What you need to know:
- Winning the Kip Keino Classic and flooring Kerley and Jacobs in the process will certainly be a big statement of intent.
Kenya has produced world-class athletes over the years such that it’s almost a crime for us not to win gold at any athletics competition.
From Kipchoge Keino in the 60s and 70s, Henry Rono in the 80s, Douglas Wakiihuri, Paul Tergat, Catherine Ndereba, Ezekiel Kemboi, David Rudisha, Eliud Kipchoge…the list of legends keeps on growing.
However, from the current generation one man stands out having worked his way onto the lips of athletics fans despite not being a long or middle distance athlete —Ferdinand Omanyala.
It’s no wonder that with only two days to Saturday’s Kip Keino Classic, the 100 metres race is the talk of town with athletics fans eagerly awaiting the battle between African record holder Omanyala, Olympic champion Lamont Marcell Jacobs and American Olympic 200m silver medallist Fred Kerley.
In the inaugural edition of Kip Keino Classic in 2020, nobody bothered about the 100m race but ever since Omanyala emerged from a doping ban to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Games last year, interest in sprint races has sky rocketed locally.
Numbers don’t lie and Athletics Kenya can attest that the total number of sprinters who have attended their local meets has increased five-fold due to Omanyala’s performances.
Last year, Omanyala finished second behind American Trayvon Bromell in an astonishing 9.77 seconds to light up the Kip Keino Classic. It was without doubt, the highlight of the second edition as that 100m final thrust Omanyala and Bromell, who clocked 9.76, into the top 10 list of all-time fastest 100m athletes.
With fans being allowed into the stadium for this year’s edition, Omanyala has once again promised Kenyans a race to remember come Saturday.
He is the fastest man in the field and has vowed to make home advantage count. Already he has cracked 9.98 this season but Jacobs, whose Personal Best is 9.80 set when winning the Olympics gold last year, and Kerley, whose PB is 9.84 are worthy competitors.
Eyes will be on Jacobs as he runs his first 100m race this year at Kasarani but Kerley, who won the 200m race in last year’s edition, is a potential dark horse.
Omanyala has repeatedly talked about the need to add medals to his impressive CV starting with African Championships, Commonwealth Games and World Championships this year.
Winning the Kip Keino Classic and flooring Kerley and Jacobs in the process will certainly be a big statement of intent.
But whether he goes ahead to win medals or not at these championships, I strongly believe that when the history of Kenyan athletics is written a whole chapter should be spared for Omanyala — the only man who made Kenyans believe that the country can rival the best of the best in the world in 100m.