Liu Xiang, Almaz Ayana and Faith Kipyegon in Shanghai (© Errol Anderson)
In three days’ time, the IAAF Diamond League moves to Shanghai for the second meeting in the 2018 series. Here we look back at three of the more memorable moments from the meeting in China’s most populous city.
Liu’s final fling, 2012
They couldn’t have known it at the time – he certainly didn’t – but the 2012 IAAF Diamond League meeting in Shanghai will be remembered by Chinese fans for one poignant reason: this was the last time they got to see Liu Xiang compete.
And boy, did their man put on a show.
The 2004 Olympic 110m hurdles champion endured all kinds of turmoil in the years after that success, most notably when pulling up injured at the 2008 Beijing Olympics when he was the poster boy of the Games. He eventually overcame that to take silver at the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu, but remained way off his best.
Only the following year, on home soil in Shanghai, did Liu again hurdle to his former heights, blitzing the field to win in 12.97. Injury would return to plague him later in the summer, and after being unable to recover, Liu eventually announced his retirement in April 2015. But the fans – and Liu – will always have that sweet night in Shanghai, when he again soared at his brilliant best.
Ayana all alone, 2015
Before 17 May 2015, Almaz Ayana was a very good, if not quite great, athlete – the kind who ran into minor medals and clocked world-class times but never truly lit up the biggest stage.
But on a cool Sunday night in Shanghai, everything changed. Taking the lead five laps into the 5000m, the Ethiopian clicked off swift laps in splendid isolation for the second half of the race and came home in 14:14.32, just three seconds away from the world record, which moved her to third on the world all-time list behind fellow Ethiopians Tirunesh Dibaba and Meseret Defar.
“I was trying for 14:20, I didn’t think of the record,” said Ayana. “It was much faster than I had in mind.”
By the time she had come to a stop and checked the clock, runner-up Viola Kibiwott had not yet entered the home straight. Now that’s dominance.
Kipyegon’s classy kick, 2016
She had been a world champion at U18 and U20 level, and when she ran a Kenyan record of 3:56.98 at the age of 19, many saw world domination as inevitable for Faith Kipyegon. But success in the senior ranks was a slow-burner, Kipyegon enduring a patchy season in 2014 before claiming a silver medal behind Genzebe Dibaba at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015.
In May 2016, however, the Kenyan announced herself as the woman to beat at the Rio Olympics with a dazzling display at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Shanghai. “I didn’t have a time in my head,” she said afterwards. “I just wanted a good time and to win.”
She got both, Kipyegon taking command of the 1500m with little over a lap to run and gradually shifting through the gears, scorching the last 100 metres to come home a distant winner in 3:56.82, a Kenyan record. Her last 300 metres, run from the front, on her own, was 43.49. No wonder she won Olympic gold.
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF