Nairobi teeming with foreign world athletics superstars

Olympic 100m champion Lamont Marcell Jacobs

Olympic 100 metres champion Lamont Marcell Jacobs (right) poses for a photo upon arrival at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi on May 5, 2022 ahead of the Kip Keino Classic set for Saturday at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani. 

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Bring it on! Olympic 100m champ relishing clash with Africa’s fastest human Omanyala and the man he beat in Tokyo to second place American Kerley
  • Reigning Olympic Games men’s 100m champion Italian Marcell Jacobs, Jamaican sprint queen Fraser-Pryce, Namibian golden girl land in Nairobi, promise a treat for athletics fans at the MISC track on Saturday.

Olympic champions Marcell Jacobs and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce intend to bring down the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani with fast times in the third editions of  the Absa Kip Keino Classic on Saturday.

The 35-year-old Fraser-Pryce promised to repay her supportive Kenyans fans with a solid performance in women’s 100m as Italian Jacobs, 27, dared Africa fastest man,  Kenya’s Ferdinand Omanyala to live up to his threat in the men’s 100m race.

Both are racing in Africa for the first time.

Jamaican Fraser-Pryce, who won gold in 4x100m at the Tokyo Olympics after 100m victories at 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympics, and Jacobs, the Tokyo Olympics 100m champion, were speaking soon after arrival in the country on Wednesday night.

Fraser-Pryce said the push by her Kenyans fans on her Facebook page lured her to compete at this year’s Kip Keino Classic, a World Athletics Continental Gold Tour event.

“My huge base of Kenyan fans on my social media pages have for long been requesting me to come compete in Kenya,” Fraser-Pryce said. “I want to repay that with a promise of a good, exciting and fast race of course.”

Fraser-Pryce said coming to Kenya where she intends to start her 100m season meant a lot to her and her fans too.

“It was a long journey from my hometown of Kingston but it feels good to be in Kenya for the first time.”

Fraser-Pryce noted that the Jamaican team that competed in the World Athletics Under-20 Championships in Nairobi last year, brought back home good memories.

Fraser-Pryce said she too is looking forward to having a fantastic race, and enjoy the experience in Kenya that is well known world over for athletics.

“The world talks about Kenya being the home of athletics and I definitely wanted to come here and open my season in 100m. Hopefully, I will be able to put up a solid race with good execution,” said Fraser-Pryce, who is regarded as one of the greatest female sprinters of all time.

“I also know that Kenya has 42 tribes but the Maasais are the most famous. That is why I look forward to Kenya’s great hospitality,” said Fraser-Pryce with a telling laugh.

Fraser-Pryce, who has eight Olympic medals and 12 World Athletics Championships medals, said was focused on starting the season well by having the right foundation ahead of the World Championships in July in Oregon, United States.

With age catching up, Fraser-Pryce hinted that she will run sparingly so as to preserve herself for a possible fifth appearance at the Olympics. The next Games  are in Paris 20224.

“I want to execute my technique the best way possible to make sure I get my core times and targets,” said the mother of one, adding that competing against strong opponents like Tokyo Olympics 200m silver medallist Christine Mboma will bring out her “A” game.

Fraser-Pryce, who ran a personal best 10.60 seconds from Lausanne’s leg of the Diamond League last year, said she wants to run 10.50 or even 10.40 this year. The time ranks her as the third fastest woman in history.

“Anything is possible this season after I had a good season, striking the third fastest time ever after the Tokyo Olympics,” said Fraser-Pryce, noting that the secret to her longevity and good performance is hunger, passion and the goals she has set.
“One must never settle in,” said Fraser-Pryce, a great admirer of former Olympic champions Ezekiel Kemboi (3,000m steeplechase) and Asbel Kiprop (1,500).

"I particularly love Kemboi for his energy and dance after finishing his races,” said Fraser-Pryce.

Jacobs, the World Indoor 60m champion, said he is aware that Omanyala, the Africa's fastest man, has vowed to beat him. "I read about his sentiments and I know anything is possible. I like such challenges because they are good for the race," said Jacobs.

Jacobs acknowledged that Omanyala, who has owns a personal best 9.77 seconds, is a good runner but said he is ready for the “race of rematches”.

"I met him once in the 60m at the World Indoor Tour in February but I look forward to racing against him again. I can't wait," said Jacobs.

Omanyala finished fourth in 6.57 seconds at the Meeting Hauts-de France Pas-de-Calais in Levine, France on February 17 where Jacobs won in 6.50.

The Kip Keino Classic men’s 100m also had Olympic 100m silver medallist Fred Kerley from the United States.

It's Jacobs who beat Kerley to gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, clocking 9.80 seconds. Kerley, 26, settled for silver in 9.84.

Canadian Aaron Brown, who won silver in 4x100m at the Tokyo Olympic Games, and has personal best 9.996 second in 100m, and Americans Isiah Young (100m) and King Kyree (200m) also jetted in on Wednesday.

Others arriving on the day were veteran high jumper Inika Mcpherson and hammer thrower Janee Kassanavoid, all from United States.

Yesterday was a busy day for the organisers with most of the foreign athletes jetting in.
Tokyo Olympics 3,000m steeplechase champion Peruth Chemutai and 2019 World 800m champion Halimah Nakaayi from Uganda arrived Thursday.

Also to land were the 2015 Beijing World javelin throw silver medallist Ihab Abdelrahman and 2019 African Games 200m bronze medallist Bassant Hemida (100m) all from Egypt, and European Under-23 javelin silver medallist Leandro Ramos from Portugal.