(AFP)DOHA: Ethiopian running legend Kenenisa Bekele will start his campaign for a fourth Olympic gold this summer by running the 3000m at the opening Diamond League meet of the season on May 11.
The defending 5000m and 10,000m Olympic champion, and world record-holder in both events, has spent almost two years on the sidelines due to a string of injuries, making his comeback last September when he won the 10,000m in Brussels.
In his first ever outing in Doha, the Ethiopian will race the 3000m — an event he has not competed in since his triumph at the World Athletics Final in Thessaloniki in September 2009.
“The presence of Kenenisa Bekele is officially confirmed,” meeting director Abdulla al-Zaini announced on Monday.
“The outdoor season will once again start from Doha and this year the challenge looks bigger, as 2012 is an Olympic year.”
The women’s 3000m will feature the reigning world champion in both the 5000m and 10,000m, Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot.
Cheruiyot will be joined by team-mate Pamela Jelimo, the Olympic 800m champion and recently-crowned world indoor champion.
Other big names on show will be Ethiopia’s world 1500m indoor champion Genzebe Dibaba and Doha-based Sudanese Abubaker Kaki, world silver medallist and 2010 world indoor champion in the men’s 800m, who will race the 1500m as he targets double Olympic gold in London.
Kaki will face stiff Kenyan opposition from current Olympic and world champion Asbel Kiprop, 2011 world silver medallist Silas Kiplagat and world indoor silver medallist Augustine Choge.
Three initially non-scheduled events, the men’s 100m, 800m and 3000m, were added to the programme as organisers sought to better fill the stadium of the Qatar Sports Club.
“Our biggest challenge is to attract more spectators for this meeting,” said Sandro Giovanelli, athletes’ consultant for the meet.
This year we are willing to present the best ever event to the public. We are confident that we will have more star athletes than last year.”
Last year’s Diamond League meeting featured no US or Jamaican sprinters of note because it clashed with the Jamaica International Invitational meeting in Kingston, which has been upgraded from ‘continental’ to an IAAF World Challenge Meeting.
As a result, the best sprinters from Jamaica and the United States opted to stay closer to home.
This year, the calendar has been reshuffled and the Jamaica International Invitational will now be held on May 5, potentially opening up the way for Jamaican sprinters to compete in Doha.