Olympic champion Lamont Marcell Jacobs said a high-quality 100 metres field at Saturday’s Kip Keino Classic meet in Nairobi persuaded him to make his first appearance at the distance since his shock win at the Tokyo Games last year.
Jacobs and silver medallist Fred Kerley will go head-to-head for the first time since the Olympics. Their clash comes six weeks since Jacobs stormed to victory to take the world indoor 60m gold in Belgrade when the Italian chased down the American world 100m champion Christian Coleman in the final.
Jacobs said he was motivated to come to Nairobi by a rematch with the American Kerley, fellow Italian Fillipo Tortu and the Kenyan and African 100m record holder Ferdinand Omanyala.
“The reason why I came here to Nairobi at this early stage of the season is because of the quality field of the competitors we have in the 100m,” Jacobs said at a press conference on Friday.
“The thought about meeting these guys is the decision that brought me to Kenya.”
Kerley, who holds a world-class 9.84sec from Tokyo, is looking forward to a meeting on a track where he ran an impressive 19.76sec over 200m last year.
“I’m happy and look forward to running fast at Kasarani where I ran a PB in 200m in September,” the multi-talented American, who celebrates his 27th birthday on Saturday, said.
“For me there’s more pressure on my shoulders to perform in the 100m. I came to perform and that’s what I will do,” Kerley said.
Home favourite Omanyala clocked an African record of 9.77sec to finish second to American Trayvon Bromell last year.
“This year is going to be better than last year. I am not looking at any of my opponents but I am prepared to stop the clock at 9.90,” said Omanyala.
Rising star Mboma
The women’s 100m is equally explosive with Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the three-time Olympic gold medallist, taking on rising Namibian star Christine Mboma, the Olympic 200m silver medallist.
Their anticipated clash with Sha’Carri Richardson failed to materialise after the American dropped out of the meeting.
Fraser-Pryce, 35, was full of praise for the rapid progress made by 18-year-old Mboma, who comes to Kenya fresh from her two-race domination at a meeting in Botswana last weekend. Her 10.97sec in the 100m was an African under-20 record and she also flashed to a world-leading 21.87sec in the 200m. She goes in both sprints in Nairobi too.
Mboma is not allowed to run her preferred distance, the 400m, as women with so-called differences of sex development (DSDs) and naturally higher levels of testosterone are banned from competing internationally between 400m and a mile, unless they have taken medication to lower their testosterone.
“I appreciate when you have competitors who are not afraid to rise to the occasion and set high standards and break records,” Fraser-Pryce said on Friday.
“For me I think it’s wonderful that Namibia can have a champion of their own to celebrate, and I think that’s truly wonderful for the continent of Africa because a lot of time we hear about Jamaica and about the United States.”
“But to have an African athlete mentioned in the sprints,and doing phenomenal is truly wonderful.”
Fraser-Pryce said she was looking forward to assessing her form in her second race of the season.
“This competition — it’s a new year, a new opportunity to show what you’re made of and what you’re ready to do and what your training has been doing.”
In other events, Kenya’s former 3000m steeplechase Olympic champion Conseslus Kipruto continues the long road back from an injury absence which deprived him of the chance to defend his title in Tokyo.
The meeting also features a top-quality men’s hammer competition with Poland’s reigning Olympic champion Wojciech Nowicki taking on compatriot Pawel Fajdek and the man who won silver in Tokyo, Eivind Henriksen of Norway.