One of the things Tokyo Olympics javelin gold medallist Neeraj Chopra speaks about regularly in his interactions with the media is how he hopes to see more of his compatriots compete at the Diamond League meets on the athletics circuit.
On Friday in Doha, as he begins his 2023 season, Chopra will have Commonwealth Games triple jump gold medallist in Birmingham, Eldhose Paul, for company.
Chopra and Paul are the two Indian entries in the season-opening meet, and more Indians are expected to feature along the way too.
What is the Diamond League?
In case you need a quick refresher, Diamond League season comprises *14 meetings, with men and women competing in 16 of its primary disciplines (but not all disciplines in one meet, that varies). The athletes compete for points at 14 series meetings from May to September, with the most successful in each discipline qualifying for the Wanda Diamond League Final in Eugene (September 16th-17th).
At each of the meetings where their event is featured, athletes are awarded 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 or 1 points for ranking 1st to 8th respectively. The top six in the field events, top eight for 100m-800m and the top ten for 1500m and long distance events will qualify for the Final. In case of a tie, the athlete with the best legal performance of the season is ranked higher.
The 2023 Diamond League season will start at the Qatar Sports Club in Doha, Qatar, on May 5.
Diamond League 2023 season
|5th May 2023
|28th May 2023
|2nd June 2023
|9th June 2023
|15th June 2023
|30th June 2023
|2nd July 2023
|16th July 2023
|21st July 2023
|23rd July 2023
|31st August 2023
|2nd September 2023
|8th September 2023
|16th - 17th September 2023
Who else is competing with Chopra?
For the first time since his 88.44m throw that clinched the 2022 Diamond Trophy in Zurich, Chopra will be in competitive action. His title defence will have a familiar cast of competitors in the season opening meet. Reigning world champion and 2022 Doha meet winner Anderson Peters from Grenada (PB: 93.07m), Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Jakub Vadlejch from the Czech Republic (PB: 90.88m), European champion Julian Weber from Germany (PB: 89.54m), and former Olympic champion Keshorn Walcott from Trinidad and Tobago (PB: 90.16m), will be Chopra’s biggest competitors on Friday.
Keep an eye on Triple Jump too
In men’s triple jump, Paul will compete in a field including reigning Olympic champion Pedro Pichardo from Portugal and reigning Diamond League winner Andy Diaz Hernandez from Cuba. The field is strong and the Indian will start off as the athlete who has the least Personal Best so far but, as Chopra would attest, this would be a case of being around the best in the business. Paul will learn aplenty by competing with the best in the discipline.
Who are the other big names in fray?
Apart from Chopra, several other Olympic and World champions will be part of the season opener in Doha. The women’s 100m will feature five-time Olympic medallist Shericka Jackson from Jamaica, former 200m world champion Dina Asher-Smith from Great Britain, and a talented American quartet featuring Melissa Jefferson, Abby Steiner, Twanisha Terry, and Sha’Carri Richardson.
The 200m men’s race will feature reigning Olympic 200m champion Andre De Grasse from Canada, 400m world champion Michael Norman from the USA, 100m world champion and Olympic silver medallist Fred Kerley from the USA, and Olympic and world 200m silver medallist Kenny Bednarek from the USA in a competitive field.
In high jump, all eyes will be on local favourite Mutaz Barshim, the (joint) Olympic champion in Tokyo. Gianmarco Tamberi, however, would be absent.
A total of 15 reigning individual Olympic and world champions are expected to feature.
What can we expect from Chopra?
Chopra said in the media interaction recently, “Last year, I got really close and was just six centimeters short. There’s no over-confidence, but I’m feeling good. When you’re feeling good, you can say it. The training has been good and the performance will be good. There’s no over-confidence nor over-pressure from the 90m mark. Wasn’t there before, isn’t there now,.”
The Indian superstar started 2022 season much later than this, and after a long break post Tokyo, hit the ground running quickly. He has mentioned in his media interaction that he has been feeling good about where he is. And in general, Doha is a place where big throws happen. Last year’s Diamond League meet witnessed a stiff competition between Peters and Vadlejch, with both their personal bests (over 90m) coming on that May day in 2022.
And Chopra made that observation too on Thursday.
Where to watch?
Diamond League Doha will be shown on Sports18 network in India, with JioCinema streaming it online. Men’s javelin starts around 10.15 pm IST and triple jump at 9 pm IST. The broadcast itself will begin at 9 pm IST.
Corrections and clarifications: The Diamond League season consists of 14 meetings as Shanghai is not there anymore.