Time for world beaters to show their supremacy at Kip Keino Classic

Kenya's Ferdinand Omanyala (centre) beats Americans Bracy Williams and Bednarek Kenneth in the 100m men's finals during the 2023 Kip Keino Classic Continental Tour meet at Kasarani Stadium. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

It’s all systems go ahead of the fifth edition of Absa Kip Keino Classic, a World Athletics Continental Tour Gold, at Nyayo National Stadium, Nairobi today.

Intense rivalry is expected to play out between home boy Ferdinand Omanyala and Olympics 200m silver medallist Kenneth Bednarek of USA in the men’s 100m category.

Africa’s fastest man and Commonwealth champion Omanyala is going for a third successive gold while Bednarek is looking for a maiden victory.

Omanyala has downplayed his potential in the looming showdown, only stating that he will put his best foot forward to post faster times.

On the other hand, in-form Bednarek has warned Omanyala to expect a tough outing on the Nyayo tracks, declaring that the men’s 100m gold is headed to America.

Men’s 200m will definitely be blazing. African 200m champion Letsile 'School Boy' Tebogo of Botswana is very much ready not only to chill with the big boys, but the 20-year-old double world medallist has promised to teach the big boys a lesson in his debut. He will be up in arms against Courtney Lindsey of USA who is fresh from posting a world lead last weekend. Interestingly, the category is poised to usher in a new champion as there is no past winner present to reclaim their titles, including double champion Aaron Brown of Canada.

Former Youth Olympics silver medallist Amos Kirui will be all out to defend the men’s 3000m steeplechase. Kirui destroyed the fields in the category last season, beating his perennial challenger and double champion Abraham Kibiwott to the gong. The discipline has attracted a strong field of 14 athletes from three nations, with a chunk of the world beaters coming from perennial rivals Ethiopia and Kenya. Only one contestant, Elphas Ndiwa, is from the neighbouring Uganda.

World 800m silver medallist Emmanuel Wanyonyi will still be the man to beat in the two-lap race. However, last season’s bronze medallist Timothy Cheruiyot has promised to crank the heat up, and the cue has been taken up by the other world beaters salivating for the title including the Yassine Hethat of Ethiopia, Fwerguson Rotich, Aron Kemei and Khaled Benmadhi of Uganda.

On the other hand, world 800m champion Mary Moraa has already sent a very strong warning to those expecting to dethrone her in the women’s showpiece to prepare for a rough ride. Moraa has challenged her rivals to step up their game as she will be riding on another level, with hopes that she will post a sub 1:56 in the race.

In javelin, men’s defending champion Timothy Herman of Belgium is out for two straight wins in his fourth appearance. But his expected party might just not materialise following the entry of 2016 Olympic champion Thomas Rohler into the game. Rohler has already declared that he is looking for the top accolade in his debut and his determination is definitely giving Herman and other contestants sleepless nights. Home boy Julius Yego is another dark horse in the contest. Yego is looking to better his fifth-place finish last season even as he casts his eyes wide to the summer Olympics in Paris.

The Commonwealth Games 4x400m relay bronze medallist Wiseman Were wants to continue dominating the men’s 400m hurdles and this is why he is going for a third successive victory in the category where he has plenty of perennial rivals including the 2020 champion William Mbevi who he relegated to silver two years ago.

In hammer throw, world silver medallist Janee Kassanavoid of USA landed in Kenya full of high spirit ahead of her title defence. She expressed her elation at competing in the global showpiece for the fourth time. She will be up in arms against four-time world champion Anita Wlodarczyk of Poland.

In the men’s hammer category, Olympic champion Wojcieh Nowicki of Poland will be the man to watch. Going by his form, it will take a tall order to bar Nowicki from a third Kip Keino Classic title.

Other mouthwatering duels are expected in other categories. The championship is expected to glue Kenyans not able to make it to Nyayo Stadium and millions of viewers following the event from across the globe to the screens.

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