Justin Gatlin, Andre De Grasse face off at Diamond League opener

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If a sprinter is to beat Usain Bolt at his world championships farewell in August, it will likely be one of the men in the 100m field at the Diamond League opener in Doha on Friday.

Olympic silver and bronze medalists Justin Gatlin and Andre De Grasse headline the first of 14 meets in the Diamond League season that runs to Sept. 1.

Universal HD will air live coverage Friday from noon-2 p.m. ET, with NBC Sports Gold streaming the action from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Gatlin and De Grasse will each line up for an individual outdoors race for the first time since the Rio Olympics. They’ll be joined by former world-record holder Asafa Powell and South Africa’s Akani Simbine, who owns five of the eight fastest times in the world this year.

Doha start lists are available here. Here’s the schedule (all times Eastern):

11 a.m. — Women’s shot put
11:15 — Women’s pole vault
11:45 — Men’s high jump
12:03 p.m. — Men’s 400m
12:05 p.m. — Men’s javelin
12:14 — Men’s 1500m
12:25 — Women’s 800m
12:35 — Women’s 200m
12:45 — Men’s triple jump
12:50 — Women’s 100m hurdles
1:05 — Women’s 3000m steeplechase
1:25 — Men’s 100m
1:35 — Men’s 400m hurdles
1:45 — Men’s 3000m

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s pole vault — 11:15 a.m. ET

Olympic gold and silver medalists Ekaterini Stefanidi (Greece) and Sandi Morris (U.S.) renew their rivalry. In 19 career meetings, Stefanidi holds a 10-9 edge, but Morris has won three of the four since Rio, according to Tilastopaja.org. The top outdoor clearance in the world this year is from 2012 Olympic champion Jenn Suhr at 4.83 meters, but Suhr is not in the Doha field.

Women’s 800m — 12:25 p.m. ET

Ethiopian 1500m world-record holder Genzebe Dibaba picked an extremely difficult race for the first outdoor 800m of her career. Dibaba, who was upset by Kenyan Faith Kipyegon for Rio 1500m gold, will take on all three Olympic 800m medalists in Doha — South African Caster Semenya, Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba and Kenyan Margaret Wambui.

Given there are three days between the 1500m and the 800m at the world championships in August, it’s conceivable that Dibaba could try to race both events in London.

Women’s 200m — 12:35 p.m. ET

The Rio gold and silver medalists duel here, too, with Jamaican Elaine Thompson and Dutchwoman Dafne Schippers. Both will be chasing 22.09 seconds, the fastest time in the world this year set by Rio bronze medalist Tori Bowie last Friday. Bowie is not in the Doha field. Neither Thompson nor Schippers has ever run that fast this early in a year.

Women’s 3000m steeplechase — 1:05 p.m. ET

Olympic champion and world-record holder Ruth Jebet of Bahrain and Olympic bronze medalist and American record holder Emma Coburn make their season debuts.

Though Coburn shared the Rio podium with Jebet, the gap is large. Jebet’s world record set after the Olympics is 8:52.78, six seconds faster than the next-fastest clocking of all time. In fact, Jebet ran under Coburn’s American record (9:07.63) four times in 2016, including three times under 9 minutes.

Men’s 100m — 1:25 p.m. ET
In perhaps the highlight of the IAAF World Relays two weeks ago, De Grasse easily passed Gatlin on a 4x100m preliminary heat anchor leg. The Canadian De Grasse, 22, looked spry. Gatlin, 35, looked unable to find the extra gear he showed in spring 2014 and 2015.

One preliminary relay leg in April is far from a suitable sample size, but De Grasse is certainly promising at the moment. Keep in mind though that De Grasse does not have a history of blazing (wind-legal) times in the spring. In 10 races before the Rio Olympics in 2016, he had a best of 9.99 seconds.

It’s likely going to take faster to win in Doha. Not necessarily because of Gatlin, but the South African Simbine, who has raced at three meets this season and posted the following wind-legal times — 9.93, 9.98, 9.92, 9.94 and 9.95. Simbine was fifth in Rio behind Bolt, Gatlin, De Grasse and Yohan Blake.

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