Abderrahman Samba wins the 400m hurdles at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Doha (© Hasse Sjogren)
Two of the three fastest men in history will clash in the 400m hurdles in Shanghai when Abderrahman Samba lines up against Rai Benjamin at the IAAF Diamond League meeting on 18 May.
Samba, the world No.1 at 400m hurdles, is looking to extend an unbeaten streak that stretches back to the IAAF World Championships London 2017 where he was seventh.
Since then he hasn’t lost a race at his specialist event, winning all of his races in his 2018 IAAF Diamond League campaign and lowering the Asian record three times, culminating with a 46.98 clocking in Paris to move to second on the world all-time list.
Rai Benjamin had been sharing the second spot on the world all-time list with Ed Moses after running 47.02 to win the NCAA title last year, but he was bumped down one place on that list after Samba’s run in Paris.
Benjamin hasn’t contested a 400m hurdles race since then, but he ran a 200m PB of 19.99 last year and started his 2019 outdoor campaign with a 400m PB of 44.31. The race in Shanghai will be Benjamin’s first IAAF Diamond League appearance.
World silver medallist Yasmani Copello, Olympic finalist Annsert Whyte of Jamaica and Feng Zhiqiang of China are also in the line-up.
In the 110m hurdles, world and Olympic champion Omar McLeod will be targeting a fourth successive victory in Shanghai.
The Jamaican sprint hurdler made history last year when he completed a hat-trick of Shanghai hurdles wins to become the most successful athlete ever in the meeting’s traditional blue riband contest.
The 25-year-old shrugged off injury niggles to beat Spain’s Olympic silver medallist Orlando Ortega and claim his third straight title in 13.16.
More significantly, he moved ahead of his boyhood hero, Liu Xiang, who enjoyed two crowd-pleasing victories at his home-town meeting before his retirement in 2012.
Achieving the ‘three-peat’ in Shanghai 12 months ago left McLeod overcome with emotion.
“The appreciation and respect they have for hurdlers here is really special to me,” said McLeod. “I always want to go out there and do my very best just for the fans, to show my appreciation for the appreciation they show for me.”
The Jamaican’s first Shanghai victory came in 2016 when he clocked a world-leading 12.98 to grab the title ahead of two world champions and the world record-holder. He went on to claim Olympic gold in 2016 and added world outdoor gold to his collection in London in 2017.
McLeod will clash with Ortega again on 18 May when battle resumes for the 2019 crown with the Spaniard seeking his first victory after finishing runner-up in 2015, 2017 and 2018.
Others aiming to wrest the crown from McLeod’s grasp include 2015 world champion Sergey Shubenkov and 2012 Olympic champion and world record-holder Aries Merritt, who is seeking a first Shanghai victory on his eighth appearance at the meeting.
Merritt will be joined by US compatriot Devon Allen, world indoor champion Andrew Pozzi and European indoor Milan Trajkovic of Cyprus.
China’s hopes rest with Asian champion Xie Wenjun, who hopes to repeat his 2014 victory after missing last year’s meeting with injury.
Organisers for the IAAF