Well Doha was quite the start to this year’s Diamond League wasn’t it?! From Thomas Rohler becoming the 2nd longest Javelin thrower in history (93.40m) to Akani Simbine stepping up at the top level over the shortest of sprints to the very quick and surprising women’s steeplechase it had a little bit of everything. The start-lists are now up for Shanghai so here are my top 5 events to look out for in Shanghai (and maybe a hint or two for those who play the Fantasy Diamond League game!)
WOMEN’S 100 METRES
Coming off her dominant wind in Doha over Schippers over the half-lap distance, double Olympic Champion Elaine Thompson looks to set another marker on her competition in the 100 metres. Schippers won’t be competing this time and reigning World Champion Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce is out after announcing her pregnancy recently, so it could fall to American Torie Bowie as Thompson’s main threat in Shanghai. She has been the best and most consistent of the American sprinters and came away from Rio with 3 medals including silver in the 100 metres and gold in the 4×100 relay. The Jamaicans and Americans are, as per usual, well represented with Veronica Campbell-Brown and Olympic finalist Christiana Williams from Jamaica with World and Olympic long jump champion Tianna Bartoletta joined by sub 11 second runner Morolake Akinosun from the USA.
Then there is the Ivorian threat with Rio 4th placer Ta Lou perhaps the biggest threat to Thompson along with Bowie as well as the experienced Murielle Ahoure. To top it off, another Olympic finalist in Michelle-Lee Ahye completes the line-up.
MEN’S 110 METRES HURDLES
The last event of the meet and the strongest line up since the Olympic final last year has the gold medallist from Rio Omar McLeod line up in his second race after his incredible 13.04 clocking from the Drake Relays where the conditions were less than ideal. His closest challenger in that race Andy Pozzi is not here but everyone else (except for the French) basically are, although I don’t think any will likely challenge McLeod unless he has a bad day.
However with 2013 World Champion David Oliver and 2012 Olympic Champion and world-record holder Aries Merritt involved there is no shortage of recent pedigree in this event represented. Orlando Ortega didn’t have the best showing at the European Indoor Championships where he finished outside of the medals but he is one of the few to beat McLeod last year.
Then there is the intriguing moment of seeing Sergey Shebenkov competing internationally again. Unable to compete at Rio due to the ban on the Russian Athletics Federation, he has been cleared to compete as a neutral athlete and as far as I am away will be the first Russian male to compete at a Diamond League event since the ban. He is still the reigning World Champion (which I assume he can still use as a wildcard for London this year) so his performance will be very interesting to see how it goes after so long. By the way he is down as a neutral athlete on the official start-list.
MEN’S POLE VAULT
The finish to the men’s Pole Vault in Rio was the moment of the 2016 Olympic Games in my opinion. While the crowd’s support for Thiago Braz was incredible, their reaction to Renaud Lavillenie was the opposite and was a huge shame but the performance of the home town boy to win in a new Olympic record was simply staggering as he was a bit of an outsider to win. Both men are in Shanghai as is the bronze medallist from Rio in Sam Kendricks who has already jumped an impressive 5.81 outdoors this year (although only good enough for 2nd at the moment!).
2015 World Champion Shawn Barber from Canada did not have the best Olympics and has had some headlines away from the sport and opened up with 5.50 in Texas in April and will be looking to jump much higher here and to perhaps gain some confidence as he looks to retain his World title last this year.
The rest of the field contains former World Champion Raphael Holzdeppe in his first outing of the year as well as the talented Greek Konstantinos Filippidis.
MEN’S HIGH JUMP
A stellar field has been assembled for the men’s high jump with 7 of the top 9 from Rio invited with Bondarenko the major name missing. Add the two capable Chinese jumpers including the charismatic Zhang included and there won’t be many stronger fields all year.
Barshim won the opening event in Doha increasing his WL to 2.36m with Robbie Grabarz the only other athlete to jump over 2.30m. It will see the first individual high jump competition for Olympic Champion and World Champion Derek Drouin of Canada who cleared 2.28 during a decathlon last month (the world best for a high jump in a decathlon) so seems likely to go over 2.30 here based on that. On paper it looks like a battle between those two but with such a deep field behind them there could be a surprise from someone.
WOMEN’S 400 METRES
In truth, I think the result for this race is likely to go to Olympic Champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo who already looks in good form judging from her splits at the World Relays in the Bahamas where she was, of course, given a rousing reception by her home crowd.
This is the first race of the season for most of the field and out of those who have already run Morgan Mitchell is the highest ranked with 51.65, currently good enough for 11th in the world at the moment. The target for Miller-Uibo, you would assume, would be to get under 50 seconds which would be a new world lead (it currently stands at 50.04 from American Quanera Hayes). While not always easy to gauge with so many running the opening outdoor race, the fast starting Natasha Hastings and talented youngster Courtney Okolo look to be the main threat to the Bahamian along with the Jamaican contingent including sub 50 runners Stephanie McPherson and Novlene Williams-Mills.
So that’s my 5 events to look out for at the Shanghai Diamond League! Enjoy the action and until next time!