American track stars Jeremy Wariner and Allyson Felix will be the main attraction at the Doha Super Grand Prix.
|Jeremy Wariner will race in the 200 metres|
in Doha [GALLO/GETTY]
Wariner is Olympic and multiple world champion in the 400, yet wants to sharpen his finishing speed ahead of the Beijing Games and will run in 200 metres.
He is looking to make a point by beating his personal best in the 200 of 20.19 seconds.
Felix, meanwhile, is eager to get an individual 400 under her belt early in the season.
She is a big favourite to add the Olympic title to her 200-400 double at the world championships.
Felix also has the speed to challenge in the 100. If she wants to go for four golds in Beijing, she will also have to run in the 1,600 relay.
In the first major meet of the pre-Olympic season Asafa Powell, the world recorder holder in the 100, was supposed to run but is out with a chest injury.
Doha heats up
Felix likes the meet so much that she will be defending two titles here, adding a 100 race to the 400 in heat that could still peak into the 30Cs (deep into the 80Fs) in the evening.
The athletes will be facing high temperatures in Beijing, too, so there is no use complaining about it.
"Back home in Texas, I train in the heat so I am used to it. We have a lot of humidity so it feels hotter than it is,'' Wariner said.
With less than 100 days to go to the Aug 8-24 games, Wariner needs to add acceleration to his stamina.
"The more 200s I run, and the faster I can get those the better my quarter (400) will be,'' he said.
"The best for me to do is to get more speed to go with the strength I already have.''
On Friday, Wariner will be tested by his toughest 400 rival, LaShawn Merritt, who is taking a similar approach to the season with his 200.
For Felix, the few races she already has run this season mean little.
"I'm just looking forward to kind of opening things up,'' she said without not really knowing what to expect from her first individual races in the season.
Her first target is the U.S. Olympic trials from June 27-July 6 in Eugene, Oregon, where she will compete in the 100 and 200.
"I have a lot of work to do before the trials. I am not sure how it is going to play out on Friday night,'' she said.
In the Penn Relays last month, Felix was part of victorious 400 and 1,600 relays.
And now that she has graduated from the University of Southern California, Beijing is her main concern.
Vlasic jumping for glory
Things are more straightforward for Blanka Vlasic.
The Croat is the world's best high jumper by a stretch and will stick to that discipline in the evening heat at the Qatar Sports Club near the Persian Gulf.
Vlasic already got off to a winning start this season, taking the world indoor championship gold with her 22nd straight victory. She is injury-free and eager as ever.
"Now I have really nothing, not even a cold. I was so happy because I was able to do 100 percent of the training I needed to do.''
That is bad news for her opponents.
Vlasic set a meet record of 2.04 meters here last year, just .05 shy of the world record.
"It is a lucky venue for me,'' she said, hoping to edge even closer to the mark on Friday.
In other events, world 800 champion Janeth Jepkosgei moves up to the 1,500 but will face up again to her veteran rival Maria Mutola.
In the men's 800, Sudan's Abubaker Kaki will be keen to prove his credentials after he shot onto the world scene at 18 with victory at the world indoors.