come down to the wire.

Who wins the men's 200 in Doha?

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Women’s 1500: Kipyegon vs everyone else

Last year’s World Championship final cemented what we already knew: Faith Kipyegon is the greatest women’s 1500 runner we’ve ever seen. Behind her, there was also very clear gap between the other two medalists (Gudaf Tsegay and Laura Muir) and everyone else. Exactly six seconds, to be precise.

As we head into a new season, the question is whether anyone can close that gap. Kipyegon is the clear headliner in Doha, but the field also features a cadre of young Ethiopians vying to join the medal conversation: Freweyni Hailu (22), Lemlem Hailu (21), Hirut Meshesha (22), and Diribe Welteji (20). Each has their own case to make. Freweyni Hailu has the fastest pb and best finish at Worlds in the 1500 (4th last year), Lemlem Hailu is the World Indoor champ at 3000, and Meshesha won two Diamond Leagues last year.

Kipyegon won her 4th global title in Eugene last year (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images for World Athletics)

Welteji, the youngest of the bunch, may be the one most poised for a breakthrough in the 1500. With the glut of Ethiopian talent in the 1500, she had to run the 800 at Worlds last year…and almost medalled by placing 4th. She went on to run 3:56 after Worlds to win the Silesia DL, then ran 8:33 and 8:34 to win a pair of fast 3ks indoors this year, including Lievin.

Kipyegon, meanwhile, will be looking to extend the gap between herself and the rest of the world by chasing the one thing she has yet to accomplish in track & field: a world record. Though Kipyegon, 29, has been near the top of the sport for a decade now, she is showing no signs of slowing down: her 3:50.37 pb last year in Monaco made her #2 in history, .30 off Genzebe Dibaba‘s world record. This may be a little early in the season for Kipyegon to take a run at history, but she will still be favored to take a convincing win.

Cory McGee, who has made the last two US teams, is the lone American in the field, and is coming off her best season as a pro, finishing 10th at the Worlds in Eugene. The 30-year-old veteran is still chasing two big goals — a sub-4:00 and a first US title — and believes the best way to do that is to test herself against the best from the jump. After pacing five races indoors, Doha will serve as her 2023 opener, and McGee said on our LetsRun.com Track Talk Podcast that she feels ready to go.

“I’ve run probably more sub-60 400s already this year than I did all year last year combined,” McGee said. “…I know I’m in a good place. I know that I’m in probably the best shape I’ve ever been at this time of year.”

You can read/listen to McGee’s full interview here: LRC On Eve of Diamond League Opener, Cory McGee Talks Goals, Chasing Sub-4 and First USATF Championship

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In other action, Rai Benjamin is in the 400m hurdles, all the World Championship medallists are squaring off in the women’s pole vault, the men’s javelin, and the men’s triple jump. World Athletics preview here. Start lists here.

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