Athletics

SA quartet set for Diamond League opener

Akani Simbine (Gallo Images)
Akani Simbine (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Four of South Africa's in-form track stars will open their international campaigns on Friday night, when they tackle the world elite at the IAAF Diamond League Meeting in Doha, Qatar.

Sprinter Akani Simbine, middle-distance runner Caster Semenya and hurdlers Cornel Fredericks and LJ van Zyl will all compete at the opening leg of the annual series made of 14 legs.

Simbine, who leads the national rankings with his 9.92 seconds performance in Tshwane in March, will turn out in the men's 100m dash.

Preparing for a baptism of fire in his first international race of the year, the Rio Olympic finalist will meet American Justin Gatlin a former world and Olympic champion, 22-year-old Canadian prospect Andre de Grasse the bronze medallist at last year's Rio Games, Jamaican powerhouse Asafa Powell a former world record holder, and African champion Ben Youssef Meite of the Ivory Coast.

Though some of the other favourites have not yet raced outdoors this year, Simbine has displayed superb form by clocking five of the seven fastest times in the world at this early stage of the season, and he will go into the short-sprint battle among the favourites for victory.

Semenya, who cemented her place at the top of the national women's 800m rankings with her 2:00.99 victory at the SA Student Championships in Cape Town last week, has shown good form over a variety of distances this year.

The Rio 800m gold medallist will be eager to take a chunk off her season's best in the two-lap event.

Semenya faces a full-strength line-up which includes Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and Kenyan athlete Margaret Wambui, who earned the silver and bronze medals behind Semenya at the Rio Olympics.

Adding further excitement to a quality field, Ethiopian star Genzebe Dibaba will drop down in distance to tackle the best two-lap stars on the circuit.

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