Four Olympic champions and three world record holders are among an array of track and field athletes that will take part in the 2013 Shanghai Diamond League meeting on May 18, organizers announced yesterday.
Sprint hurdler Aries Merritt tops a list of headline names that includes world 100-meter champion and Olympic silver medalist Yohan Blake, world and Olympic 400 champion Kirani James of Grenada, world junior and Olympic javelin champion Keshorn Walcott of Trinidad, and Russia's multi-world record breaking pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva.
Merritt returns to the meeting hoping to make amends after finishing fourth in the 110 hurdles last year, where local favorite Liu Xiang took victory.
While Liu's season came to crashing halt in the Olympic heats, the American went on to enjoy a virtually unbeaten run through the 2012 outdoor season, culminating with Olympic gold in London and a stunning 12.80-second world record at the Brussels Diamond League meeting on September 7.
Merritt dipped under 13 seconds 10 times during the season and he will hope to run close to that time again on May 18 when he faces the latest Chinese hurdling hope, Xie Wenjun.
Tipped by some as the new Liu, Xie lowered his personal best in the 110 hurdles to 13.34 in the Olympic semifinals last August and made a breakthrough earlier this year when he finished third over 60 meters at the British Athletics Grand Prix in Birmingham in 7.60.
"Merritt is a nice guy and we're friends," Xie said at the launch ceremony for the meet yesterday. "I won't feel nervous competing against him."
Blake will compete in Shanghai for the first time full of confidence after picking up three medals at the Olympic Games, clinching two silvers behind Usain Bolt in the 100 and 200 before joining his Jamaican compatriot to take gold in the 4x100 relay in a world-record time.
Already the second fastest man over 200, the man they call "the beast" is expected to challenge Bolt's supremacy in both sprints this year after beating his training partner twice at last year's Jamaican Olympic trials. The 200 race in Shanghai should be a major step on the road towards defending his world 100 crown at the world championships in Moscow later this year.
Shot putter Gong Lijiao left London with a bronze medal to add to the bronze she took home from the 2009 Berlin worlds. Gong was triumphant at the Shanghai Diamond League two years ago, having finished third in 2010, and will be one of the host's main hopes for victory at this year's meeting.
The 2013 Shanghai Diamond League meeting will include 16 events, nine for men (200, 400, 1,500, 110 hurdles, 3,000 steeplechase, high jump, long jump, discus throw, javelin throw) and seven for women (100, 800, 5,000, 400 hurdles, pole vault, triple jump, and shot put).
Tickets are available, ranging from 60 yuan (US$9.668) to 1,180 yuan. Locals can call the hotline 6212 1733 or log on to www.dlsh.org for information.