But the night belonged to Liu who in the final event of the programme flew over the hurdles to rapturous applause, catapulting himself into the favourite’s berth for the Olympics later this summer with a superb clocking of 12.97. The time is Liu’s fastest for five seasons and will send shudders through the opposition, three of whom were present in Shanghai. Both the indoor and outdoor world champions, Aries Merritt and Jason Richardson, were bit-part players in fourth and third positions respectively, while former meeting record holder, David Oliver, was a valiant second.
Dibaba was equally impressive in the 1500m with a composed surge to the line, clocking 3:57.77, a national record, a meeting record and the fastest in the world for two seasons. With the world indoor title already in her pocket, this youngest of the Ethiopian Dibaba sisters is destined for great things.
Not too far behind in terms of excellence was Croatia’s Sandra Perkovic in the discus. The throwing events can be more hazardous than most in wet conditions, but the European champion hardly noticed, registering her third personal best (68.24) and national record in as many seasons.
Milcah Chemos had a fine 2011 in the steeplechase, but failed at the final hurdle in the world championships when she could manage no higher than the bronze medal position. Here, though, she took over where she left off before Daegu with a gutsy win in an excellent time of 9:15.8, the fifth fastest of her career. She often looked uncomfortable in the rainy conditions, but it was when she came under greatest pressure from Ethiopian Sofia Assefa in the final straight that she relaxed the most to cruise to victory.
The triple jump had a peerless line-up with all the medallists from the Daegu world championships in action. But it was the Briton Phillips Idowu who was most at home in the conditions. On a day when decent marks were at a premium, Idowu went out to 17.24 in the second round and no one else could come close. Neither of the Americans. Christian Taylor and Willie Claye, looked comfortable and since there is a distinct possibility that London in the summer may not be much of an improvement on a dank Shanghai, Idowu can take hope from his win. A meeting record, it may not have been a world lead, but it could be a significant pointer of things to come.
Ethiopia’s Hagos Gebrhiwet was probably the most unrecognisable of the contenders for 5000m honours here. He had a road time of 13:14 from Carlsbad this season, but little else to indicate he was capable of winning. In the event, he not only won but set a meeting record of 13:11.00 and left in his wake a raft of East African talent including Olympic champion and fellow-countryman, Kenenisa Bekele.
One of the early meeting records in the evening programme was Janay DeLoach’s long jump of 6.73 which represents the tenth longest of her career for the world indoor silver medallist. Spare a thought, though, for Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare who led for most on the competition only to be denied in the final round on this her season debut.
Two of the eagerly awaited races were the men’s and women’s sprints which both went to Jamaica in the person of Asafa Powell in the 100m and Veronica Campbell-Brown in the 200m.
Campbell-Brown, who won here over 100m last year, had the more difficult task since she was up against a battling Carmelita Jeter. The race was virtually a re-run of the world championships in Daegu as Jeter pressed hard only for the Jamaican to show impressive strength while the American faltered in the final few metres.
There were impressive wins in the 400m for Novelene Williams-Mills, Angelo Taylor in the 400m hurdles and world youth champion, Leonard Kosencha Kirwa, in the 800m, yet another middle distance talent to emerge out of Kenya.
If there was a shock, it was probably Olympic champion, Steve Hooker of Australia, failing to clear a height in the pole vault. But given the conditions, even that could be excused.