Double Olympic champion David Rudisha is one of four Kenyan track stars set to take centre stage at the Shanghai Diamond League meeting this Saturday, 13 May, when many of the greatest distance runners in the world will be stretching their legs in pursuit of early season points.
Rudisha was fifth on his Shanghai debut 12 months ago and the 800m world record holder is relishing the chance to make amends as he takes on fellow-Kenyan Olympic finalists Ferguson Cheruiyot and Alfred Kipketer, plus Polish pair Adam Kszczot and Marcin Lewandowski.
While Rudisha finished out of the points 12 months ago, compatriot Faith Kipyegon broke the Kenyan record to win the women’s 1500m and went on to strike Rio gold ahead of the world record holder, Genzebe Dibaba.
Dibaba is not in the Shanghai 1500m field this year but Kipyegon will face her fellow Ethiopians, Dawit Seyaum and Besu Sado, who were eighth and ninth in the Rio final.
Two other top-class Kenyans lead the fields for the women’s 5000m and 3000m steeplechase.
Two years ago, it was Almaz Ayana who lit up the Shanghai Stadium with her breakthrough performance over 5000m, the future Olympic champion and world record breaker clocking the third fastest time in history.
Ayana has been forced to pull out of the Shanghai meeting this year, but Hellen Obiri is primed to follow in her footsteps. Obiri moved up from 1500m last year and beat Ayana to the Olympic 5000m silver medal in Rio behind the triumphant Vivian Cheruiyot.
She takes on two of Ayana’s compatriots, Senbere Teferi and Sofia Assefa, who will be seeking to make their mark in the first women’s 5000m of the Diamond League season.
Teferi was third in this race in 2015 and fifth in the Olympic final last year, while Assefa is a former world and Olympic steeplechase medallist running her first 5000m race for 10 years.
The 3000m steeplechase is hardly weakened by Assefa’s absence as it features Kenya’s world champion Hyvin Kiyeng against Bahrain’s Olympic champion and world record holder, Ruth Jebet.
Jebet eclipsed her own Asian record to win Olympic gold in Rio and went on to run nearly seven minutes quicker in Paris two weeks later when she destroyed the world record with a time of 8:52.78.
But it was Kiyeng who came out on top in their first clash of 2017 when she ran the fastest time in the world this year to win in Doha last Friday. Kiyeng was more than a minute and a half ahead of the rest in 9:00:12 while Jebet was third.
Celliphine Chespol will also come to Shanghai full of confidence after she equaled the world junior record in Doha. The 18-year-old world junior champion was fourth in 9:05:70, and should finish higher than her seventh place in the Shanghai meeting last year.