The IAAF World Challenge moves on to Beijing for the fifth leg of the 2013 series, and the second Asian stop on the 15-meeting circuit, with the organisers hoping that the success of long jumper Li Jinzhe at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Shanghai at the weekend will bring in the crowds on Tuesday (21).
- Beijing's Olympic stadium will host the 15th edition of the IAAF World Championships, 22 to 30 August 2015 -
Li crushed his personal best with a world-leading 8.34m winning mark in Shanghai and the 23-year-old from Beijing will be jumping in a major competition in his home city for the first time, having only been a promising teenager at the time of the 2008 Olympic Games and not making the Chinese team on that occasion.
The glove-wearing Li, who also sports a distinct Mohawk-esque hairstyle, will face some strong and experienced competition, including the man who won in the Bird’s Nest stadium in 2008: Panama’s Irving Saladino.
Also in the field are three of the last four IAAF World indoor champions: Ghana’s Ignisious Gaisah, South Africa’s Godfrey Mokoena and Australia’s Fabrice Lapierre, who won their titles in 2006, 2008 and 2010 respectively.
Zimbabwe’s Ngonidzashe Makusha is also making a return after a bad injury and jumped a promising 7.96m in Shanghai against a strong headwind.
In addition to Li, a lot of local attention will be focused on 16-year-old Wang Jianan, who became the youngest Chinese champion ever in the Long jump last September when he won the title with an 8.04m personal best less than month after his 16th birthday.
His performance was the best by a youth athlete for six years and moved him up to fifth on the youth all-time list as well as making him the favourite for the event at the World Youth Championships in Donetsk, Ukraine, later this summer.
This season Wang has leaped 7.91m to win the National Youth title and gone close to eight metres in all four of his outings.
Many of the other big names for the meeting are in the women’s events.
London 2012 Olympic Games 200m gold medallist Allyson Felix is the clear favourite in the American’s first outing in her signature event this season.
In the women’s field events, several big Russian names are looking for a strong early season performance.
Russia's women out for Beiing bonanza
Another 2012 Olympic champion, high jumper Anna Chicherova, will compete for the second time following a 1.95m win in Tokyo a couple of weeks ago.
In the Hammer - the first women’s event on the 2013 IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge - Russia’s current Olympic and World champion Tatyana Lysenko is also expected to take the honours.
Her compatriot Mariya Abakumova has already issued a warning to other javelin throwers about her form this year and, after a disappointing 2012 season, the 2011 World champion produced a massive world-leading 69.34m in Spain back in March to win the European Cup Winter Throwing event.
The men’s 100m could see some fast times as Americans Justin Gatlin and Mike Rodgers have already dipped under 10 seconds this season and another, Darvis Patton, has a very fast wind-aided mark 9.75 from last month.
The weather forecast for Tuesday night suggests there will be no rain and the temperature will be around 30 degrees Celsius, so the conditions should be perfect for sprinting.
There is a notable local athlete in this event as well with Zhang Peimeng, the first Chinese sprinter to hold the 100m and 200m national records at the same time during electronic timing era, with recent bests of 10.04 and 20.47, the latter coming in Shanghai on Saturday.
In the 200m, Americans Wallace Spearmon and 2008 Olympic Games 400m champion LaShawn Merritt will be joined by Belgium’s Jonathan Borlée.
Richardson hungry for another Chinese takeaway
In the 110m Hurdles, the top three names are the American trio of David Oliver, Jason Richardson and Ryan Wilson. All three competed in Shanghai with the reigning World champion Richardson victorious in 13.23.
The men’s Pole Vault is another field event with a Chinese favourite. Although 25-year-old Yang Yansheng has been around for some time and grabbed a win in last year’s Diamond League meeting in Shanghai in wet conditions, this winter the Shandong Province native raised himself to a new level by clearing 5.80m indoors in Dusseldorf, Germany, in February.
He has only cleared 5.40m in both of his domestic competitions during the outdoor season, but the Beijing competition will be the first real test for the Chinese indoor and outdoor record-holder. Russia’s Sergey Kucheryanu cleared 5.60m recently and will be one of the strongest challengers in addition to Ukraine’s Vladyslav Revenko and Poland’s Przemyslaw Czerwinski.
Czech javelin thrower Vítězslav Veselý produced a season’s best 86.67m mark in Shanghai for the second place there and the 2012 European champion should be the favourite in Beijing, but he will be challenged by Russia’s Dmitriy Tarabin and Finland’s Ari Mannio, with the former throwing a personal best of 85.63m in Shanghai and the latter throwing 83.43m at that meeting.
The Triple Jump competition will be this season’s first for most of the competitors. The best PB belongs to home athlete Dong Bin, who jumped 17.38m last season and set an Asian indoor record of 17.16m during the winter. Another Chinese, Cao Shuo, and Ukraine’s Viktor Kuznyetsov, who have both jumped over 17.25m, are also in the field.
On paper, the men’s High Jump competition should be a close battle.
China’ Zhang Guowei jumped 2.32m for a national indoor record in March, and opened his outdoor campaign with third place in Shanghai, going over 2.27m there. Russia’s Sergey Mudrov should be able to jump higher than the 2.24m he cleared in Shanghai as he cleared 2.35m to win the 2013 European indoor title in March. Russia’s 2010 European champion Aleksandr Shustov and Bahamas’ 2007 World champion Donald Thomas are the other names to watch out for in this event.
In the 100m there is a good chance for a sub-11 second race with Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare the fastest of the field this season. The 24-year-old ran 11.00 in Shanghai in windless conditions.
The women’s 100m Hurdles features the USA’s 2012 Olympic Games bronze medallist American Kellie Wells, who has already run 12.73 this season.
In the women’s 1500m, Kenya’s Eunice Sum and Mary Kuria should be fighting for the win after a fast start for both of them at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Doha earlier this month. Sum set a personal best 4:02.05 there, and Kuria ran 4:03.56.
Mirko Jalava for the IAAF