No Fraser-Pryce, No problem as world beaters collide at Kip Keino Classic meet

Kenya's Faith Kipyegon in action during women's 1500m semifinal, at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.[Reuters]

From south pole to north pole, the world awaits the clash between world’s top track and field athletes at the fourth edition of Kip Keino Classic meet, the World Continental Tour, at Kasarani Stadium this afternoon.

But the competition –especially the sprints –looks quite unpredictable.

The showpiece, which is billed as Africa's biggest athletics meeting this season, will no doubt result in a dogfight inside the 60,000 seater sporting cathedral.

There will be plenty of mouth-watering clashes on the card as the world's best athletes battle for glory, with athletes expected to set fastest times on African soil.

It will hardly come as a surprise to the athletes over sudden loss of love and affection as global track stars battle for glory in core events at the World Athletics season opener.

Sadly, Jamaica's three-time Olympic 100m champion Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce withdrew from the contest over a sudden injury.

“I am deeply disappointed to share that I will not be competing at the Kip Keino Classic. I was truly looking forward to kick off my season at one the greatest athletic events in East Africa. I love coming to Nairobi and seeing the fans and people; there’s an unspoken energy you can’t find anywhere else," said Fraser-Pryce in a statement.

Fraser-Pryce delighted fans last year with her 100m win. Africa 100m record holder Ferdinand Omanyala and  world 800m bronze medallist Mary Moraa seek a strong start as three-time Olympic hammer champion Anita Wlodarczyk is back for another jewel in Nairobi. 

Omanyala has already promised to run an African record in the men’s 100m as he looks to improve his own 9.77 from Nairobi in 2021. Having clocked 14.89 for 150m in Atlanta last weekend – the fastest time by an African athlete over the distance – and as he remains unbeaten this year in the 100m, an event in which he ran a wind-assisted 9.78 (2.3m/s) to win in Botswana, fans should take his words seriously.

He must be at his best to counter USA’s Olympic and world 200m silver medallist Kenny Bednarek, who finished third at the Botswana Golden Grand Prix behind Omanyala and Botswana's rising talent Letsile Tebogo. Also in the mix are USA's world 100m silver medallist Marvin Bracy-Williams and Canada's Jerome Blake, who was part of the Canadian men's 4x100m team that won the world title.

The women's 200m race will feature USA's Sha'Carri Richardson, who ran a world-leading 10.76 for the 100m at the recent Diamond League meeting in Doha. Alexandra Burghardt, who was part of the German 4x100m team that won the European title last year, and Kyra Jefferson, the Pan American champion and three-time NACAC and NCAA champion, will be there to ensure it won't be an easy race for Richardson.

Zambia's Muzala Samukonga will light up the men's 400m. The Commonwealth Games and African champion set a world-leading national record of 43.91 in Botswana last month. Kenya's Emmanuel Korir will be aiming to lower the national record of 44.18. 

As Kenya is well known for its middle and long distance track runners, most of the events in this category are loaded with local talents and a few other stars from Ethiopia, Uganda and the rest of the region.

Emmanuel Wanyonyi returns to defend his 800m title against a strong field that includes Wycliffe Kinyamal, who finished second at the Doha Diamond League meeting last Friday. Racing a distance that is more than double his specialism, the 2021 world U20 champion Wanyonyi helped Kenya's 4x2km mixed relay team to win gold at the World Cross Country Championships in Bathurst in February, after his first leg put the team just behind South Africa.

His rivals include 2019 world 1500m champion Timothy Cheruiyot, who will be stepping down to the 800m after participating in the 3000m event in Doha. Another one to watch out for is Olympic 800m silver medallist Ferguson Rotich.

In the men’s 1500m, Adel Mechaal of Spain will bring competition to Kenyans on their home soil and will face Abel Kipsang, who recently ran 1:44.6 for 800m at altitude in Botswana, plus Kamar Etiang and Reynold Kipkorir.

The men's 3000m steeplechase comprises a new generation of Kenyan runners seeking to reclaim the nation’s glory in the event, led by Amos Serem, the 2021 world U20 champion, and more experienced athletes such as Abraham Kibiwott and Benjamin Kigen.

In the women's hammer throw, Poland’s three-time Olympic and four-time world champion Wlodarczyk is back to defend her title in her first competition since last June.

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