Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce wins the 100m in Nairobi (© AFP / Getty Images)
As expected, sprint events carried the day at the third edition of the Kip Keino Classic as fans were thrilled by world-leading runs in the men’s and women’s 100m at the World Athletics Continental Tour Gold meeting in Nairobi on Saturday (7).
World 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, competing in Kenya for the first time in her long and successful career, delighted the thousands of fans as the Kasarani Stadium with a 10.67 (-0.4m/s) victory in the 100m. Not only was it a meeting record, it was also a Kenyan all-comers’ record and the fastest ever season opener of any 100m sprinter in history.
“It was very good, the atmosphere was fantastic,” said Fraser-Pryce after clocking her third sub-10.7 run within 12 months. “I’m not sure if it was perfect – I’d have to see the replay. But the time tells me that my training has been going great.”
Egypt’s Bassant Hemida set a national record of 11.02 in second. USA’s Shannon Ray was third in 11.33. Olympic 200m silver medallist Christine Mboma had been in contention for a top-three finish but pulled up injured.
At the other end of the programme, Kenya’s Ferdinand Omanyala provided the climax of the evening. Olympic champion Marcell Jacobs was a late withdrawal after suffering from stomach problems since arriving in Kenya. Not that it mattered too much to the majority of fans in the stadium – most of whom went wild when Omanyala was introduced to the crowd.
And moments later, when Omanyala won in a world-leading 9.85 (2.0m/s), the noise from the spectators sounded like hailstones bounding on an iron sheet roof top. USA’s Olympic silver medallist Fred Kerley – who ran for a decent stretch after a recall gun was sounded at the first time of asking – finished second in a season’s best of 9.92 ahead of compatriot Isiah Young (10.13).
Big throws from global champions
Poland’s Olympic gold medallists Wojciech Nowicki and Anita Wlodarczyk dominated the hammer contests.
Nowicki’s showdown with Pawel Fajdek didn’t quite materialise after the multiple world champion missed his flight to Kenya, but the 33-year-old was still able to produce a world-leading mark of 81.43m without his big domestic rival present. Before today, no man had thrown beyond 80 metres in Kenya; Nowicki achieved it four times.
Three-time Olympic champion and world record-holder Wlodarczyk produced a third-round effort of 78.06m to overtake USA’s Janee Kassanavoid in the women’s hammer. Kassanavoid responded with a lifetime best of 76.82m in the penultimate round, which wasn’t enough to regain the lead, but elevated the 27-year-old to 15th on the world all-time list. Romania’s Bianca Ghelber threw a season’s best of 70.71m for third.
Earlier in the day, Egypt’s Ihab Abdelrahman won the men’s javelin with 83.79m from 2015 world champion Julius Yego (79.59m).
Kipsang, Welteji and Tanui impress
The altitude of Nairobi usually prevents any notably fast times in distance events, but a handful of events appeared almost unaffected as world-leading times were set in the women’s steeplechase, 5000m and both 1500m races.
World indoor bronze medallist Abel Kipsang opened a huge gap on the rest of the field in the second half of the men’s 1500m, breaking away to win in 3:31.01. Up-and-coming runner Raynold Kipkorir set a PB of 3:35.50 in second place.
The women’s race was closer as Diribe Welteji, the 2018 world U20 800m champion, held off a challenge from fellow Ethiopian Birke Haile to win in 4:01.50. The next five athletes set PBs as Haile was second in 4:02.25 and Edina Jepitok third in 4:02.66.
Norah Jeruto, now running for Kazakhstan, produced the fastest ever steeplechase performance at altitude. The 26-year-old, who ran a world-leading 8:53.65 year, regained her place at the top of the world list with a convincing 9:04.95 victory.
Olympic champion Peruth Chemutai faded on the last lap and was overtaken by Kenya’s little-known Faith Cherotich, who set a PB of 9:12.04 – enough for fourth on the world U20 all-time list. Chemutai finished third in 9:20.07.
Girmawit Gebrzihair, contesting her first 5000m race since earning world U20 bronze in 2018, dominated the race and clocked a PB of 14:49.97 – undoubtedly worth much more at sea level. It’s the 20-year-old’s second world-leading mark of the year, following her 1:04:14 clocking at the Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon in February.
In other distance events, Jacob Krop beat Daniel Matieko in the men’s 5000m, running 13:12.19 and 13:13.45 respectively. Daniel Ebenyo, who was leading at the bell, finished third in 13:14.51.
In the men’s steeplechase, world and Olympic finalist Abraham Kibiwott built up a 50-metre lead over Olympic bronze medallist Benjamin Kigen before the final two laps and went on to win comfortably in 8:21.92. Ethiopia’s Samuel Deguna overtook Kigen on the last lap and went on to claim second place in 8:27.40, finishing almost three seconds ahead of Kigen.
One of the most surprising performances of the day came from South Africa’s Prudence Sekgodiso, who won the women’s 800m by a huge margin in a lifetime best of 1:58.41. The 20-year-old’s PB before the race was 2:01.40. Kenyan duo Mary Moraa and Naomi Korir finished second (1:59.87) and third (2:00.06) respectively, the latter setting a PB.
Emmanuel Wanyonyi, returning to the scene of his world U20 triumph, took to the front of the men’s 800m field in the final 150 metres and went on to win in 1:45.01.
Elsewhere, Canada’s Aaron Brown won the men’s 200m in a wind-assisted 20.05 (2.1m/s) and Niger’s Aminatou Seyni took the women’s event in a national record of 22.43 (-1.0m/s). Britain’s Laura Zialor won the high jump on countback from Ukraine’s Oksana Okuneva, both women clearing 1.91m.
Justin Lagat for World Athletics