LaShawn Merritt, the 2008 Olympic and two-time world champion in the 400m, is no stranger in Doha.
Merritt set the current Doha Diamond League record of 44.19 in 2014 and is looking forward to Friday’s race.
“This year is going to be fast, it makes the event a lot more interesting,” he said. “Is the world record in danger? I believe so, with so many athletes running in the 43 low”.
With a personal best of 43.65, which ranks him sixth on the world all-time list, Merritt, who was second at last year’s World Championships, has his eyes set on the US Trials and the Rio Olympic Games.
“I want to stay sharp, be ready for the US Trials and always improve. I am training hard, I am on a more strict diet that I’ve ever been on and I keep learning more. I am more passionate than ever and there’s a lot of untapped potential in me.”
Merritt is a keen student of his own races and focuses on the details that will keep him on top.
“I do study myself a lot; I watch films of my races and training to see where I can do better, along with my coach. There’s always room for improvement and I want to be both mentally and physically ready. My training has been going well, the key obviously is to stay healthy, be competitive and put the perfect race together. I know how to handle pressure, I believe in myself, in what I can do.”
Performing in Doha brings positive memories. “The weather conditions are just great in Doha, the crowd is very passionate and I want to put on a great show for them, I want to run fast and execute all that I have been training for.”
In the men’s 200m race, the spotlight will fall on home favourite Femi Ogunode who’ll be targeting a strong early season start in front of his home crowd.
“I will do my best, as always, it’s just fantastic to run here in Doha. I want to give local fans a Diamond League win for Qatar at home,” said Ogunode, who finished seventh in the event at the world championships last year in the finest season of his career.
Asia’s fastest man and a multiple medal winner, Ogunode can handle pressure.
“I feel no pressure at all; I just want to go out there and run as fast as I can. My training in Florida has been going really well, I am more experienced now, more focused and I have built my self-confidence, working with my coach on those details that make a difference.”