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Dafne Schippers lost her world lead to Allyson Felix’s 22.02 clocking at the IAAF Diamond League final in Brussels last Friday, finishing third behind her Europe team-mate in Marrakech, Myriam Soumare of France.
Five of the world’s seven fastest quarter-milers in 2014 are in the field. LaShawn Merritt is the quickest of those, with 43.92, and the 28-year-old US sprinter – the 2008 Olympic champion, two-time world champion and winner of the 2014 Diamond Race – will start as the man to beat.
The Americas will be targeting maximum points in this event via Francena McCorory and Novlene Williams-Mills, the two quickest in the field on this year’s performances.
Botswana’s Nijel Amos is the man to beat this season. The 20-year-old leads the world with his 1:42.45 clocking at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco, and later confirmed his shape by winning the Commonwealth and African titles.
The Americas team boasts the top two women on this year’s world list with USA’s Ajee Wilson and Cuba’s Sahily Diago, but the race is still wide open as they will be up against world champion Eunice Sum and European champion Marina Arzamasova.
Two-time world champion Asbel Kiprop of Kenya will be on a revenge mission, having lost out on the African 1500m title to Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman in Marrakech’s Great Stadium last month.
The field features the two fastest women of the year: Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan, the European champion who clocked 3:57.00 to win in Paris, and Kenyan Hellen Obiri, who ran 3:57.05 in Eugene and later won the African title.
With three former victories to his name in this competition and still going strong at 39, Bernard Lagat will be a sentimental favourite to retain his 3000m title. But he’ll have to go through Kenyan Caleb Ndiku to get it.
Although she didn’t quite live up the lofty hype thrust upon her after producing a pair of sensational world indoor records earlier this year, Genzebe Dibaba has performed admirably over distances ranging from 1500m to 5000m and will be the woman to beat in the 3000m here.
Asia-Pacific representative Albert Rop is the fastest man in the field in 2014, thanks to a 13:06.44 clocking at the IAAF Diamond League event in Eugene in June, but the 22-year-old Kenyan-born Bahraini runner faces a host of threats in what promises to be an intriguing 13-and-a-half-lap battle.
The African team arrives with a strong 1-2 punch, led by Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia who will start as the favourite.
This event stars Diamond Race winner and African champion Jairus Birech. The 21-year-old Kenyan shot up to 10th on the world all-time list with his winning time of 7:58.41 at the recent IAAF Diamond League final in Brussels.
World leader Hiwot Ayalew is narrowly tipped to win maximum points for Africa, but the Ethiopian will be pressed hard by USA’s Emma Coburn, who smashed the North American record tailing Ayalew home in July’s Glasgow IAAF Diamond League, and by Salima Alami who broke the Moroccan record in Paris in early July.
Russia’s two-time European champion Sergey Shubenkov has shown superb form this year, running a season’s best of 13.13 and then winning a high-quality final at the European championships, beating Diamond Race winner Pascal Martinot-Lagarde.
Dawn Harper Nelson finished out of the medals at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow last year, placing fourth behind Brianna Rollins, Sally Pearson and Tiffany Porter. But the 30-year-old US athlete stands on top of the world list in the 100m hurdles in 2014 with the 12.44 she clocked at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris in July.
Arch rivals Javier Culson and Michael Tinsley will face off again, but this time representing the same team of Americas.
All but two of the world’s top seven one-lap hurdlers will compete in Marrakech, led by Diamond Race winner Kaliese Spencer who has headed the world list since the Jamaican Championships in June and won six of her seven IAAF Diamond League races plus Commonwealth gold.
The top four jumpers on this year’s world list will clash in Marrakech, and the talent-stacked event will be one of the highlights of the IAAF Continental Cup.
Russia’s Maria Kuchina is the arguable top high jumper of 2014, sharing the world indoor crown and then winning the Diamond Race. Her only significant defeat came at the European Championships in Zurich, where she finished to the vastly experienced Ruth Beitia.
Renaud Lavillenie, one of the sport’s biggest stars, will start here as the man to beat.