Nairobi, March 31 (IANS) Olympic and World 800m champion David Rudisha of Kenya will launch his season in China at the Shanghai Diamond League meeting on May 13.
Rudisha, who is seeking to retain his gold medal at the London World Championships in August, will lead a galaxy of stars to the premier Chinese grand prix meeting as the race to London takes off, reports Xinhua news agency.
"It will be an honour to compete again in China. I love their fans and their stadiums," he said.
Rudisha made his international debut in China at the Beijing World Junior Championships back in 2006 winning gold but missed the Beijing Olympics in 2008 because of a tendon injury. He, however, returned to the Chinese capital two years ago to amend his miss and won gold in the 800m race.
Now he will be among the 13 Rio Olympic champions announced for the 2017 Shanghai Diamond League on May 13, the second stop on the International Association of Athletics Federations' global circuit of premier one-day meetings.
The stellar line-up includes four gold medallists from the Beijing 2015 International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships and nine event winners from the 2016 Diamond Race, plus an array of last year's world leading performers.
One of those is sprint hurdler Omar McLeod, who produced the world's fastest time of the season to win the Shanghai meeting's traditional closing event, the men's 110m hurdles.
Others are Spain's Orlando Ortega, the former Cuban who took the silver medal in Rio and went on to win the 2016 Diamond Race trophy.
Ortega was second behind world champion David Oliver in Shanghai two years ago but will be looking to make amends in 2017 after being disqualified for a false start last year.
Rudisha is one of four Beijing 2015 champions who will look for some early pointers just three months ahead of his world title defence.
The 800m world record holder (1:40.91) made his Shanghai Diamond League debut last May and went on to retain the Olympic title in Rio in style.
This year the Kenyan will be keen to tap into memories of his astonishing world record victory at the 2012 Olympics to spur him on the road to London 2017.
The men's field events also feature some intriguing match-ups. Canada's world and Olympic champion Derek Drouin takes on China's world silver medallist Zhang Guowei in the high jump, while the pole vault pitches Brazil's Rio hero Thiago Braz against France's world indoor record holder, Renaud Lavillenie.
The women's events will be no less star-studded. A trio of Olympic champions will grace the women's distance events: 1,500m gold medallist Faith Kipyegon, who broke the Kenyan and meeting record in Shanghai last May will be on the lead while Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia, who smashed the meeting's 5,000m record two years ago, will be the athlete to beat in the 5,000m race.