Will Africans shine bright again during the Diamond League?

Muktar Edris and Yomif Kejelcha worked together to help the former become 5000m world champion but which one of the Senegal stars will dominate in the post-Mo Farah era? EPA/ANDY RAIN

The world's best track and field stars will once again begin their quest to dominate the IAAF Diamond League when the series gets underway on 4 May in Qatar, and there's no doubt that Africa's brightest will be among them.

Last year, eight Africans won their respective season-ending Diamond League finals, five after also winning world titles a few weeks prior in London. All will be eagerly hoping to defend their crowns now that the year's other big goals -- IAAF World Indoor Championships and Commonwealth Games -- have come and gone.


All three African women who won their Diamond League finals, namely South Africa's Caster Semenya (800m), Faith Kipyegon (1500m) and Hellen Onsando Obiri (5000m) from Kenya, also tasted success at London 2017.

Considering Semenya and Obiri have subsequently added Commonwealth Games gold to their lengthening list of honours, they will start this season as favourites to again dominate their first-choice disciplines.

Of interest, though, will be how often Semenya faces Kipyegon and other 1500m stars -- and how she fares -- now that the 27-year-old has committed to competing at both distances as she did in Gold Coast.

It could, of course, be the last season that Semenya can compete in these shorter distances, in the wake of a new IAAF ruling that requires her to take testosterone-reducing medication if she wants to run races under a mile. That ruling only kicks in come 1 November, though.

It will be intriguing to see if Ivorian sprinter Marie-Josee Ta Lou can upgrade her 'bridesmaid' tag from 2017 after finishing second more than she will care to remember in 100m and 200m races.

There is also pressure on the likes of Hyvin Kiyeng Jepkemoi and Celliphine Chepteek Chespol to restore Kenyan female reputation in the 3000m steeple chase as other nations now hold the world title, Diamond League crown, and Commonwealth Games honours in the discipline.


Meanwhile, African men have even more expectation resting on their shoulders going into the 2018 IAAF Diamond League season, not least the five who took home the plaudits at the end of last season.

In fact, by now the Botswana duo of Isaac Makwala (400m) and Nijel Amos (800m), Kenya's Timothy Cheruiyot (1500m) and Conseslus Kipruto (3000m steeple chase), and long jumper Luvo Manyonga from South Africa all have an idea of their chances of repeat success.

Kipruto and Manyonga once again confirmed, at the Commonwealth Games, that they are the dominant athletes in their disciplines (even if Manyonga had to settle for silver at the World Indoor Championships in March and his compatriot Ruswahl Samaai keeps pushing him close), and Makwala also added another title on the Gold Coast.

In truth, the 31-year-old Motswana is living in a 'false economy' if you like, until 400m world record holder Wayde van Niekerk is seen in action again. While the right knee injury (torn ACL and damaged meniscus) the South African suffered last year was career-threatening, he is only 25 and has received world-class medical care from Doha to Bloemfontein, which has improved his chances of returning at the level he was at before.

At 24, time is theoretically on Amos' side too, but the Botswana two-lapper has developed a worrying trend of 'cracking' in major championships. After faltering at last year's World Championships, he then went on to win the Diamond League final when there was no pressure on, but then finished last in the defense of his Commonwealth Games title, despite setting the fastest heats time and leading the final after lap 1.

This year, he should be targeting consistency in his results or else cede the African spotlight to new stars like Kenya's Commonwealth champion Wycliffe Kinyamal (20).

Meanwhile, Cheruiyot can look forward to another year of 'you win, I win' as his rivalry with Elijah Manangoi continues -- for heir apparent to 1500m legend Asbel Kiprop. The pair are similarly aged -- Cheruiyot 22, Manangoi 25 -- and the evidence is there that they fire each other up.

Both set their personal bests during last year's Monaco leg, and while Cheruyoit won the season finale in Zürich, Manangoi has beaten him into second in both the World Championships and Commonwealth Games.

Mo Farah's track retirement throws a spanner in the works in the 5000m division. Without the Somalia-born Briton to beat, how will the Senegalese trio of Muktar Edris (who did so to become 5000m world champion), Yomif Kejelcha and Selemon Barega go about outwitting each other in races?

Or will Joshua Cheptegei, the Ugandan who did the 5000m-10000m double at the Commonwealth Games, be their new 'rabbit'?


As with 2017, the 2018 IAAF Diamond League season opens at the Hamad Bin Suhaim in Doha, Qatar. Thereafter, the series makes its only stops in the Asia in Shanghai, and North America when the Prefontaine Classic is held in Eugene, Oregon.

In fact, the first eight legs of this year's IAAF Diamond League are exactly the same as in 2017 with Rome, Oslo, Stockholm, Paris, and Lausanne forming the core of the European leg of the series.

The changes come in the mid-to-latter part of July, with the Müller Anniversary Games in London slipping behind the only visit to Africa -- the Meeting International Mohammed VI D'Athletisme de Rabat in Morocco -- and the Herculis meeting in Monaco.

As it happens, a year after hosting the IAAF World Championships, the London meeting will be the only one held over two days, at the Olympic Stadium.

Thereafter, Müller Grand Prix Birmingham will again close the points-scoring part of the season, before the two finals.

Zürich and Brussels will again be the venues for the season-ending finals where the aforementioned Africans won their titles, but how many will claim the honours this time around?


4 May Doha Diamond League (Suheim Bin Hamad Stadium, Doha)

12 May IAAF Diamond League Shanghai (Shanghai Stadium)

26 May Prefontaine Classic (Hayward Field, Eugene)

31 May Golden Gala Pietro Mennea (Stadio Olimpico, Roma)

7 June Oslo Bislett Games (Bislett Stadion, Oslo)

10 June Bauhaus-Galan (Olympiastadion, Stockholm)

30 June Meeting de Paris (Stade Charléty, Paris)

5 July Athletissima (Stade Olympique de la Pontaise, Lausanne)

13 July Meeting International Mohammed VI D'Athletisme de Rabat (Complexe Sportif Prince Moulay Abdellah, Rabat)

20 July Herculis (Stade Louis II, Monaco)

21-22 July Müller Anniversary Games (Olympic Stadium, London)

18 August Müller Grand Prix Birmingham (Alexander Stadium, Birmingham)

30 August Weltklasse Zürich (Letzigrund, Zürich)

31 August AG Memorial Van Damme (Boudewijnstadion, Brussels)