Mutaz Essa Barshim sets a meeting record in the high jump at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Shanghai (© Errol Anderson)
It was a weekend of old rivalries, surprise packages and huge opening statements as the 2015 Diamond Race got underway at the IAAF Diamond League in Doha and Shanghai.
Nothing is certain this early in the season, but with old and new faces alike getting points on the board, the stage is set for some exhilarating battles in this year's Diamond Races.
All eyes were on the high jump in Shanghai, with Mutaz Essa Barshim and Bogdan Bondarenko resuming their IAAF Diamond League rivalry at the first opportunity.
The two men rarely miss a chance to clash, having faced each other 10 times in the past two IAAF Diamond League seasons, four times in 2013 and no fewer than six times in 2014.
It was Barshim who took the initial honours this year, picking up four points and the world lead in Shanghai.
In the men's 400m, there was the much anticipated rivalry between Kirani James and LaShawn Merritt.
The pair have had some memorable battles in recent years, and were expected to go head-to-head again in the Diamond Race this year.
However, Merritt will have some catching up to do after their opening encounter, with James a clear winner in Shanghai. With Merritt only able to finish third, the Grenadian already has a three-point lead over his rival.
Doha and Shanghai also saw a whole host of lesser-known athletes make an early mark in the Diamond Race points tables of their respective events.
Kenya’s Virginia Nyambura picked up a shock victory in the women's 3000m steeplechase in Doha. The designated pacemaker left 2014 Diamond Race winner Hiwot Ayalew to make do with only two points from her first appearance.
Cuba’s Pedro Pablo Pichardo set an IAAF Diamond League record with his 18.06m triple jump in Doha.
Pichardo, along with Dawit Seyaum (1500m), Airine Palsyte (high jump) and Jasmin Stowers (100m hurdles), now top the Diamond Race standings for the first time ever.
Stowers also set an IAAF Diamond League record with her run of 12.35 in Doha.
There were four more surprising Diamond Race leaders after Shanghai.
Gong Lijiao and Lu Huihui took advantage of home conditions to pick up maximum points in the shot put and javelin respectively, while Greece’s Nikoleta Kyriakopoulou also made early progress in the pole vault.
But perhaps the biggest surprise of all was undoubtedly 23-year-old Almaz Ayana. The Ethiopian's win in the women's 5000m was perhaps not such a shock, but the third-fastest time in history, and IAAF Diamond League record, of 14:14:32 certainly raised eyebrows.
It was also a good weekend for many of the bigger names.
Tianna Bartoletta (long jump), Sandra Perkovic (discus) and Allyson Felix (200m) all secured four points in Doha, the latter equalling the IAAF Diamond League record with her run of 21.98.
In Shanghai, Caterine Ibarguen (triple jump), Piotr Malachowski (discus), Kaliese Spencer (400m hurdles), Silas Kiplagat (1500m), Jairus Birech (3000m steeplechase), Eunice Sum (800m) and Alonso Edward (200m) all started their defences of their Diamond Race titles with a win.
More statistics about the 2015 IAAF Diamond League and the Diamond Races are available to download in a PDF file on the right-hand side of this page (under RELATED DOCUMENTS).
2015 IAAF Diamond League calendar
Doha, QAT – 15 May
Shanghai, CHN – 17 May
Eugene, USA – 30 May
Rome, ITA – 4 June
Birmingham, GBR – 7 June
Oslo, NOR – 11 June
New York, USA – 13 June
Paris, FRA – 4 July
Lausanne, SUI – 9 July
Monaco, MON – 17 July
London, GBR – 24-25 July
Stockholm, SWE – 30 July
Zurich, SUI – 3 September
Brussels, BEL – 11 September