The launch of the 2021 Kip Keino Classic World Athletics Continental Tour Gold meeting (© Dan Vernon)
Olympic champions Soufiane El Bakkali of Morocco and Wojciech Nowicki of Poland are the first big names confirmed to compete at next month’s Kip Keino Classic, the final meeting of this year’s World Athletics Continental Tour Gold series.
El Bakkali snapped the Kenyan winning streak in the men’s 3000m steeplechase at the Tokyo Olympics, while Nowicki won the gold medal in the men’s hammer throw.
Meeting director Barnabar Korir announced today (20) that athletes from at least 28 countries would compete on 18 September at Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi, which is currently hosting the World Athletics U20 Championships.
Korir is confident that Africa’s highest-ranking one-day meeting, successfully established last year, will be able to host up to 15,000 spectators after negotiations are completed with the Kenyan Government. Unfortunately, this week’s championships have had to go ahead without fans in the grandstands.
"We are going to make this a very successful and entertaining event, and we hope this is the moment when people can come back to the stadium," Korir said, adding that they intended to showcase the top athletics talent from all over Africa along with those from other continents.
“We want to encourage athletes from regional Africa to come and compete.”
Given the strength of the Kenyan national team, and the rare opportunity for the top Kenyan athletes to compete at home against an international field, the meeting is assured of outstanding fields, particularly in the middle distance events.
Two of the rising Kenyan athletes who hope to show their talents in Nairobi next month, Olympic 800m semi-finalist Mary Moraa and 2016 world U20 1500m champion Kumari Taki, encouraged their fellow African athletes to take the opportunity to gain international experience and set qualifying times for next year’s World Athletics Championships in Eugene.
“We welcome all countries to come to Kenya to compete," said Moraa.
Moraa, who began her international career as a 400m runner, has been something of a revelation over 800m this year and will use this opportunity to gain more experience over two laps.
Taki, 22, is looking forward to making his competition comeback before his home crowd after an ill-timed leg injury a month before the Kenyan Olympic trials denied him the opportunity to make his Olympic debut in Tokyo this year
“We really appreciated having this big event in 2020 and I did really well - I was No.2 to Tim Cheruiyot (the Olympic silver medallist in Tokyo) - so it’s a good place for me to come back from this injury," he said.
World Athletics chief executive Jon Ridgeon, in Nairobi for the World U20 Championships, said the governing body was determined to expand the range of international competition opportunities both across Africa and around the globe.
“Our ambition is to build more top quality one-day meetings around the world, both for the athletes and the fans," he said.
“Last year we had seven Continental Tour Gold meetings and this year we have 12 spread across four continents. The television coverage has been really strong, some 130 territories have shown the action this year. But we also want to give (the fans) the opportunity to see their home-grown athletes in their home-grown meetings.
“We are ambitious for the future and we are committed to growing the tour. We are hugely motivated to stage more Continental Tour meetings across the continent of Africa.”
The Continental Tour Gold series recommences with the Kamila Skolimowska Memorial meeting in Chorzow, Poland, on 5 September, before travelling to Zagreb for the Borisa Hanzekovica Memorial on 14 September and finishing in Nairobi.
Nicole Jeffery for World Athletics