Olympic champion and Jamaican female sprint icon Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce delivered the signature performance of the 2022 Kip Keino Classic Continental Tour meeting when she scorched to an incredible 10.67 victory in the opening 100m of the season in Nairobi on Saturday (May 7).
Also sharing in the limelight at a vociferous stadium was African record holder and local favourite, Ferdinand Omanyala who stormed to a world leading 9.85 victory in the corresponding men’s 100m.
Kenyan President Uhuru and First Lady Margaret Kenyatta joined thousands of fans who created a cracking atmosphere at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani during the third edition of Africa’s only Gold Label Continental Tour meeting.
On an afternoon littered with world leading, personal and seasonal bests from an international cast of top track and field athletes, Fraser-Pryce, 35, delivered one of the most enduring performances in her first race on African soil.
From the gun, the “Pocket Rocket” simply surged away from her challengers and by the end of the curve, it was her against the clock as she sent out an emphatic message of intent in a season where she bids to add an 11th world title in Eugene, Oregon.
“I’m grateful for the welcome I have received here, and the crowd was amazing. I promised a good race and winning here today gives me a lot of confidence for the season.
“To come here and run a fast time in front of all these cheering people is great,” the delighted four-time Olympic and 10-time world champion said.
The corresponding men’s race was programmed to be the last event of the day thanks to the star power of Omanyala, who made history at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics when he became the first Kenyan to qualify for the final.
Lining up alongside him was Olympic silver winner, Fred Kerley, who won the 200m here last year, with Olympic champion Lamont Marcell Jacobs pulling out on the morning of the event after being affected by a stomach bug that led to his hospitalisation.
After a false start, all the athletes were given the green card after it was blamed on a technical issue and once the gun went off for a second time, Omanyala raced off the blocks and started pulling away from Kerley midway to send the stadium into raptures.
Kerley repeated his position from Tokyo in 9.92 with fellow American, Isiah Young rounding off the podium in 10.13.
Canadian Aaron Brown succeeded Kerley as the Kip Keino men 200m champion in 20.05 after edging out American Kyree King (20.08) and former African champion, Isaac Makwala (20.31).
“I wanted to run a sub-20. I am happy with the time I have posted considering this is a high altitude. In the meantime, before I leave on 10th for Doha I intend to go on a Safari and enjoy the Kenyan hospitality,” the Canadian sprinter said.
Aminatou Seyni of Niger won the women’s longer dash in 22.43 ahead of American pair Shannon Ray (22.84) and Dezerea Bryant (22.92)
Mid and distance
As expected, Kenyans dominated the middle- and long-distance events of the programme, with teenager Emmanuel Wanyonyi continuing his rise to prominence when he took the top honours in the men 800m in 1:45.01.
Ugandan women’s 3000m steeplechase Olympic champion, Peruth Chemutai was relegated to the bronze medal in 9:20.07 with Kenya-born Kazakhstani, Norah Jeruto, a former African champion took the race in 9:04.95 ahead of Kenya’s Faith Cherotich 9:12.04.
“This was my first race of the season and I’m happy with the performance. It’s still early and I have a lot of training to do before the World Championships,” Chemutai remarked.
Abel Kipsang led the Kenyan sweep in the men’s 1500m in 3:31.01 with Reynold Kipkorir and Kumari Taki rounding off the minor medals.
Throws and jumps
Olympic, world and European champion, Anita Wlodarczyk of Poland reigned supreme in the women’s Hammer on her first event in Africa with a world leading throw of 78.06.
American Janee Kassanavoid took silver in 76.82 ahead of Vanessa Sterckendries of Romania (70.71).
“I’ve loved the atmosphere here and competing with such a crowd gives you a huge lift. My performance here has given me confidence of a good season,” Wlodarczyk said.
Another Polish Olympic champion Wojciech Nowicki was peerless in the corresponding men’s Hammer throw, winning in 81.43m as Ukrainian Mykhaylo Kokhan (77.80m) and Christos Frantzeskakis of Greece completed an all-European podium.
Egyptian Ihab Abdelrahman (83.79m) won the first event of the day, the men’s Javelin at the expense of local favourite and 2015 World champion, Julius Yego (79.89m).