Morrocan ace to grace Kip Keino Classic Tour

Tuesday, August 17th, 2021 00:00 |
Morocco’s Soufiane El Bakkali (L) competes next to Ethiopia’s Lamecha Girma in the men’s 3000m steeplechase final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on August 2, 2021. Photo/AFP

The 2021 Kip Keino Classic World Athletics Continental Tour meeting set for September 18, yesterday received a major boost with the entry of new Olympic steeplechase champion Morocco’s Soufiane El Bakkali.

Kip Keino Classic meeting director Barnabas Korir said El Bakkali has always expressed his desire to train and compete in Kenya, a country he admires for its rich distance running tradition.

At the recent Tokyo Games, El Bakkali, 25, became the first non-Kenyan to win the Olympic gold medal in the 3,000 metres steeplechase since Poland’s Bronisław Malinowski won the title in Moscow in 1980.

El Bakkali won with a time of eight minutes, 08.90 seconds with Ethiopia’s Lamecha Girma finishing second with 8:10.38, and Kenya’s Benjamin Kigen rounding off the podium in third with 8:11.45.

The 3,000m steeplechase has been Kenya’s domain since 1968 when Amos Biwott won the ground-breaking gold at the Mexico Games.

The only time Kenya did not feature on top of the podium was in the Games Kenya boycotted in Montreal 1976 and Moscow 1980.

El Bakkali won silver behind Kenya’s Conseslus Kipruto at the London World Championships in 2017 and bronze at the global meet in Doha in 2019 behind Kipruto and Girma.

“I am so used to seeing Kenyans win, it’s a big accomplishment for me. I have been aiming for this for years and this was my opportunity to show that Morocco is capable of winning this prize in front of the Kenyans,” El Bakkali said after the Tokyo win.

“It was not easy for me to be in front of the Kenyans and Ethiopians. I know how hard it is to be first in front of them. 

“I have been thinking about being more confident, working on my self-confidence and also trusting that I can win.

I have tried so many times to compare myself with the Kenyans and Ethiopians to see whether I could reach this gold, and I did.”

The Kip Keino Classic—which will run at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani —will be the final meeting of the 10-meet Gold Label Continental Tour circuit for 2021.

“We are delighted that El Bakkali has agreed to come and end his successful season in Nairobi at the Kip Keino Classic, and we look forward to a competitive race between him and his Kenyan rivals, now that he is the brand new Olympic steeplechase champion,” Korir said.

“El Bakkali is just the first among a long list of big names that we shall announce for the second edition of the tour.”

More on Sports