Steeplechase champion Soufiane El Bakkali plots to spoil party for Kenyans

Monday, September 13th, 2021 00:00 |
Olympics 3,000m steeplechase gold medallist, Moroccan Soufiane El Bakkali gives a thumbs-up when he arrived at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) on Saturday. Photo/PD/EDWIN OTIENO

Olympic 3,000m steeplechase champion Soufiane El Bakkali has promised friendly fireworks when he makes a debut in the men’s 3,000m steeplechase at the Kip Keino Classic on Saturday in Nairobi.

Bakkali, who kanded in the country on Saturday, becoming the first foreign athlete to arrive for the final leg of the World Athletics Continental Gold Tour scheduled for Moi International Sports Centre, hit the ground running yesterday at the Nyayo National Stadium ahead of his last event of the season.

“I am so happy to be here because Kenya has been traditionally the home of steeplechase. When I received an invitation I immediately took up the opportunity,” said Bakkali, who was accompanied by his coach, Karim Tlemcani at Nyayo Stadium.

The 25-year-old Moroccan ended Kenya’s three-decade dominance in men’s 3,000m steeplechase at the Olympic Games when he won at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games.

“I just want to enjoy myself in Nairobi with no pressure even though I know the Kenyans haven’t forgotten the Tokyo Olympics moment. Here I am simply looking forward to racing here and coming up against other Kenyan runners who are really wonderful in their own way,” he said.

Meanwhile, Some 265 athletes have already confirmed their participation for the second edition of the Continental Tour meet.

With the event set for official launch on Monday, Athletics Kenya (AK) president Jackson Tuwei revealed that the event has attracted both local and foreign athletes.

Just like in the inaugural event last year, the event has been categorized to national, discretionary and core.

“At the moment, we have registered 80 athletes in the national category and 185 athletes in discretionary and core events,” said Tuwei.

A stellar field of foreign athletes that have been confirmed include; El Bakkali and Peruth Chemutai of Uganda as well as Olympic hammer throw champion Wojciech Nowicki of Poland.

Others are Olympic 100m silver medallist Fred Kerley of the US who bagged the Diamond League trophy on Friday and his compatriot Trayvon Bromell- who has the fastest time this year over 100m race.

The in-form Olympic 200m silver medallist Christine Mboma of Namibia who also bagged her maiden Diamond League title on Friday will battle it out with compatriot Beatrice Masilingi and world 100m bronze medallist Marie-Josee Ta Lou of Ivory Coast.

Olympic 1500m champion Faith Kipyegon leads Kenyan athletes who will compete at the one-day event where she will be making her debut at the event.

Tuwei disclosed that the event will be held without spectators owing to the coronavirus situation in the country.

“It is unfortunate that we will not have fans in the stadium due to the pandemic but nevertheless they can still follow the event through various media platforms,” he said.

The Kip Keino Classic is the final leg of the 2021 Continental Tour Gold series.

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