Africa ready for Diamond debut - Thompson, McDonald, Stewart, Russell on track for Jamaica
Jamaican athletes are primed to take part in Africa's first ever Diamond League meeting in Rabat today.
Today's event will be the ninth edition of the Meeting International Mohammed VI d'Athletisme, the third leg of the 2016 Diamond League tour.
A quartet of Jamaicans will compete at the imposing Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium. Among those who will in action will be 400m hurdler Janieve Russell who has a season's best time of 54.61.
Russell, who had a memorable Commonwealth Games in Glasgow two years ago when she claimed 400m hurdles bronze and a 4x400m relay gold, will be up against highly rated American Cassandra Tate who has registered a personal best of 54.01.
The 100m will see seasoned campaigner Kerron Stewart and the prodigiously talented Elaine Thompson who claimed silver in the World Championships 200m in Beijing last year contest what should be a competitive sprint.
However, both will need to be aware of two other class acts in the field which also includes American veteran Carmelita Jeter and Nigerian speedster Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor.
The exciting Thompson is seen by many as Jamaica's next sprint queen and with the Olympic Games in Brazil in August and the 2017 World Championships in London, the 23-year-old will get her chance to claim a mantle held by the likes of legends Veronica Campbell-Brown and currently Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.
Stewart, who helped her nation take 4x100m relay gold in Beijing, will no doubt be as competitive and consistent as ever in Morocco.
Completing the Jamaican representatives at the historic meeting will be national 400m record holder Rusheen McDonald who will be looking to improve on a season's best of 45.90.
With the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio uppermost in McDonald's and other athletes' minds, this much anticipated meeting gives all concerned another opportunity to prepare for the 'big one'.
McDonald will be looking to improve on his Olympic record in August having failed to reach the 400m semi-finals at the 2012 Olympics in London.
Rabat is buzzing with excitement over the country's Diamond League bow. The Olympic Games and World Championships are track and field's biggest events but the Diamond League has grown in importance over the years and Africa hosting an event is confirmation of the League's growing status.
Lord Sebastian Coe, president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), recently estimated that the integration of Morocco on the Diamond League calendar can enrich the prestigious competition.
Coe said that the country has a rich history in athletics, especially in long and middle distance races, and that for this matter Morocco deserved the honour of organising the first meeting to take place in Africa.
The Diamond League gathers the best athletes from around the world to compete in a series of rounds from May-September divided over four continents.
Today's showcase could well be the start of something special for Morocco and other African countries with a genuine track and field history.