Three Olympic gold medallists and two world champions are among the latest cluster of international stars added to the already glittering line-ups for the 2014 Shanghai Diamond League meeting, which can be seen on Universal Sports on May 18 at 8 AM ET LIVE.
US hurdler Aries Merritt, multi-medalled sprinter Allyson Felix and Trinidad and Tobago javelin thrower Keshorn Walcott have joined the entry lists for the second meeting in the IAAF’s 2014 Diamond League calendar, while Russian high jumper Svetlana Shkolina and Czech javelin star Vítezslav Vesely are the latest Moscow world champions announced for the 10th anniversary of China’s leading international athletics meeting.
Merritt returns to Shanghai for the third year in succession to renew his rivalry with world champion David Oliver who was fourth in this meeting last year when Merritt pulled up at the second hurdle with a hamstring injury.
Having finished fourth here in 2012, the world record holder will be keen to make it third time lucky this year when he and Oliver face their US compatriot Ryan Wilson, the world silver medallist, and Russia’s European champion and Moscow bronze medallist Sergey Shubenkov in an event that is always one of the highlights of the Shanghai programme.
Merritt dominated the men’s sprint hurdles scene in 2012, taking the London Olympic and world indoor titles, dipping under 13 seconds 10 times and lowering the world record to 12.80. But he struggled to find form after his injury last summer and could only finish sixth in the Moscow World Championships final.
With no global championships on the calendar this year, the 28-year-old will be looking for a good performance in the Shanghai Stadium to set him on the road towards Diamond League success.
Felix is also aiming to get back on track in 2014 after she crashed out of the Moscow world 200m final with a hamstring injury last August.
The US sprinter won three Olympic golds at London 2012 to go with her eight outdoor world titles and one Olympic relay gold from Beijing 2008. She won the Diamond Race for 200m and 400m in 2010, but triumphed at only one DL meeting in 2013.
The 28-year-old will be keen to make a winning start to her 2014 campaign on what will be her Shanghai debut when she races over 400m in an enticing head-to-head against 2011 world champion Amantle Montsho.
The Botswana athlete missed out on retaining her world title in Moscow by four thousandths of a second when she was pipped on the line by Britain’s Christine Ohuruogu after an impressive season in which she broke 50 seconds six times and lowered her national record to 49.33.
The 30-year-old is also looking for her first Shanghai victory after she was second behind Jamaica’s Novlene Williams-Mills two years ago, her only previous appearance at the meeting.
Walcott is another athlete hoping to bounce back after a relatively disappointing campaign in 2013. The 21-year-old made history in 2012 when he shocked the favourites to claim Olympic gold, out-throwing such experienced men as Beijing 2008 champion Andreas Thorkildsen and Vesely with a best of 84.58 metres.
It was the climax of a remarkable season for the teenager who had also won the world and Central American junior crowns the previous month. His winning throw in London was his fifth national record of the season and the seventh time he had set a new area junior record in 2012.
His first full season on the senior circuit was less meteoric, however, as Walcott failed to improve on his best in 2013 for the first time in four years and did not qualify for the World Championship final.
Vesely won the Moscow contest ahead of Finland’s former world champion Tero Pitkämäki and Russia’s world university champion Dmitriy Tarabin, and all three will again be among Walcott’s opponents in Shanghai.
Twelve months ago it was Pitkämäki who took the honours here, with Vesely second just a metre behind and both broke the old meeting record with world leading throws. Tarabin was third while Walcott languished in sixth place on his Diamond League debut.
Shkolina emerged as the dominant force in women’s high jumping last year with an unbeaten record over seven meetings. Having won Olympic bronze at London 2012 she collected world gold in Moscow when she equalled her personal best of 2.03m to beat USA’s Brigetta Barrett and Spain’s Ruth Beitia.
Beitia will be one of Shkolina’s opponents on 18 May when she competes in Shanghai for the first time hoping to make a winning start to the 2014 Diamond Race.
The 2014 Shanghai Diamond League meeting will include 16 events, nine for men (100m, 800m, 5000m, 110m hurdles, 400m hurdles, pole vault, triple jump, shot put, javelin) and seven for women (200m, 400m, 1500m, 3000m steeplechase, high jump, long jump, discus).
(From Diamond League Press Release)