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Athletics: Brit hero facing 'biggest challenge' since London

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

British long jump hero Greg Rutherford said he's facing his "biggest challenge" since taking London Olympics gold Thursday when he goes up against his two predecessors at Shanghai's Diamond League meet.

Rutherford, one of seven current Olympic champions in Shanghai, will face Beijing 2008 winner Irving Saladino and America's Dwight Phillips, the Athens 2004 gold-medallist who has been sidelined with injury for the last two years.

Australia's world 2011 and Olympic 2012 silver medallist Mitchell Watt is also vying for victory in Saturday's meet in Shanghai, the second leg in this year's Diamond League series.

"For me this is definitely going to be the biggest challenge since the Olympics," Rutherford told reporters in Shanghai.

"Mitch is going to be here which is going to make it quite interesting. Dwight is obviously here. It is a stacked field for us, so by far the biggest competition we have all had so far."

Rutherford beat Watt at the Melbourne World Challenge in April, but said he could not recall the last time all four long jumpers had faced each other.

The long jump is one of four re-runs in Shanghai between gold and silver medallists from London 2012, including a men's 400m duel with Olympic champion Kirani James from Grenada, and Luguelin Santos of Dominican Republic.

The pair also come up against the bronze medallist from London, Trinidad and Tobago's Lalonde Gordon, and LaShawn Merritt of the US, who took gold in Beijing.

In the men's 110m hurdles, Olympic champion Aries Merritt of the US faces compatriot Jason Richardson, who claimed silver in London.

China's national athletics hero Liu Xiang, who won the 110m hurdles at the Athens Olympics, remains out of action after his dramatic injury exit from the London Games.

Three double Olympic champions are among the women's stars with Jamaica's Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce competing in the 100m against world title-holder Carmelita Jeter, whom she beat into second place in London.

Ethiopia's two-time Olympic champion Meseret Defar heads a talented 5,000m field, and Yelena Isinbayeva, considered the greatest ever woman pole vaulter, is another headliner.

The Russian failed to become the first women in history to win three successive Olympic crowns when she took bronze in London, a result which led her to postpone her retirement plans.

She indicated that she may decide to end her career on home soil at the world championships later this year.

"About my retirement, it is going to be a difficult decision, and you know it is difficult to say right now what I am going to do after the world championships in Moscow. It will depend on my performance there," she said.

Men's javelin star Andreas Thorkildsen will also hope to claim victory in Shanghai after a disappointing London 2012.

The Norwegian gold-medallist from Athens and Beijing is facing off against 19-year-old Keshorn Walcott of Trinidad, who surprised the world by winning the Olympic title last summer.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130516/athletics-rutherford-faces-former-champions-shanghai