Soufiane El Bakkali and Benjamin Kigen compete in the Wanda Diamond League final in Zurich (© AFP / Getty Images)
Fresh from hosting the World Athletics U20 Championships, top-class action will be returning to the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, on Saturday (18) for the Absa Kip Keino Classic - the final World Athletics Continental Tour Gold meeting for 2021.
New world 10km record-holder Agnes Tirop, two-time Olympic 1500m champion Faith Kipyegon, Olympic steeplechase champions Soufiane El Bakkali and Peruth Chemutai, Olympic hammer gold medallist Wojciech Nowicki and Wanda Diamond League winner Fred Kerley are among the entries for the competition in Nairobi, Kenya.
The focus in the men's 3000m steeplechase will be on the man who ended Kenya’s dominance in the event at the Tokyo Olympic Games: Morocco’s El Bakkali. He is already in the country, bringing the supremacy battle to the Kenyan runners on their own soil.
Newly crowned world U20 champion Amos Serem and Diamond League winner Benjamin Kigen will be there to try and make sure that a Kenyan wins the event that has always been the nation’s pride in major track and field meetings across the world.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic champion in the women’s event, Uganda’s Chemutai, will also be present, and it won’t be just the men who will have a hard time trying to defend their steeplechase supremacy. Although, from the list of confirmed runners for the event, Kenya’s Olympic bronze medallist Hyvin Kiyeng, Celliphine Chespol and Winfred Yavi of Bahrain had beaten Chemutai during the final of the Diamond League series in Zurich. Kenya’s hopes will be on Kiyeng, Chespol, Purity Kirui and Rosefline Chepngetich.
After winning her second Olympic gold and then claiming the Diamond League title in Zurich, Kipyegon returns to 1500m action and she is joined by Winnie Chebet, Purity Chepkirui and Mercy Cherono. Tirop, who recently took 28 seconds off the long-standing women-only world record for 10km with 30:01 in Herzogenaurach, is expected to feature with Margaret Kipkemboi and Lilian Kasait in the 5000m.
Mary Moraa and world champion Halimah Nakaayi will be in the women's 800m, while the men's event features Olympic silver medallist Ferguson Rotich, Cornelius Tuwei and Collins Kipruto. In the men's 1500m are world U20 champion Vincent Keter and Olympic fourth-place finisher Abel Kipsang, while Edward Zakayo, Nicholas Kimeli and Jacob Krop go in the 5000m.
USA's Kerley, who won silver in the 100m at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and the Diamond Trophy in that event in Zurich, is expected to feature prominently in the men’s 200m. He will be up against Italy's 4x100m champion Filippo Tortu, Ramil Guliyev, the 2017 world champion, and Isaac Makwala of Botswana, the 2018 Commonwealth Games champion.
With Marie-Josee Ta Lou of Ivory Coast and Christine Mboma of Namibia featuring in the women’s 200m event, this also promises to be one of the thrilling races. Less than a month after running a World U20 Championships record of 21.84 in the same stadium, Mboma could go quicker this time, with no qualification rounds and having an extra push from Ta Lou’s competition.
In the men’s 100m, Trayvon Bromell – who has shown great form this year having run a world-leading time of 9.77 and having won the US Olympic Trials – will be the star to watch. His countryman, Justin Gatlin, will also be on the start line. However, the home fans will be eager to watch Ferdinand Omanyala, who made history by becoming the first Kenyan to reach the men's Olympic 100m semifinals in Tokyo, where he narrowly missed the final.
Poland's Nowicki is joined in the men’s hammer throw competition by his countryman and Olympic bronze medallist Pawel Fajdek – the four-time world champion. In what should be an eye-opener for athletes in the region, the men’s pole vault event so far doesn’t have an entrant from Kenya, the East African region, or the African continent as a whole. The third and fourth-placed Diamond League finalists, Timur Morgunov and Ernest Obiena, should make this an interesting event to watch.
Gloria Mulei and Petronilla Mwombe will be competing on home soil in the women’s long jump which features US heptathlete Taliyah Brooks, while Lucy Omondi and Rebecca Kerubo will contest the hammer throw along with 2015 world bronze medallist Alexandra Tavernier.
Justin Lagat for World Athletics