•The men's 100m is the main attraction as Ferdinand Omanyala battles Olympic champion and silver medalist
•World Under 20 200m champion Christine Mboma will face Jamaican Fraser-Pryce in a battle of the old vs new
•Organisers are optimistic about a record attendance at Moi Stadium, Kasarani
Olympic 100m silver medalist Fred Kerley summarised the third edition of the Kip Keino Classic when he docked in the country on Wednesday morning.
'Fun and fast times' is all he could say when quizzed about his expectations for the World Continental Tour Gold event, set for Saturday at Moi Stadium, Kasarani.
"The last time I was here was a wonderful experience. It is great to be here once again and I am expecting some fun and also fast times. I heard this time round there will be crowds in the stadium so I am looking forward to that," Kerley said.
Indeed, that he has chosen to come run in Nairobi is evidence of the extent to which the Kip Keino Classic has grown since the initial edition was held two years ago at the Nyayo Stadium.
On that occasion, the sporting world — and the universe in general — was mired in the midst of a debilitating public health crisis ever seen since the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918.
Before the Kip Keino Classic, many sporting events worldwide had been either cancelled or postponed as a safety measure to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic that was ravaging the world.
With last year's edition at Moi Stadium, Kasarani also held without the fans in the stadium, Saturday's meet is expected to attract a rapturous crowd, starved for so long of in-person sporting action.
Going by the record attendance witnessed at the World Under 18 Championship in 2017 at the same stadium, organisers are optimistic the same scenario will play out on Saturday.
When it comes to matters of entertainment, the men's 100m is undoubtedly the icing on the cake of what is expected to be an action-packed afternoon.
It doesn't get any better than the titanic battle expected among Olympic 100m champion Lamont Marcell Jacobs, Kerley as well as Olympic 200m silver medallist Kenneth Bednarek.
Despite the magnitude of the task that awaits him, Kerley was unequivocal about his readiness.
"I’m born ready for the competition, I love to compete and that is what I’m here for, to compete with the best. I set my PB at the end of my season last year, it’s wonderful to be back where I ended my season last year," the American, who clocked a personal best of 19.76 when he won the men's 200m at Kip Keino Classic last year, said.
These sentiments were echoed by Jacobs who arrived in the country on Wednesday at midnight.
"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. 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 World Indoor 100m champion said.
However, the man for whom the home fans will be cheering on for though is Africa's fastest man, Ferdinand Omanyala, who has earned a knack for bringing the crowd to its feet whenever he takes to the lane.
He did not disappoint at last year's edition when he clocked an African record of 9.77 in the men's 100m, behind American Trayvon Bromell who clocked 9.76.
The Kitale-born is unfazed by the entry of the three sprints giants and instead says he is extra motivated by the prospect of causing an upset on home soil.
"My focus is on myself and running a good race. I'd like to ask the fans to show up in their numbers at the stadium and I promise I won't disappoint them. They are the ones who motivate me and being there will mean a lot for me," Omanyala said.
Elsewhere, fast-rising World Indoor 800m silver medalist Noah Kibet will be looking to continue his hot streak, having won the national title at the same track during the Athletics Kenya national championship.
However, he will have to overcome a star-studded cast, which includes World 1500m champion Timothy Cheruiyot, Olympic 800m silver medalist Ferguson Rotich and World Under 20 champion Emmanuel Wanyonyi.
Legend vs upcoming
When it comes to the women's sprints, Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce has etched her name in history books as a giant of the game with an overcrowded trophy cabinet.
Three Olympic titles and nine world titles to her name speaks volume about the ever-smiling 35-year-old who finished fourth in the women's 200m at her last Olympic appearance in Tokyo.
The 'pocket rocket' says she is hopeful about getting her season off to a good start and what better place to do that than in the home of athletics.
"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," the Jamaican said.
She added: "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."
However, this is easier said than done considering she will be facing off against one of the fastest-rising sprinters who has established a good rapport with Moi Stadium, Kasarani.
It is here that Namibian Christine Mboma clinched her World Under 20 title in the women's 200m in August last year, following that up with a win at the Kip Keino Classic a month later.
Previously, Mboma had clinched an Olympic silver in the women's 200m in Tokyo — the same race in which Fraser-Pryce finished fourth.
The youngster heads to Nairobi in high spirits, having run a world-leading time of 21.8 in the 200m and an African Under 20 record time of 10.97 in the 100m in Gaborone, Botswana over a week ago.
Another rivalry expected on Saturday is in the women's 3000m steeplechase where Olympic champion Peruth Chemutai will be seeking revenge on Kenyan Celphine Chespol.
Chespol excelled over the Ugandan last year and another win at Kasarani is the perfect momentum she needs ahead of the Senior African Athletics Championship in Reduit, Mauritius.
Another 'East African derby' will be in the women's 800m where world champion Halima Nakaayi will be looking to make amends for last year's loss to Kenyan Mary Moraa.