After kicking off the Diamond League in Doha last week, it was Shanghai's turn to play host to this remarkable competition.
The athletes were all looking to set a strong precedent with a host of meetings to come, and we were rewarded with some stunning action, myriad world-leading times and plenty of high drama.
The first event of the day was the women’s long jump. In a thrilling contest, Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare managed to triumph over Ivana Spanovic by just one centimetre. Okagbare’s leap of 6.86 metres was a new meet record—just two centimetres short of the world-leading distance—while Spanovic set a new national record with her jump of 6.85 metres.
Next up was the turn of the throwers, as the women’s discus and the men’s shot put got their battles underway. In the women’s discus throw, Sandra Perkovic produced an outstanding effort of 70.52 metres to come out on top, setting a new competition record, personal best and world-leading time in the process.
Perkovic became the first woman this century to notch a throw of over 70 metres in the discus with a thrown of 70.51 metres in April, and the Croatian bettered that throw with a stunning show of power here:
VIDEO: Sanda Perkovic continues where she ended in 2013... on the top. Here the top 3 Discus throws of tonight's... http://t.co/jTSxB8XDMr— IAAF Diamond League (@Diamond_League) May 18, 2014
The men’s shot put saw the United States' Christian Cantwell came out on top with a fine throw of 21.73 metres, yet another meet record.
Height was the order of the day in the subsequent field events, as the women’s high jump and mens pole vault got underway. It was proving to be an excellent day for Croatia, too, as Ana Simic became the country’s second winner of the day with a world-leading leap of 1.97 metres in the high jump, five centimetres higher than her nearest challenger could manage.
In the men’s pole vault, it was never going to be a case of who was going to win, but by how much. Having broken the world record in this discipline in Donetsk back in February, Renaud Lavillenie has gone on to establish himself as the world’s finest pole vaulter.
He wasn’t able to match the enormous height of 6.16 metres that he cleared to set a new world record, but he was still 30 centimetres clear of his nearest rival, winning with a height of 5.92 metres. Chris Brown was very impressed with the Frenchman's efforts:
Renaud Lavillenie clears 5.92m on first clearance in the pole vault! Superb vaulting from the Frenchman. Steve Lewis bowed out at 5.52m.— Chris Brown (@ChrisBrownSport) May 18, 2014
The track events started to roll off, too, and Michael Tinsley was able to edge out Mamadou Kasse Hanne and Bershawn Jackson to win the men’s 400-metre hurdles.
Abeba Aregawi has been in a class of her own in the women’s 1500-metre so far this season and looked in fine fettle once again in Shanghai. The Swede produced a scintillating three-and-three-quarter laps of the the track, finishing comfortably inside four minutes to set yet another world leading mark of 3:58.72.
The Ethiopian-born athlete produced a wonderful finish to her race, as noted here by Costas Goulas:
awesomely away to a comprehensive win in 3:58.72 (WL), at the same time laying a claim to world's No1 given Denzebe Dibaba's form issues.— Costas Goulas (@lsabre) May 18, 2014
The blue-ribbon event of the meet was on track next, as some of the fastest men in the world lined up for their 100-metre race. It was Justin Gatlin who took the win, dipping under the 10-second benchmark with a time of 9.92.
Gatlin really came on strong in the latter stages of the race, streaking away from Nesta Carter and Michael Rodgers, who finished second and third, with times of 10.12 and 10.18 respectively.
Gatlin’s result also equated to a world-leading effort, and Goulas was noticeably impressed with another strong finish:
@justingatlin is in really awesome form to sweep away to a thorough win in 9.92 in the dash in still conditions, flying high at the moment!— Costas Goulas (@lsabre) May 18, 2014
Sandwiched between the men’s 100-metre and the women’s 400-metre were a couple more field events. In the men’s triple jump, Russia’s Lyukman Adams produced a leap of 17.10 metres to take the win.
The performance of the night arguably came in the men's javelin, as Abd Ihab El Rahman smashed his personal best by over five metres to record a thrown of 89.21 metres. That distance surpassed Marius Corbett’s 16-year-old African record, making the Egyptian’s exploits even more sensational.
It was certainly a throw not many saw coming, although Olympic statistician Hilary Evans did have El Rahman in his Diamond League fantasy team:
Brilliant decision to include El Rahman in my DL fantasy team. Bad decision to replace him with Klishina yesterday. #doh!— Hilary Evans (@OlympicStatman) May 18, 2014
It was the women’s turn to take to take to the track again, as Jamaica’s Novlene Williams-Mills secured a comfortable win in the women’s 400-metre with a time of 50.31.
The next event on track was the women’s 3000-metre, which saw the United States’ Emma Coburn take a thoroughly entertaining but very unexpected victory.
Coburn made the bold move of breaking for the finish early, with a host of the leaders deciding to let her go. But they were unable to reign her in, as Coburn won at a canter in a world-leading time of 9:19.80.
Flotrack gives a great indicator of her margin of victory here:
Coburn hits the bell in 8:07. The field is 13-seconds back. #ShanghaiDL— Flotrack (@Flotrack) May 18, 2014
The penultimate men’s track race of the evening was the 800-metre, and it produced what was unquestionably the moment of the night. Algeria’s Taoufik Makhloufi had a comfortable lead with around 15 metres to go, so he slowed down and began to celebrate.
But unbeknownst to him, the 18-year-old Kenyan Robert Biwott was on his outside, and the youngster stormed past to snatch the win on the line.
Sportnomics host Morgan Campbell thought it was hilarious, while Flotrack provides a brilliant view of the the tight finish:
Robert Biwott takes the men's 800 because Makloufi started celebrateing about 15 metres from the finish. That was funny.— Morgan Campbell (@MorganPCampbell) May 18, 2014
Here's the moment Makhloufi thought he had it won, with Biwott hunting him down:
Clearly not content with winning one event, Okagbare came out to race in the women’s 200-metre after her earlier long-jump heroics. This time she had things a little easier, taking the win by a comfortable margin with a meet-record time of 22.36.
Who was the most impressive athlete at the meet?
The penultimate race of the evening was the men’s 5000-metre, which saw the Ethiopan Yenew Alamirew run away from Kenyan Thomas Pkemei Longosiwa in the final stages of the race, winning in a time of 13:04.83. The final event was the men's 110-metre, and the home crowd were given a fitting send off, as the Chinese hurdler Wenjun Xie took the win with a time of 13.23.
The incredible throw from El Rahman will surely be remembered as the performance, and there will be plenty expected of him in the coming weeks. Makhloufi will beside himself after his naivety saw him snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Lavillenie looks the most likely athlete to go on and win in every single one of his meetings. The Frenchman is streaks ahead of the rest of the field at the moment, and his primary focus will surely be on breaking his own world record, such is the level of his dominance.