In May, Kenyan sprinter, Ferdinand Omanyala blasted on to a 9.85s finish, his season’s best.
He had set an African record of 9.77s last September. He also raced to 9.92s in June and dethroned South African sprinter, Akani Simbine as the fastest man on the continent.
Kenyans are known to be undisputed champions in long-distance races and they have some some of the best athletes in the world in that category.
That a Kenyan will win a long-distance race on the global stage is a common reality but Omanyala is out to prove that it can also be done in the sprints.
His African record makes him the 9th fastest man ever in the world, behind only Americans and Jamaicans.
His target of picking a podium finish at the World Athletics Championship in Eugene, Oregon is lofty for an African and if he achieves his aim, will become just the first man to do it in the 100m category.
Legendary Namibian sprinter, Francis Fredericks has been on the podium in the Olympics but never managed to do it at the World meeting.
Omanyala, who has raced to two continental leading times has said he aims to finish in a faster time in Eugene.
“I’m targeting 9.6,” he told AFP.
“That will be my biggest achievement. And of course, I am going for the win, ” he added.
Racing Against the Best, Beating the Odds
Omanyala is the third quickest man in the world this season, only behind Americans Fred Kerley and Trayvon Bromell.
He will also be facing Olympic gold-medallist Marcel Jacobs and former World champion, Christian Coleman.
It’s a full house in Eugene and the Kenyan understands the enormity of the challenge before him but he has reiterated his desire to place Kenya on the global sprinting map.
“I am an athlete who runs well under pressure. So I am looking forward to getting better in Oregon, because now everybody who is an athlete will be there,” said Omanyala.
“Normally it’s long distance in Kenya, so I want the 100 metres to be something big in Kenya this year,” his coach Duncan Ayiemba said.
The 26-year-old Chemistry student was a former Rugby player and participated at the Rugby Sevens, a competition Kenya thrives in.
He said his aim was to show the world Kenyans can sprint too.
“When I started athletics, my aim was to make people know that Kenyans can sprint, that is something that has changed,” he said.
“In a medium- and long-distance country, it’s a challenge coming up as a sprinter,” he said.
“Even the national federation at some point did not believe there could be a sprinter in Kenya. You have to beat all these odds.”
Storybook for the African Child
Omanyala, just one year into his athletics career was suspended for 14 months after failing a doping test. He was found to have used a banned substance.
The athlete said he never stopped training and came back stronger and fitter.
“It was a hard 14 months but life has to move on,” Omanyala said.
“I was just a year old in the sport. But I was still training during these 14 months, I don’t remember a day that I did not train. I still wanted to do this more and more. That made me stronger.”
“I believe I opened the way for so many people coming behind me,” he said. “One of the things that I wanted to do is to leave a legacy. I want to leave an industry of sprint in Kenya.
“I believe I will inspire so many kids, not only in Kenya but in Africa. I believe there is some kid, somewhere, who is looking up and saying ‘I want to be where Omanyala has been’.”