Three-time Olympic champion, Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce and Tokyo 2020 gold medallist, Lamont Marcell Jacobs, are the latest international track superstars to check in for Saturday’s Absa Kip Keino Classic Continental Tour Gold Label meet in Nairobi, Kenya.
Jamaican sprint queen and nine-time world champion, Fraser Pryce, 35, known affectionately as the “Pocket Rocket” due to her petite frame, was the first to check in on Wednesday evening on her first ever trip to Africa.
“Well, it was a long journey but I’m feeling good. It’s my first time in Kenya. Last year, the Jamaican team was here for the world junior games, and it was fantastic.
“So, I’m definitely looking forward to having a fantastic race and of course, enjoy my experience here in Kenya,” said the woman who has racked up an astounding 27 medals in her career enthused.
Speaking to local organisers and a battery of local and international press at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, the Tokyo 2020 women’s 100m silver winner promised to lay down a marker after choosing the East African nation to open her 2022 campaign.
“Why not come to Kenya? It’s all you guys talk about, Kenya being the home of athletics and I wanted to come here and open my season in the 100m.
“Hopefully I will be able to put together a solid race to start my season and I’m really looking forward to just executing a good race and hopefully have a fast time,” she added.
The mother of one who became the first Caribbean woman to win Olympic gold at the Beijing 2008 Summer Games in the 100m, revealed she would scale back her races.
This is because she is eyeing to win a 10th World Championships gold at the 2022 World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon this summer.
In a testament to her astonishing longevity, the London 2012 and Tokyo 2020 Olympic gold winner has been running faster in the 100m having dropped her lifetime best of 10.60 in August last year in Lausanne.
She believes there is more gas in her tank with the Paris 2024 Olympics firmly within her sights besides bidding to go out even faster this season in the short dash.
“The secret is just being hungry and passionate about a goal that I have. I remember when I just started to where I’m at now, I was always thinking I could run 10.60 and I didn’t stop even after having my son, I continued because I have that belief.
“I definitely believe I can run 10.5 and I’m working towards that and seeing it fulfilled this year. Even 10.4 is possible.”
Fraser-Pryce is lined-up to go head-to-head with fast-rising Namibian teenage sprint sensation and Tokyo 2020 Olympics surprise silver medallist, Christine Mboma who has started her season like a grass house on fire.
“For me, being able to race athletes who will help me bring my A game is very crucial because the only way you can practise what you have been doing in training is having good competition,” the Jamaican glowed.
Meanwhile, Italian hero Jacobs, who was forced to sprints after a knee injury saw him put aside his hopes of excelling as a Long-jumper in 2019, arrived some two hours behind Fraser-Pryce to sprinkle more star dust to the Kip Keino Classic.
Jacobs stunned the world when he stormed to a surprise men’s 100m victory at Tokyo 2020 Olympics last summer and is looking forward to extending his imposing form this year.
He has underlined his fortitude by adding the World Indoor men’s 60m title to his collection in Belgrade, Serbia in a European Record of 6.41.
Speaking moments after his arrival, Jacobs, 27, welcomed the challenge posed by an intimidating men’s 100m field at the Kip Keino Classic that has among others, American Fred Kerley whom he beat to silver in Tokyo and African record holder, Ferdinand Omanyala from Kenya.
“It’s fantastic, it’s amazing and it’s my first time in Africa and in Kenya. I’m happy to be here and I can’t wait to compete.
“It’s a really good competition and I can’t wait to compete,” the Italian who trains in the United States gushed.
The Italian further set his sights on adding the Worlds gold in Oregon while acknowledging he has his work cut out as the man, they all want to beat following his fairy tale success at Tokyo 2020.
“I’m ready because I won the World Indoor Championship, it’s amazing for me because I’m not an early starter (to the season) and we are not training for Oregon, it’s the most important,” the Tokyo winner underlined his intentions for the season.
Jacobs who checked out at JKIA moments after midnight is the latest big name out to put their reputation on the line at Africa’s only Continental Tour Gold Label meeting.
“After the Olympics Games, I’m trying to win it all and now it’s only the World Championships outdoor that is remaining and I’m aiming for that,” the Italian underscored
The Ugandan champion trio of Peruth Chemutai, the Tokyo 2020 women’s steeplechase champion, Doha 2019 Worlds gold winner, Halima Naakayi and Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Game bronze winner, Winne Nanyondo are expected to arrive on Thursday.
Tokyo 2020 Olympics bronze winner and two-time Commonwealth Games champion, Botswana 400m star, Isaac Makwala, is among those expected to jet into Nairobi on Thursday evening.