It was an exhilarating contest at the first leg of the Diamond League which took place in Doha, resulting in athletes setting an array of World Leads (WL), Season’s Bests (SB), Personal Bests (PB) and Meeting Records (MR).
The Asian city of Shanghai is the next stop of the League as 20 reigning World and Olympic Champions are set to slug it out in a battle of supremacy.
After not being listed in Doha, the men’s 100m race would be one of the mouth-watering events set to take centre stage in Shanghai. Dubbed the Dash Duo in China, World Indoors 60m Silver medallist, Su Bingtian, and last year’s winner in the event, Xie Zhenye, will line up in a star-filled race which will be led by World Championships GOLD medallist Justin Gatlin.
Also on the start list is World 200m GOLD medallist Ramil Guliyev, who steps down from his signature event, 2016 Olympic Bronze medallist Andre de Grasse, as well as 2017 Diamond League Champion CJ Ujah.
The women’s 200m will also be on the menu as 2015 and 2017 World Champion in the event, Dafne Schippers, returns to action after placing 6th in the 100m at last week’s Diamond League.
However, she will face stiff competition from Ivorian sprinter Marie Jose Ta Lou. Ta Lou has been in stellar form this season and will aim to continue from where she left off in Doha, where she set a PB of 10.85s in the 100m.
Bahamian sprinter Shaunae Miller-Uibo who became the second athlete to win the 200m/400m Diamond Trophy in a season, will also spice things up. The World 200m Bronze medallist is opening her Diamond League season against the backdrop of a commanding victory at the Commonwealth Games.
Another Bahamian who would look to continue the momentum he started the year with is quartermiler, Steven Gardiner. After serving us a great performance in the Doha meet where he stormed to a new National Record (NR) of 43.87s, the 22-year old will once again face a similar line up.
Two of his opponents who will aim to stop his streak are Abdalleleh Haroun of Qatar and Commonwealth champion, Isaac Makwala. In addition, World Champion in the Triple Jump, Christian Taylor is a surprise name on the start list and boasts of a sub-46s run.
Potentially, the men’s 110m Hurdles should be the highlight of the meeting. Jamaica’s World and Olympic Champion in the event, Omar McLeod, would lead a stacked field which consists of the likes of Aries Merritt, who is the World Record (WR) holder in the event, 2017 World Silver medallist and Diamond League winner, Sergey Shubenkov, and Spain’s Olympic Silver medallist, Orlando Ortega.
McLeod’s compatriots, Ronald Levy and Hansle Perchment, who did a 1-2 at the Commonwealth Games in Australia, are also included in the line up.
In the women’s 100m hurdles, WR holder, Kendra Harrison will be seeking another victory after her triumph in Doha. The American who has been impeccable in the event, would be cautious as she faces a strong line-up of American hurdlers led by 2016 Olympic Champion, Brianna McNeal.
Olympic Champion in the 400m Hurdles, Dalilah Muhamed will face stiff opposition from Georganne Moline who has already handed her a defeat this season, as well as the likes of Commonwealth Games Champion Janieve Russell, and Wenda Nel.
The men’s 800m in Shanghai will see Commonwealth Games champion over the distance, Wycliffe Kinyamal, who is also the favourite, make his debut in the League. He should however face stiff competition from his countryman Jonathan Kitilt, who is the second fastest man in the world this year.
Likewise in the men’s 1500m race, World and Commonwealth Games Silver medallist, Timothy Cheruiyot will seek for a win over Justus Soget of Kenya who placed 3rd last week in Doha in a non-Diamond League event.
The women’s Shot put event should get the home crowd roaring in support of Lijiao Gong, considering that they were the driving force behind her third victory in the city when she came under pressure from USA’s Daniella Bunch last year.
Gong, who is the World and Diamond League Champion from 2017, will have to slug it out with Olympic and four-time World Champion Valerie Adams of New Zealand. World Indoor Champion Anita Márton will also be a strong opponent for Lijiao, as will Bunch, now known as Daniella Hill.
The home-crowed will also be cheering their own in the women’s Javelin when 2017 World Bronze medallist Lyu Huihui takes to the field. However, Poland’s Marcelina Witek and Tatsiana Khaladovich might spring up some surprises.
When it comes to the women’s High Jump, only one name comes to mind, and it’s none other than Maria Lasitskene. The reigning World indoor and outdoor champion will be gunning for her 39th consecutive victory in the event.
Unlike Lasitskene, Olympic Champion in the women’s Triple Jump, Caterine Ibarguen will be on a quest to reclaim the title after losing the Diamond trophy to Olga Rypakova.
With both Rypakova and 2017 World Champion Yulimar Rojas absent, Kimberly Williams who has enjoyed an outstanding year winning World Indoors Silver and Commonwealth Games GOLD, will be her main opposition.
There will be renewed hostilities in the men’s Pole vault as World Champion Sam Kendricks will hope to put spanner in the works of France’s Renaud Lavillenie once again, after pipping him to the world title in London last year.
Three former world champions, Shawnacy Barber, Raphael Holzdeppe and Pawel Wojciechowski are also in the line-up, as is Kurtis Marschall who thrilled Australian fans by winning the Commonwealth Games title on the Gold Coast last month.
South Africa’s Luvo Manyonga stunned the Shanghai Stadium 12 months ago when he leapt to a Diamond League Record (DLR) of 8.61m to beat a much-fancied trio of homegrown long jumpers by almost 40cm, setting him on the road to overall success on the world’s premier one-day meeting circuit.
Manyonga returns to Shanghai this year with yet another garland around his neck after winning GOLD at last month’s Commonwealth Games with a 2018 WL of 8.41m.
The 26-year-old may need to go beyond that to retain his Shanghai crown as he faces not only the three promising Chinese jumpers he held at bay last year, but also Cuba’s teenage sensation, Juan Miguel Echevarria, who beat him by 2cm to win the World Indoors title in March.