David Oliver wins the 110m hurdles at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Shanghai (© Errol Anderson)
Eight world champions and seven Olympic champions are among the galaxy of international stars heading for the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Shanghai on 14 May, organisers announced on Thursday (31).
The fields at the second stop of the 2016 series includes eight event winners from the 2015 Diamond Race, including USA’s David Oliver, who returns to Shanghai looking to repeat last year’s victory in the 110m hurdles when he beat a high-class field just a few minutes before Chinese star Liu Xiang bade an emotional farewell to the sport.
Oliver, who won the world title in 2013, will hope to start his 2016 IAAF Diamond League campaign in similar vein as he goes for glory in an event that always forms the climax of China’s leading international athletics meeting.
It could be another emotional occasion this year as Oliver’s US teammate Aries Merritt makes his return to top-level international competition following a kidney transplant operation at the end of last summer.
Merritt claimed the world record in 2012 shortly after clinching the Olympic title in London, but he struggled to hit the same form in subsequent seasons as he fought the debilitating impact of his serious illness.
The two US greats are no strangers to the Shanghai Stadium, having raced at this meeting 10 times between them.
The pair will face stiff opposition again in 2016, not least from Omar McLeod, the Jamaican who won the world indoor 60m hurdles gold medal in Portland earlier this month.
The men’s 110m hurdles always attracts huge interest in Shanghai, but it is likely to be far from the only highlight in a meeting full of top-class performances as the world’s best athletes begin on the road to August’s Olympic Games in Rio.
David Rudisha is just one of the five London 2012 champions who will looking to show some good early season form just three months ahead of his Olympic title defence.
The 800m world record-holder makes his debut in Shanghai after recapturing his world crown in Beijing last August.
Jamaican print duo Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce and Veronica Campbell-Brown are set for a mouth-watering clash in the women’s 200m, although both were beaten over 100m here in 2015 by Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare.
Fraser-Pryce bounced back to win her third world 100m title in Beijing last summer but she will be hoping for a better performance this year as she aims for her third Olympic 100m crown.
Campbell-Brown is aiming for a hat-trick of her own as she looks to reclaim the Olympic 200m title she won in Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008. Both sprinters have won here in the past: Campbell-Brown over 100m in 2011 and 200m in 2012, and Fraser-Pryce in the shorter sprint three years ago.
Kenya’s surprise world champion Nicholas Bett headlines the men’s 400m hurdles in which he takes on world bronze medallist Jeffrey Gibson of The Bahamas.
Gibson’s compatriot Shaunae Miller will race Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson in the women’s 400m. They were the silver and bronze medallists respectively over one lap of the track in Beijing.
Kenya’s world steeplechase champion Hyvin Kiyeng faces last year’s Diamond Race winner over the barriers, her compatriot Virginia Nyambura.
In the field events, Canada’s world champion Shawn Barber should provide the main opposition to the already announced world record-holder Renaud Lavillenie in the men’s pole vault.
Another world champion, USA’s 2015 Diamond Race winner Joe Kovacs, faces New Zealand’s recently crowned world indoor champion Tom Walsh in the men’s shot put.
World long jump champion Tianna Bartoletta will come up against Serbia’s world bronze medallist Ivana Spanovic, who also took the silver earlier this month at the World Indoor Championships, while Croatia’s Olympic discus champion Sandra Perkovic will come up against Denia Caballero, the Cuban who beat her to the world crown in Beijing.
Organisers for the IAAF
2016 IAAF Diamond League calendar
6 May – Doha, QAT
14 May – Shanghai, CHN
22 May – Rabat, MAR
28 May – Eugene, USA
2 Jun – Rome, ITA
5 Jun – Birmingham, GBR
9 Jun – Oslo, NOR
16 Jun – Stockholm, SWE
15 Jul – Monaco, MON
22-23 Jul – London, GBR
25 Aug – Lausanne, SUI
27 Aug – Paris, FRA
1 Sep – Zurich, SUI
9 Sep – Brussels, BEL