Mark Otieno out to shake off ‘doper’ tag as he chases Olympics ticket

Mark Otieno

Kenyan sprinter Mark Otieno during a past training session at Nyayo National Stadium. 

Photo credit: Chris Omollo | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Otieno finished second in men’s 100m final during the Olympics trials.
  • He fell short of attaining the Olympics qualifying standards of 10.00.

Every sportsman and woman dreams of one day competing  at the Olympic Games.

In sprinter Mark Otieno’s case, experience has taught him that the path to competing at the Olympics can be littered with several challenges.

At the Kenyan trials held on June 14 and 15 at Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi, hope of competing at the Olympics seemed to be fading for Otieno.

He finished second in men’s 100m final in a time of 10.12 seconds behind Commonwealth Games champion Ferdinand Omanyala, who won in a world leading time of 9.79.

Otieno fell short of attaining the Olympics qualifying standards of 10.00.

Luckilly, he has another opportunity to attain Olympics qualification standard at the June 21 to 26 Africa Athletics Championships in Douala, Cameroon.

“The season has been a tough one, as everyone chases Olympics qualification time. I have really worked hard but to be honest, if I miss it (Olympics qualifying standards of 10.00), it won’t be the end of the world for me,” Otieno explained. 

“Running 10 seconds looks like the Biblical Goliath, but there is David in between. However, I said earlier, I will take the results that come my way,” said Otieno.

Mark Otieno

Mark Otieno (left) competes with Meshack Babu in 100m men semi-finals during the Olympics trials at Nyayo Stadium on June 14, 2024.

Photo credit: Chris Omollo | Nation Media Group

His pursuit of an opportunity to compete at the Olympics has been made more difficult by the tag of a doper, occasioned by his suspension from the sport in 2021.

At the delayed 2020 Olympic Games held in 2021 in Tokyo, Otieno was barred from taking to the blocks in men’s 100m after testing positive for banned substance Methasterone at the games.

In 2021, Otieno was suspended from athletics, and was later banned for two years for doping.

He appealed the decision, and Athletes Integrity Unit (AIU) reduced his ban from four years to two years, because he had used the banned substance unknowingly.    

Otieno, who started the ban on July 31, 2021 and had his results since June 24, 2021 disqualified, returned to full training last August.

He has declared that he is back to competition.

“I am back and I believe I can run faster,” he declared at the Kenyan trials. 

“My dream is to  again run a sub-10 seconds. It’s possible since I have brought my body back to competition mode,” said Otieno.

“I know competition can be hard when you are standing against the likes of Omanyala but with time, I will run nine seconds,” he declared.

Mark Otieno.

Kenyan sprinter Mark Otieno trains at the Fukuoka Prefecture Kurume Sports Centre in Kurume City, Japan on July 19, 2021.

Photo credit: Edward Alusa | Team Kenya

Otieno is motivated to succeed by his five-month old son Luke Baraka as he chases Olympics qualification standard in the six-day championship at the Japoma Stadium in Douala.

“This child gives me joy. He has been a blessing to me, and lights up my days. Whenever I look at Luke, I see blessings and light. Something nice is coming the way,” Otieno told Nation Sport in Nairobi on Thursday.

Baraka is Swahili word for blessing.

Like Otieno, Sarah Moraa who is younger sibling of world 800m champion Mary Moraa, will also be chasing  an Olympics slot starting Friday at the African Athletics Championships.

She missed the Olympics qualifying standard in 800m by 0.09 seconds during the Kenyan trials. She clocked 1:59.39 for third place.

Otieno and Meshak Babu will take the blocks in 100m qualifying round on Friday. African champion Omanyala will not defend his title. 

Among the athletes lhe will come up against in men’s 100m are the world 100m silver medallist Letsile Tebogo from Botswana who is among the favourites to take over Omanyala’s title, and home athlete Emmanuel Eseme.

Sarah has been picked alongside Moraa and the trials winner Lilian Odira, but the youngster is determined to attain the Olympics qualifying time. 

Ferdinand Omanyala

Ferdinand Omanyala (right) wins the men's 100m ahead of Mark Otieno during the Kenyan trials for the Tokyo Olympics in Nairobi on June 17, 2021.

Photo credit: Chris Omollo | Nation Media Group

“I know there will be pressure but I have been talking to my sister Mary, who has been there and done it. I hope to down the microseconds I missed at the trials,“ the 18-year-old Sarah said.

She will team up with Odira, the national 800m champion, who hopes to win her first international medal and set the stage for the Paris Olympics.

The women's 800m races will start on Saturday but the qualifying round of the men's two-lap race will be held on Friday, with national champion Alex Ng'eno and Nicholas Kiplagat on parade.

The 2021 world under-20 3,000m champion Teresiah Gateri, youngster Mercy Chepkemoi and Rebecca Mwangi will field in the women's 5,000m final.

National 400m champion Mercy Chebet and African 400m bronze medallist Veronica Mutua take the blocks in the women's 400m qualifying round with Kevin Tauta  and  Kelvin Kipkorir turning on the pistons in the men's event.

They all hope to clock the Paris qualifying standards (45.00-Men, 50.95-women) where only Mary Moraa and Zablon Ekwam have met them.  

Kenya topped the medal standings during the 2022 African Athletics Championships with  23 medals; 10 gold, five silver and eight bronze. 

The only defending champions from Kenya at the event are Julius Yego in javelin and Caroline Nyaga, who won the 10,000m title in 2022 but will now field in 1,500m.