The Jamaican sprint hurdler produced the fastest time in the world to win the Shanghai meeting’s traditional curtain closer in 2016, clocking 12.98 seconds to grab the title ahead of two world champions and the world record holder.
He went on to claim the Rio Olympic gold in front of Spain’s Orlando Ortega, the former Cuban he beat in a neck-and-neck tussle to retain his Shanghai crown last May.
McLeod added world outdoor gold to his collection in London last summer but will need to be at his brilliant best to complete a unique Shanghai hat-trick in this event, a feat that eluded even Chinese superstar and hometown favourite Liu Xiang during his glittering career.
The list of McLeod’s opponents in 2018 reads like a roll-call of recent global champions and record breakers with Ortega again in the line-up and looking for his first Shanghai victory after finishing runner-up in 2015 and 2017.
Others aiming to wrest the crown from McLeod’s grasp include 2015 world champion Sergey Shubenkov, who was second behind the Jamaican at the London World Championships, and the 2012 Olympic champion and world record holder, Aries Merritt, who is looking for his first Shanghai victory on his seventh appearance at the meeting.
McLeod will be joined by two fellow-Jamaicans in Ronald Levy, the newly-appointed Commonwealth Games champion, and Hansle Parchment, a world and Olympic medallist who took Commonwealth silver on the Gold Coast behind his compatriot.
China’s former Asian Games champion, Xie Wenjun, flies the flag for the hosts as he seeks to repeat his 2014 victory after placing third in Shanghai for the last two years.
The women’s sprint hurdles field is no less loaded, topped by world record holder Kendra Harrison who goes into the outdoor season full of confidence after winning her first global title at the World Indoor Championships in Birmingham in early March.
Harrison is one of five Americans in the line-up alongside reigning Olympic champion Brianna McNeal (formerly Rollins), the 2008 Olympic champion and world silver medallist, Dawn Harper Nelson, world indoor silver medallist Christina Manning, and Sharika Nelvis, who was fourth in Birmingham.
Germany’s European champion Cindy Roleder and Dutchwoman Nadine Visser, the world indoor bronze medallist, will be trying to halt the American train.
Americans top the billing in the women’s one-lap hurdles too with Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad and her compatriot Georganne Moline holding the two quickest personal bests in the field.
They will face a trio of Jamaican world and Oympic finalists in 2018 Commonwealth Games champion Janieve Russell, Ristananna Tracey and Leah Nugent, plus the two-time African champion Wenda Nel of South Africa.
The line-up is completed by Denmark’s European champion and Rio Olympic silver medallist, Sara Slott Petersen, and Sage Watson, another London 2017 finalist from Canada who will be in the hunt for Diamond League points.
More big names will be announced in the next few weeks. The 2018 Shanghai Diamond League meeting on 12 May will include 16 events, eight for men (100m, 400m, 800m, 1500m, 5000m, 110m hurdles, pole vault, long jump) and eight for women (200m, 100m hurdles, 400m hurdles, 3000m steeplechase, high jump, triple jump, shot put, javelin).