Kenyans are known for their dominance in middle and long-distance races around the world. Eliud Kipchoge and Faith Kipyegon have not disappointed in the marathon, but Ferdinand Omanyala, the recently-crowned Commonwealth 100 metres champ, has re-opened the country's sprints chapter with refreshing vigour.
By Thuku Kariuki, bird story agency
August 19, 2022, was a special day for Kenya's - and Africa’s - new kid on the block, sprinter Ferdinand Omanyala. On this day, on the podium at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham in the United Kingdom the 1.75 metre-tall sprinter Omanyala couldn’t hide his excitement after being crowned the 2022 Commonwealth Games 100 metres champion,
This was his golden moment and an intense moment of pride for Team Kenya and Africa, as he and others joined in singing the Kenyan National anthem and the Kenyan national flag made its way up the flagstaff.
“When dreams become reality! This history is made for Kenya. Thank you to everyone for your support along the way. I am most grateful to God for all He has provided for me. Don't let any obstacles stop you from achieving your dream!” Omanyala said shortly after dismounting the podium and kissing the shiny medal hanging on his neck.
These were the best of moments for both Omanyala and Kenyans at large. Not even the immediate retired Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta could conceal his joy.
“The win is a groundbreaking achievement not just for Ferdinand, but for the whole of Kenya's athletics because he has excelled in a domain that's not traditionally ours," he said in his congratulatory message.
The special bond between the two was signified in the latter’s recent remarks on social media.
"Your Excellency, I wish you well in your retirement. Don’t fail to be coming to my races.”
Like every moment of victory on the tracks, this was a time when the patriotic fervour ran deep, uniting all Kenyans and Omanyala's victory was celebrated across the country.
“Thank you so much for lifting our Kenyan flag high. Continue breaking the world records. We will continue cheering you up. I believe your achievements will inspire a new generation of sprinters in this country" wrote Dennis Kahiga in a post on social media.
“Congratulations!!! Our hearts swell with pride just hearing our beautiful national anthem being played in an international arena. Thank you for affording us the honor. God bless you and upwards to many more” wrote another jubilant Kenyan, Wangechi Kariuki, on Twitter.
Perhaps more importantly, the 26-year-old has opened a new chapter for sports in Kenya, sprinting his way to three international gold medals in 2022 and a number of coveted positions during a continental tour. His biggest win so far this year was the Commonwealth gold.
Ferdinand Omanyala after winning a gold medal in Birmingham. Photo Credits : Kelly Ayodi
In the world of athletics, Kenyans are known for their exploits in the long and middle-distance races. Their dominance is so pronounced that for the uninitiated, it might appear that Kenyan has never had top sprinters.
However, in the 1960 Olympics, Seraphino Antao, a Kenyan of Goan descent made the 100 metres semi-finals and shocked the sprint kings of the time in the 1962 Perth Commonwealth Games by emphatically winning gold. Antao’s name is imprinted in the annals of Kenyan history as the country‘s pioneer Spring King – hallowed ground that Omanyala has now entered.
Other sprinters who have brought glory to the country include the quartet of Daniel Rudisha, Matesi Nyamao, Naftali Temu and Charles Asati who dazzled in the 4x400 metres relay in the 1968 Mexico Olympics.
Others are Julius Sang, Robert Ouko, Charles Koskei and Munyoro Nyamau.
They all excelled in the 1960s and 1970s, before the long and middle-distance runners emerged in the 1980s and remained ascendant to date. Further sprints competition seemed beyond Kenya's reach - until Omanyala burst onto the scene, crossing lanes in 2015 from the world of rugby.
At the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, Omanyala clocked 10.02 seconds. He also holds the African record (his personal best time) at 9.77.
With three recent gold medals, one from the Commonwealth games and two from the Africa Championships, Omanyala is looking to rule the world’s 100 meters tracks. Nobody, he says, is going to stand in his way, not even the ever-present American star sprinters.
“The Americans are like any other competitor so I mean there is competition across the globe and it’s not like only the Americans are the ones who have been sprinting,” said Omanyala.
His next big target is to win the world championships in 2023 and later the Olympics in 2024.
“The only goal I have next year is to win the World Championships and am going to work hard for that. I know am going to win that one and then that will add to the Olympic gold in 2024.”
On his bucket list is the prestigious Diamond League which he is planning to participate in, and hopefully, win in 2023.
Kenya's Sprint King has also made sure he inspires a new generation.
“I think we are having very many sprinters coming up and they are coming in so fast and so quick. One thing I want to tell them is that it’s not something that comes in a day. I mean, they are expecting so much within a very short period of time. So what I want to tell them is that you can’t achieve everything in one month. You have to be patient, you have to be disciplined and you have to work hard," he told
August 2022 was another good month for the Kenyan star after he was awarded Sports Personality of the Month by the Sports Journalists Association of Kenya.
bird story agency