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Lapierre opens Diamond title defence in Shanghai

12 May 2017

ATHLETICS: Five Australians will be competing in Shanghai for the second round of the IAAF Diamond League this weekend, including in-form Fabrice Lapierre (NSW) who won the long jump competition last year.

The entry list for the men’s long jump is littered with stars from Rio Olympic champion Jeff Henderson (USA) to silver medallist Luvo Manyonga (RSA) who already has an 8.62m under his belt this season and has cited a world record pursuit.

Also down to jump is rising US star Jarrion Lawson who has a season’s best of 8.02m from the Melbourne Nitro Athletics series before recently competing as a sprinter in the IAAF World Relays in the Bahamas.

Despite coming in to the meet with a modest season’s best of 7.89m it seems Lapierre is in good form and ready for a breakout jump following a wind-assisted 8.50m at the Austin Longhorn Invitational in Texas, USA.

The competition in Shanghai will be the first round of five competitions of the men's long jump in the Diamond League series, where athletes score points based on finishing positions. Lapierre's consistent 2016 series saw him take home the coveted overall diamond award, but will need to perform well at this year's final in Zurich, should he wish to go back-to-back. More info on the new scoring format can be found here.

Lapierre notched a win in the Boston Indoor Grand Prix back in January and will be looking to build momentum towards the IAAF London World Championships two years after he won the silver medal at the Beijing championships.

Olympic semi-finalist sprinter Morgan Mitchell (Vic) will line up in a world-class 400m race against five women who have broken the 50-second barrier in their careers.

The 22-year-old Victorian will have a great opportunity to run a personal best after a strong domestic season, and will likely have to clock a career run to be amongst the top finishers.

She enters the race with a season’s best of 51.64 seconds, just four tenths of a second outside her best set in Birmingham last year, and will be up against reigning Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo (BAH).

Champion discus thrower Dani Stevens (NSW) comes to Shanghai on the verge of throwing a personal best during the recent Australian domestic season, which included winning her twelfth national title.

She has thrown 66.78m twice this year, less than two metres off her best of 67.99m, and will compete against the three medallists that finished ahead of her at the Rio Olympics.

The 2009 world champion has already qualified for the London championships and may have an eye on the national record of 68.72m throughout the European season.

Australian middle distance pair Linden Hall (Vic) and Jenny Blundell (NSW), who both made the semi-finals in Rio, will compete in the 1500m amongst a quick field featuring four women who have broken four minutes.

Reigning Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon (KEN) will toe the line with a personal best of 3:56.41 she set at the Prefontaine Classic last year, the same race where Hall posted her career best of 4:01.78.

From a total of six 1500m races, Hall has a season’s best of 4:08.98 from the 2017 Victorian championships, before she closed out her domestic campaign with a bronze medal at the Australian Athletics Championships in a slow race.

Blundell has only lost one race over the distance this year, which was to Hall at the Canberra Grand Prix, in a season’s best time of 4:12.76 at the AIS track.

In 2016, she ran a personal best of 4:04.62 at this very meet and will be looking to get a lot closer to the qualifying mark of 4:07.50 for the upcoming London world championships.

The men’s 800m sees the season debut of double Olympic champion David Rudisha (KEN) against a strong field featuring seven others who have bests under 1:44 and both the other Kenyan finalists from Rio.

Rio Olympic silver medallist Hellen Obiri (KEN) is the fastest woman in the 5000m field with a personal best of 14:25.78 and should have a good race with fifth-placed Senbere Teferi (ETI) who ran 14:29.82 last year.

In the field events, Qatari star high jumper Mutaz Essa Barshim has another shot to get closer to the world record, while Renaud Lavillenie (FRA) will square off with Thiago Braz in the pole vault for the first time since the two's amazing duel in Rio.

Reigning Olympic champion Elaine Thompson (JAM) will run the 100m before American pair Wallace Spearmon and LaShawn Merritt battle over 200m.

Rounding out the competition will be the men’s 110m hurdles which will see local favourite Wenjun Xie (CHN) race world record holder Aries Merritt (USA).

Athletics Australia

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