The Shanghai Golden Grand Prix is growing up fast. Only five years after it was first organised it has blossomed quickly into adulthood as one of 14 meetings which can claim historical status as an inaugural member of the Diamond League.
So fast has been the Shanghai journey that it’s like it has just run 100m in 9.69sec, which is what Tyson Gay did there in 2009 on a breathtaking occasion for sprinting. Gay’s performance, and that of his fellow American, Carmelita Jeter, who ran 10.64, was the quickest male/female one-day double in history.
That is how far Shanghai has come in a short time. For many years the Chinese city was better-known for being the home of one athlete – former 110m Hurdles World record holder and Olympic and World champion Liu Xiang - but that is changing.
Among the highlights in 2005, Shanghai’s first year, World and Olympic champion Dwight Phillips, from the United States, won the men’s Long Jump with 8.39 and Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele the 3000m in 7:36.4. In the women’s events, Morocco’s Hasna Benhassi won the women’s 800m in 1:58.6 and Nadezhda Ostapchuk, from Belarus, the Shot Put with 19.76. All survived into the Diamond League era as meeting records.
In 2006, Christian Cantwell, of the US, won the men’s Shot Put with 21.08 and Russia’s Yaroslav Rybakov the High Jump with 2.33. In the women’s events, Novlene Williams, of Jamaica, won the 400m in 49.63 and Yevgeniya Isakova, of Russia, the 400m Hurdles in 53.96. These, too, survived into the Diamond League era as meeting records.
The third edition, in September 2007, was designated as the start of the 2008 IAAF World Athletics Tour. The new season began only five days after the end of the old one and it was marked by the defeat of new World champions Gay and Liu. Gay trailed compatriot Wallace Spearmon and Cuba’s Dayron Robles won the 110m Hurdles, with Liu third.
Back in China within a month of the end of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Shanghai marked the start of the 2009 World Athletics Tour. Olympic champions Veronica Campbell-Brown, Angelo Taylor, Wilfred Bungei, Dawn Harper and Yelena Isinbayeva were victorious again. Campbell-Brown, from Jamaica, the Olympic 200m champion, took the 100m; Taylor, from the US, the Olympic 400m Hurdles champion, won the 400m; Kenya’s Bungei won the 800m; Harper, from the US, took the 100m Hurdles; and Isinbayeva, from Russia, clinched the Pole Vault.
Shanghai’s 2009 edition commanded worldwide attention as Gay and Jeter stormed their 100m races. Yet neither was the highlight for the home crowd as Liu made his comeback from injury after a 13-month absence. In his first race since he was forced to pull out of his heat in his home Olympics, he placed second behind American Terrence Trammell, both in 13.15.
Gay’s 9.69 was joint second fastest in history and a new US record, while Jeter’s was the fourth quickest by a woman. Gay’s mark equalled the World record that Usain Bolt had recorded in winning the 2008 Olympic title before the Jamaican improved it to 9.58 in taking the 2009 World title in Berlin.
A few days before Shanghai Jeter had become the third fastest woman with a 10.67 clocking in the World Athletics Final, in Thessaloniki, and she improved her ranking here to No.2 with 10.64. Only three runs by compatriot Florence Griffith-Joyner in 1988 were quicker.
Shanghai had witnessed fast times in the past – five of the top 10 quickest women’s 1500m performances going into the Diamond League season were set by Chinese runners here in 1997 – but that was in a different age. Now the doors have been opened for international stars to display their talents and the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix is the place to do it.