Over the first nine days of 2019, we will be taking a look at nine things we're really looking forward to as we enter another IAAF World Athletics Championships year.
On Tuesday, we focused on established stars who will be returning from injury. On Wednesday we discussed some of the rising stars primed to make an impact this year and yesterday we examined some of the world records which may finally fall in 2019. Today, we continue with a look at...
Key head-to-head battles
Walsh vs Crouser
And we'll pick up where he left off yesterday, with the men's shot put, an event currently headed by Ryan Crouser of the US, the Olympic champion and New Zealander Tom Walsh, the reigning world champion.
Crouser topped the world lists in 2016 and 2017, with Walsh taking the helm in 2018 courtesy of a 22.67m Oceania record last March which landed him equal-sixth on the all-time lists. Crouser is two centimetres behind with a 22.65m lifetime best, and currently sits eighth all-time.
Lifetime, Crouser holds a 12-9 edge; last year it was 5-4 in favour of the Olympic champion. Best of all? Both are 26, so this rivalry has the potential to go on for a very long time.
Miller-Uibo vs Naser
Next up, a fledgling rivalry in the women's 400m which is already producing fireworks. Both Shaunae Miller-Uibo and Salwa Eid Naser were stars as junior who progressed almost seamlessly into the senior ranks. The Bahamian was just 22 when she captured the Olympic title in 2016 while Bahrain's Naser, three years and 11 months her junior, took world championships silver in London at age 19.
Lifetime, the Bahamian holds a 3-1 lead, but their last meeting perhaps exemplifies best what this rivalry manages to bring out in both. In the Monaco leg of the IAAF Diamond League last July, Naser pushed Miller-Uibo to the line in a ferocious battle that left both with national records: 48.97 for Miller-Uibo, 49.08 for Naser. it was Miller-Uibo's first jaunt into sub-49 territory, landing her in the No. 10 spot all-time.
By the way, Miller-Uibo won't find too much rest and relaxation at 200m, her second event and a distance at which she's chiseled together a streak of eight consecutive victories, including back-to-back Diamond League titles. There, she'll face Great Britain's double European champion Dina Asher-Smith who raised her game considerably in 2018, improving to 21.89.
Samba vs Benjamin
We've already alluded to this one this week, but it bears repeating. Particularly when two of history's four fastest 400m hurdlers are, arguably, just getting started in the event.
Qatari Abderrahman Samba rose in a big way last year, running undefeated in nine competitions and clocking 46.98 to become the second fastest of all-time. But Benjamin, who now represents the US, wasn't far behind, clocking 47.02 to tie athletics legend Edwin Moses as the third fastest man in history. The pair have yet to meet. When they do, it'll be the first chapter of many in what could become one of the sport's greatest ever rivalries. Remember: Samba is just 23, and Benjamin 21.
But wait, there's more!
Plenty more, on the track and on the field. A few more that stand out:
In the men's long jump world champion Luvo Manyonga and Juan Miguel Echecarria, the world indoor champion, will continue to regularly butt heads. The young Cuban, who made waves with his wind-assisted 8.83m leap in Stockholm last June, has a 4-3 edge lifetime.
In the men's 1500m last year, Timothy Cheruiyot got the better of world champion Elijah Manangoi in five of their seven meetings but Manangoi took two of the three major crowns on offer to the pair: the Commonwealth and African titles. Cheruiyot meanwhile lifted the Diamond League trophy.
In the men's javelin, three German throwers - Johannes Vetter, Andreas Hoffman and Thomas Rohler - all threw beyond 90 metres last season. When the three meet, it's usually a toss-up.
In the women's 100m hurdles, world record holder Kendra Harrison - the 2018 world leader at 12.36 - edged Olympic champion Brianna McNeal 3-2.
And in the women's pole vault, Sandi Morris finally got the better of long-time rival Katerina Stefanidi, besting the Greek 5-4 last season. But lifetime, Stefanidi leads 21-14.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF