World silver medallist Ihab Abdelrahman is looking forward to performing on Chinese soil again when he spearheads a world-class javelin field at the star-studded IAAF Diamond League meeting in Shanghai on Saturday (14).
The 27-year-old Egyptian launched himself into the athletics headlines at this meeting two years ago when he stunned the crowd with a massive personal best of 89.21m, long enough not only to beat the reigning world and Olympic champions and take maximum Diamond Race points, but to smash the African record as he announced himself as a major contender for world javelin honours.
Abdelrahman made good on that promise last August when he returned to China to clinch a silver medal at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015 with the second-longest throw of his career. The African Games champion was just 22 centimetres short of his best, but missed out on gold to training partner Julius Yego of Kenya who won the world title with an African record of 92.72m.
“I set my PB in Shanghai in 2014,” said Abdelrahman. “And last summer I was second at the World Championships in Beijing, so it looks like China is a good country for me.”
Abdelrahman has already won the Egyptian title this season and will be keen to make a winning start to his 2016 IAAF Diamond League campaign when he takes on the two men who finished third and fourth behind him in Beijing – Finland’s 2007 world champion Tero Pitkamaki and Germany’s Thomas Rohler – plus 2013 world champion Vitezslav Vesely.
Vesely is a familiar figure in Shanghai, having performed four times at China’s premier one-day athletics meeting. The 33-year-old Czech enjoyed victory here in 2012, was second in 2013, and third in 2010 and 2014.
After finishing runner-up in the Diamond Race last year, just two points behind Pitkamaki, Vesely is confident the Shanghai meeting will provide a launchpad for his Olympic campaign.
“Shanghai will be my first competition in this Olympic season,” he said. “The start of the season is always very important so I want to be 100 per cent ready for it.”
Vesely will be joined by his compatriot Jakub Vadlejch, who recently threw a world-leading 86.76m. India’s Asian junior record-holder Neeraj Chopra is also in the field – a fascinating step-up to the big time for the 18-year-old – while China’s hopes rest with Asian Games champion Zhao Qinggang.
A similarly high-quality field has been announced for the men’s 5000m in Shanghai where the best of east Africa will battle for early season points as six Ethiopians take on four Kenyans.
Yomif Kejelcha begins his defence of the Diamond Race trophy he won last year. The world indoor 3000m champion takes on fellow Ethiopian and world bronze medallist Hagos Gebrhiwet, plus Olympic silver medallist Dejen Gebremeskel and 2011 world cross-country champion Imane Merga.
Yenew Alamirew is also in the field for Ethiopia; the world and Olympic finalist won here two years ago.
Olympic medallists Thomas Longosiwa and Edwin Soi lead the Kenyan challenge alongside 2013 world bronze medallist Isiah Koech and world indoor 3000m bronze medallist Augustine Choge.
Organisers for the IAAF
2016 IAAF Diamond League calendar
6 May – Doha, QAT
14 May – Shanghai, CHN
22 May – Rabat, MAR
28 May – Eugene, USA
2 Jun – Rome, ITA
5 Jun – Birmingham, GBR
9 Jun – Oslo, NOR
16 Jun – Stockholm, SWE
15 Jul – Monaco, MON
22-23 Jul – London, GBR
25 Aug – Lausanne, SUI
27 Aug – Paris, FRA
1 Sep – Zurich, SUI
9 Sep – Brussels, BEL