Renaud Lavillenie in the pole vault at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Shanghai (© Errol Anderson)
An all-star cast takes centre stage for the men’s pole vault in Shanghai on 13 May as two world champions, the Olympic gold medallist and the world record-holder all vie for points at the second stop of the IAAF Diamond League.
Olympic champion and Brazilian hero Thiago Braz makes his Shanghai debut at the start of a 2017 outdoor season when he hopes to add the World Championships crown to the Olympic gold he won so memorably in Rio last August.
The 23-year-old broke the South American record twice in the Olympic final as he enthralled the delirious home supporters by defeating the reigning champion and world No.1, Renaud Lavillenie.
Braz soared to 6.03m in Rio to top the 2016 world list and would no doubt be delighted if he can approach that barrier-breaking height once more.
The two will lock horns again in Shanghai as Lavillenie also launches his IAAF Diamond League campaign on 13 May. The Frenchman will be looking for maximum points as he bids to win the Diamond Trophy for a record eighth time.
The 30-year-old three-time European champion makes no secret of his love for the IAAF Diamond League, having won the Diamond Race more times than any other athlete.
At the Weltklasse meeting in Zürich last September, the 2012 Olympic champion clinched his seventh Trophy when he cleared 5.90m, maintaining his record as the only athlete in any event to have won the Diamond League every year since the circuit began in 2010.
After losing both his Olympic and European titles last year, he will be keen to kick-start the 2017 summer season with another victory at China’s top-ranked international athletics meeting.
He won in Shanghai in 2014 but was beaten last year by Sam Kendricks. The US vaulter leapt 5.88m in the Shanghai stadium 12 months ago and went on to bag a bronze medal at the Olympic Games.
The stellar line-up also includes the two most recent world champions as world champion Shawn Barber from Canada and Germany’s 2013 world champion Raphael Holzdeppe are also in the field.
Holzdeppe finished second to Barber in Beijing two years ago but has been struggling to find top form since then, while Barber was third in Shanghai last May but could only finish 10th in Rio. Both will feel they have a point to prove as they take on the three Olympic medallists on 13 May.
Organisers for the IAAF
2017 IAAF Diamond League calendar
5 May – Doha, QAT
13 May – Shanghai, CHN
27 May – Eugene, USA
8 Jun – Rome, ITA
15 Jun – Oslo, NOR
18 Jun – Stockholm, SWE
1 Jul – Paris, FRA
6 Jul – Lausanne, SUI
9 Jul – London, GBR
16 Jul – Rabat, MAR
21 Jul – Monaco, MON
20 Aug – Birmingham, GBR
24 Aug – Zurich, SUI
1 Sep – Brussels, BEL