Shawn Barber in the pole vault final at the IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015 (© Getty Images)
After lowering his colours to Sam Kendricks and Renaud Lavillenie at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Shanghai on Saturday, world champion Shawn Barber will be hoping for a change of fortune at the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Beijing on Wednesday (18).
Barber will be returning to the Bird’s Nest stadium for the first time since winning at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015.
“To come back, to see some of the signage from last year still around, it makes me very excited,” Barber said on Tuesday.
Last August, it was Barber upsetting Lavillenie to take the world title. Last Saturday, it was Kendricks upstaging the Franch star, with Barber in third place.
Barber, Kendricks and Piotr Lisek, fifth in Shanghai, will all compete in Beijing. Barber tops this year’s world outdoor list at 5.91m, and has jumped 6.00m indoors this year, but could manage no higher than 5.70m in Shanghai as Kendricks cleared an outdoor personal best of 5.88m.
“They’ve brought in a good field,” said Barber, adding that he was happy with his own form and looking forward to Wednesday’s competition. “I’m healthy. I’m jumping very well. I want to get out and put a height up there.”
The Beijing meeting will see the return of several other world champions to the Bird's Nest stadium.
Ezekiel Kemboi, who won his fourth-straight world title last August, is listed for the 3000m steeplechase, Danielle Williams in the 100m hurdles and Katharina Molitor in the javelin.
Ahoure turns attention to 100m
After defeating Veronica Campbell-Brown to win the 200m in Shanghai, Murielle Ahoure turns her focus to the 100m in Beijing.
With a season’s best of 11.02, when finishing fourth at the opening IAAF Diamond League meeting in Doha earlier this month, Ahoure enjoys an advantage over her closest rivals on time.
Candyce McGrone, fourth in the 200m at the World Championships last year, is closest to Ahoure on times with 11.13 this year.
Campbell-Brown was annoyed with herself after losing in Shanghai, suggesting she should learn to back off a little in her training. She gets a chance to atone in the 200m here, in which her main rivals appear to be Simone Facey and Tiffany Townsend.
The only men’s sprint on the programme is the 100m in which world silver medallist Justin Gatlin heads the field.
Gatlin ran an easy-looking 9.94 to win in Shanghai. Despite the addition of Chinese record-holder Zhang Peimeng to the field, there seems little likelihood of that pecking order being changed here.
With warmer weather and a faster track here, the interest will be in what time Gatlin can run.
Zhang aiming for home town glory
Three of the top four finishers from last year's World Championships will reunite in the women's hammer, part of the IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge.
China's world silver medallist Zhang Wenxiu may need to improve on her season's best of 71.98m if she is to take victory on home soil as USA's Amber Campbell, Moldova's Zalina Marghieva and Azerbaijan's Hanna Skydan have all thrown farther than Zhang this year.
World bronze medallist Alexandria Tavernier, British record-holder Sophie Hitchon and North American record-holder Amanda Bingson are also capable of challenging for victory and scoring valuable challenge points.
Williams' return highlights hurdles
One of the pleasant shocks of last year’s World Championships was the victory of Danielle Williams in the 100m hurdles, the Jamaican beating a field of nominally faster opponents in 12.57.
Williams is back here for the World Challenge meeting, along with her half-sister Shermaine, who was seventh in the World Championships final.
Danielle Williams has run ‘only’ 13.05 this year, but as that was into a -2.8m/s headwind, it was likely to be far better than it looked. Indeed, she followed it with a wind-assisted 12.55 in Kingston.
As ever in China, the men’s hurdles will also be an attraction of the meeting.
World record-holder and Olympic champion Aries Merritt has stayed on after Shanghai and will be keen to record a performance after his false-start disqualification there.
USA's 2011 world champion Jason Richardson is also in the field while China will again look to Xie Wenjun, third in Shanghai.
Kenyans the favourites in the middle distances
World youth champion Willy Tarbei, who does not turn 18 until 30 May, will attract plenty of interest in the men’s 800m.
The Kenyan teenager ran a season’s best of 1:44.84 in Herzogenaurach on Saturday, though his best is the 1:44.51 he ran in Nairobi last year at the Kenyan youth selection trials.
Foremost among his older opponents here are the US pair of Eric Sowinski and Nick Symmonds, both looking to bounce back after the strange race in Shanghai.
Hellen Obiri ran 3:59.34 behind her Kenyan compatriot Faith Kipyegon in Shanghai last Saturday and looks the pick of the women’s 1500m field provided she has recovered well from that effort.
Morocco’s Siham Hilali and UAE’s Betlhem Desalegn are among those hoping that fresh legs work to their advantage.
Kemboi looks the pick of the steeplechase field, which is not hard when you have won gold or silver at the past seven World Championships, as well as gold at the London 2012 Olympics Games. Abraham Kibiwott and John Koech, third and fourth in Doha in personal best times below 8:10.00, will be looking to capitalise on any early season rustiness on the great man’s part.
Molitor, Mitchell, Li and Lyu head javelin field
China will have high hopes of a win in the women’s javelin, in which Li Lingwei and Lyu Huihui are up against Germany’s world champion Katharina Molitor and Australia’s Kathryn Mitchell.
A more likely source of home victory might be the men’s high jump in which Zhang Guowei and Wang Yu will be competing. The pair share the world lead at 2.33m, along with Erik Kynard.
There will also be good chances in the long jump where Shanghai winner Gao Xinglong, world bronze medallist Wang Jianan and Li Jinzhe are up against last year’s world leader Jeff Henderson and Jarvis Gotch, the latter having jumped 8.24m this year.
The women’s high jump features a rematch between Shanghai first and second-place finishers Levern Spencer and Nadiya Dusanova.
Len Johnson for the IAAF