Rio’s golden stars to shine at Shanghai Diamond League
The stellar line-up includes four gold medallists from the Beijing 2015 IAAF World Championships and nine event winners from the 2016 Diamond Race, plus an array of last year’s world leading performers.
One of those is sprint hurdler Omar McLeod who produced the world’s fastest time of the season to win the Shanghai meeting’s traditional closing event, the men’s 110m hurdles.
The newly-crowned world indoor champion left two world champions and the world record holder in his wake as he clocked 12.98 to grab the headlines. He went on to win Olympic gold in Rio and will be looking to show similar early season form in Shanghai this May as he gears up for a tilt at the world title in London.
The 22-year-old Jamaican will have to be at his best on 13 May, however, as he faces Spain’s Orlando Ortega, the former Cuban who took the silver medal in Rio and went on to win the 2016 Diamond Race trophy with late season victories in Lausanne and Brussels.
Ortega was second behind world champion David Oliver in Shanghai two years ago but will be looking to make amends in 2017 after being disqualified for a false start last year.
The men’s 110m hurdles always attracts huge interest, but it is far from the only highlight in what promises to be a meeting full of top class performances as the world’s leading athletes begin the long build-up to August’s World Championships in London.
David Rudisha is one of four Beijing 2015 champions who will looking for some early pointers just three months ahead of his world title defence. The 800m world record holder made his Shanghai Diamond League debut last May and went on to retain the Olympic title in Rio in some style.
This year the Kenyan will be keen to tap into memories of his astonishing world record victory at the 2012 Olympics to spur him on the road to London 2017.
Elsewhere in the men’s track events, Rio champion and 2016’s fastest one-lap hurdler Kerron Clement begins his campaign to retain the Diamond Race 400m hurdles trophy, while reigning Diamond League 200m champion Alonso Edward tops a Shanghai field that includes China’s own national record holder and world relay silver medallist, Xie Zhenye.
The men’s field events also feature some intriguing match-ups. Canada’s world and Olympic champion Derek Drouin takes on China’s world silver medallist Zhang Guowei in the high jump, while the pole vault pitches Brazil’s Rio hero Thiago Braz against France’s world indoor record holder, Renaud Lavillenie.
Germany’s Rio gold medallist Christoph Harting will make his Shanghai debut in the discus against Poland’s world champion and Olympic silver medallist Piotr Malachowski, while another Olympic champion, USA’s Jeff Henderson, leads the long jump field.
The women’s events will be no less star-studded, not least the women’s 100m which showcases Jamaica’s double Olympic sprint champion, Elaine Thompson, making her first appearance at the Shanghai meeting. Yet another Rio gold medallist, Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas, takes on last season’s Diamond Race winner Stephanie McPherson of Jamaica in the 400m.
A further trio of Olympic champions will grace the women’s distance events: 1500m gold medallist Faith Kipyegon, who broke the Kenyan and meeting record in Shanghai last May; Almaz Ayana, who smashed the meeting’s 5000m record two years ago when she clocked the third fastest time ever; and steeplechaser Ruth Jebet, who lowered the Asian and Bahraini record to place second in Shanghai in 2016.
Ayana went on to take the world 5000m title in Beijing and last summer added Olympic 10,000m gold when she smashed the world record in Rio, while Jebet bettered her Shanghai performance three times over four months last summer as she claimed Olympic gold in Brazil and took the world record in Paris.
Croatia’s double Olympic discus champion Sandra Perkovic will be seeking her fourth victory at the Shanghai Stadium, while China’s Gong Lijiao will hope to reproduce the crowd-pleasing form that saw her defeat a world-class field to win the shot put contest two years ago.
More big names will be announced in the next few weeks.
The 2017 Shanghai Diamond League meeting on 13 May will include 16 events, nine for men (100m, 200m, 800m, 110m hurdles, 400m hurdles, high jump, pole vault, long jump, discus) and seven for women (100m, 400m, 1500m, 5000m 3000m steeplechase, shot put, discus).