Africans to watch during Diamond League opener

Kenya's Hellen Obiri (second right) among a roll call of stars of the Doha IAAF Diamond League meeting, including (l-r) Nathaneel Mitchell-Blake, Thomas Rohler, local favourite Mutaz Barshim, Katerina Stefanidi, Christian Taylor and Jennifer Simpson. EPA/NOUSHAD THEKKAYIL

While 17 reigning world and Olympic champions will gather in Doha on Friday as the 2018 IAAF Diamond League season begins, Caster Semenya will be the most in-focus athlete.

The South African 800m star has once again been forced into the spotlight following the IAAF's release of amended testosterone regulations. That said, Semenya will undoubtedly look to do her talking on the track when she runs in the 1500m (18:13, CAT).

Semenya will be difficult to beat, not only because of the absence of Olympic and World champion Faith Kipyegon but also after her dominant victories in both the 800m and 1500m at the Commonwealth Games last month.

Her likeliest challengers at the Qatar Sports Club will be Gudaf Tsegay of Ethiopia, the 2016 world indoor bronze medallist and world U20 indoor record holder, Kenyan Winny Chebet, Rababe Arafi of Morocco, and Eunice Sum of Kenya, the 2013 world 800m champion.

As it happens, Semenya is one of only four Africans out of the 17 current global champions in action in Doha. The others are Murielle Ahoure, Hellen Obiri and Elijah Manangoi, none of whom will compete in the event which they won their titles in.

Ahoure, the Ivorian who won the 60m dash at the World Indoor Championships in February, will take part in an intriguing 100m race (18:26, CAT).

It will feature Elaine Thompson and Dafne Schippers, the Olympic 100m and world 200m champions respectively, and Ahoure's compatriot Marie-Josee Ta Lou too. Thompson and Schippers may be billed as the favourites but Ta Lou was the most consistent sprinter in 2017. She will also start her outdoor season highly-motivated to turn all her second places into wins this year. South Africa's Carina Horn, meanwhile, will be hoping that this will be the outdoor campaign during which she nails a sub-11 second race.

Obiri, meanwhile, comes off a dream year in which she claimed gold in the 5000m at IAAF World Championships. On Friday, in the final event of the night at 19:45 (CAT), she will have strong compatriots challenging her including Lilian Rengeruk, the 2013 world youth champion, and Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi, the fifth-place finisher at the last year's World Championships. Obiri will also have to keep an eye on Jenny Simpson, the reigning world silver medallist and Olympic bronze medallist at 1500m.

All told, there will be healthy African representation across most of the 13-event programme.

South African veteran Khotso Mokoena will be the first athlete from the continent in action when he competes in the triple jump at 17:50 (CAT), which Christian Taylor will be expected to dominate as he has done in recent years to win Olympic and world titles.

Next up will be the trio of Isaac Makwala, Baboloki Thebe (both Botswana) and South Africa's Pieter Conradie in the 400m (18:03, CAT). Makwala and Thebe went 1-2 at the Commonwealth Games and would be good calls to do the same on Friday. However with London 2017 silver medallist Steven Gardiner (Bahamas) in the mix, the Botswana duo will not have it their own way.

Julius Yego, meanwhile, will be desperate to find some form when he competes in the javelin at 18:50 (CAT). The 29-year-old Kenyan may be a former world champion (2015) but injury niggles over the last year have resulted in him falling well short of the 90m marks which Thomas Rohler and Johannes Vetter, the Germans who currently hold the Olympic and world titles respectively, have been peppering regularly.

Similarly, Cornel Fredericks is also chasing past glories in the 400m hurdles. Not since 2014, when he won the African title and Commonwealth Games gold in Glasgow, has the now-28-year-old dipped under 49 seconds. As such the South African shouldn't pose much threat to Kerron Clement -- the Trinidadian-American Olympic champion -- at 18:53 (CAT).

Interestingly, while the aforementioned Manangoi is a world champion, that is at 1500m, and he will be running the 800m race in Doha (19:25, CAT). As such, the reaction -- if any -- of the two-lap specialists to the Kenyan's presence could make it one of the events of the evening.

Poland's Adam Kszczot, will back himself, not least because he comes off a dominant indoor campaign which concluded with a World Indoor Championships triumph. So too, though, will rising Kenyan star Emmanuel Kipkirui Korir who ran a best of 1:43.10 last year with his victory in Monaco and Ferguson Rotich, who at his best is a sub-1:43 man. They will not want to be shown up in their favoured race by a man running his second event.