Omanyala’s heroics, successful World U-20 highlight athletics scene

Kenya's Ferdinand Omanyala reacts after finishing third

Kenya's Ferdinand Omanyala celebrates after finishing third in men's 100m semi-finals Heat 1 during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on August 1, 2021.

Photo credit: Joan Peruran | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The 2015 World 100m bronze medallist Bromell won men’s 100m final ahead of Omanyala in Kip Keino Classic but the Kenyan broke the African record in what was the highlight of the year
  • Frenchman Zhoya hogs the limelight by winning final of men’s 110m hurdles in 12.72 sec at global junior track and field  championship to set the World Record and World Under-20 record at Kasarani
  • Not only did Team Kenya win the overall title, beating 115 other nations but managed to produce its best ever show at the World Athletics Under-20 Championships

A successful World Athletics Under-20 Championships staged in Nairobi, where Team Kenya sealed its fifth overall title, and Ferdinand Omanyala’s sensational Africa 100 metres record-breaking feat at the Kip Keino Classic were some of the major highlights in the 2021 season.

Kenyan athletes might not have matched the country’s performance at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, but victories by Eliud Kipchoge (men’s marathon), Faith Chepng'etich (1,500m), Emmanuel Korir (800m) and Peres Jepchirchir (marathon) salvaged some pride for the team in the ending year.

Victory again proved elusive for Kenya at the World Relay Championships, with Team Kenya collecting two silver medals and a bronze at the event from May 1-2 in Silesia, Poland.

Kenyan athletes also made their presence felt at the 2021 Diamond League, with Olympic 1,500m silver medallist Timothy Cheruiyot claiming his fifth successive series victory.

Chepng'etich (1,500m) and Olympic 800m champion Emmanuel Korir each claimed their second Diamond League victory, with Benjamin Kigen (3,000m steeplechase) getting his maiden Series win.

Kenyan women outshone their male folks in the World Marathon Majors, winning four of the six events in the series in London, Chicago, Boston and New York City (NYC), missing out only in Berlin and Tokyo.

Kenyan men only won in Boston and New York City Marathon.

Despite challenges brought by Covid-19 lock-down that saw the 2020 World Athletics Under-20 Championships deferred from 2020, Kenya staged a successful event, albeit without fans from August 18 -22 at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani.

Not only did Team Kenya win the overall title, beating 115 other nations but managed to produce its best ever show at the World Athletics Under-20 Championships.

The organisers of the championships tossed to a great event, having hosted 958 athletes in 45 events for a competition that, nevertheless, had its shortcomings.

Kenya has had the honour of staging two World Athletics Championships - the Under-18 event in 2017, and the Under-20 this year.  The two events were staged in Africa for the first time.

The Under-20 championship proved historic, producing four world under-20 records, 15 championship records, 11 area under-20 records, 68 national under-20 records, and 10 national senior records. Frenchman Sasha Zhoya hogged the limelight in the men's 110m hurdles after setting both the World Record and the World Under-20 record in a time of 12.72 seconds.

Sasha Zhoya

France's Sasha Zhoya poses next to the electronic board showing his new World U20 Record in men's 110m hurdles during the World Athletics Under-20 Championships in Nairobi, Kenya on August 21, 2021.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

Team Kenya led in the medals table with 16 medals - eight gold, one silver and seven bronze (8-1-7)  - the country’s best performance at the world junior championship event in 10 years. Kenya finished ahead of Finland (4-1-0), Nigeria (4-0-3), Ethiopia (3-7,-2) and Jamaica (3-6-2).

This was the fifth time Kenya led in the medal standings after the 2000 Santiago (Chile), 2006 Beijing, (China), 2010 Moncton (Canada) and 2018 Tampere (Finland) championships. Kenya got 14 (7-4-3) from Santiago, collected 15 (6-7-2) in Beijing and 15 (7-4-4) in Moncton.
Kenya flourished virtually in all middle and distance races, only missing out in men’s 3,000m that made its debut at the championship by replacing 10,000m, and in the women’s 800m and 5,000m races which Ethiopians won.

Victory by race walker Heristone Wanyonyi in men’s 10,000m was perhaps the main highlight for Kenya in the championships.

Wanyonyi made history when he clocked a personal best 42:10.84, making him the first by a Kenyan to have achieved the feat at any world championship.

Another historic performance came from Sheila Chelangat, who handed Kenya bronze in women’s 400m in personal best 52.23 seconds. It was the first time a Kenyan woman won a medal in sprints at any World Athletics Championships.

Then Purity Chepkirui ended Kenya’s nine-year wait for the women’s 1,500m title after winning the supremacy battle between Kenya and Ethiopia. Olympic 1,500m champion Faith Chepng’etich had been the last Kenyan to win the title in the 2012 edition in Barcelona.

Emmanuel Wanyonyi ensured that Kenya preserved its dominance in 800m with a new Championship Record of 1:43.76 as Benson Kiplangat crushed Ethiopia’s Tadese Worku in the last 200m to win the men's 5,000m final in 13:20.37. That saw Kenya retain the title that Edward Zakayo won in 2018 in Tampere, Finland.

 Emmanuel Wanyonyi

Kenya's Emmanuel Wanyonyi reacts after winning the men's 800 metres finals during the World Athletics Under-20 Championships at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani on August 22, 2021.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

Teresiah Muthoni and Zenah Jemutai delivered a 1-2 sweep in women’s 3,000m to see Kenya win the event for the first time since Mercy Chebwogen in 2012 edition held in  Barcelona, Spain.

Then Jackline Chepkoech ensured Kenya retained the women’s 3,000m steeplechase title with victory as compatriot Faith Cherotich took bronze.

Vincent Keter stepped on the track to win the men's 1,500m title that his clubmate George Manang'oi won in 2018 event in Tampere. Amos Serem helped Kenya reclaim the men’s 3,000m steeplechase from Ethiopia with victory before breaking into a “Kemboi” dance as the quartet of Peter Kithome, Kennedy Kimeu, Elkanah Kiprotich and Joshua Wanyonyi collected bronze in men’s 4x400m relay.

Thrills and disappointments marked the second edition of Absa Kip Keino Classic on September 8, an event that produced several world, championship,  continental and national records.

While 2015 World 100m bronze medallist Trayvon Bromell might have set personal best in running the fastest time on the continent in 100m, It’s Omanyala, who stole the show.

Bromell won the men’s 100m in 9.76 seconds, beating Omanyala to second place in 9.77 as two-time world 100m champion Justin Gatlin, who is also the 2004 Athens Olympics 100m champion, settled third in 10.03. Omanyala’s time was enough to set a new Africa record time, beating the previous time of 9.84 that was held by South African Akani Simbine.

Ferdinand Omanyala

Kenyan sprinter Ferdinand Omanyala (left) greets American Trayvon Bromell after the men's 100m race during the Absa Kip Keino Classic at Kasarani on September 18, 2021.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

Olympic and Diamond League 1,500m champion Faith Chepng’etich delivered what she is known for to retain the women's 1,500m title with a new meet record of 4:02.41, while World Under-20 1,500m champion Vincent Keter reigned supreme in the men's race.

Olympic 200m silver medallist Christine Mboma’s rise continued with an emphatic meet record in women’s 200m. Mboma held off World 100m bronze medallist Marie-Josee Talou to win the women's 200m in 22.40 against 22.98.

Olympic 100m silver medallist Fred Kerley from the United States won 200m in personal best 19.76, outclassing Isaac Makwala to second place in 20.06.

Tokyo Olympic 3,000m steeplechase champion Soufiane El Bakkali from Morocco rubbed more salt in the wound for Kenyans with victory in the men's 3,000m steeplechase. His victory came after he had ended Kenya’s three decades dominance in the steeplechase event at the Olympics.

The victory marked a superb end of season for Chepng’etich, who broke her own 1,500m national record twice this year besides retaining her Olympic title. Despite finishing second at the Diamond League leg of Florence, Italy behind Sifan Hassan on June 10, her time of 3:53.9 was enough to erase her previous record of 3:54.22 set when winning the world title in Doha in 2019.

A month later, Chepng'etich improved the record by two seconds when she won in Monaco in 3:51.07, beating Hassan to second place on July 9.

Chepng'etich would stage a successful Olympic 1,500m title defence at the Tokyo Summer Games on August 6, winning in an Olympic Record time of 3:53.11 before claiming her second 1,500m Diamond League Trophy clocking 3:58.33 with victory in Zurich on September 9.

Kenya's Faith Kipyegon celebrates with her flag

Kenya's Faith Kipyegon celebrates with her flag after winning the women's 1500m final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on August 6, 2021.


Photo credit: Ina Fassbender | AFP

Korir finished third during the Olympic trials and went on to hand Kenya its first victory at the Tokyo Olympic Games, winning the men's 800m in 1:45.06 on August 4. It was his maiden Olympic title.

Korir went on to lift the Diamond League 800m Trophy, winning the race in 1:44.56 during the grand finale in Zurich on September 9.

Kipchoge retained the Olympics marathon title at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games in 2:08:38 on August 8 to become only the third person to win two Olympics titles in a marathon.

Omanyala made history at the Tokyo Olympic Games, becoming the first Kenyan to reach the semi-finals in men’s 100m. He equalled his 100m national record with a time of 10.01 in the first round where he finished third and reached the semi-finals. Then he finished third in a new national record time of 10.00 on August 1 even though he failed to make the final.

Omanyala moved to Europe where he became the first Kenyan to run under 10 seconds when he won his 100m semi-final in a new national record time of 9.96 seconds at the International JOSKO Lauf Meeting on August 14 in Austria.

Ferdinand Omanyala

Kenyan sprinter Ferdinand Omanyala celebrates after breaking the African and Kenyan 100m record during the Absa Kip Keino Classic at Kasarani on September 18, 2021.

Photo credit: File | Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

He further shaved off more microseconds, winning the final in 9.86 seconds the same day, which was the fastest time run on Austrian soil.

He made his debut at the Diamond League in Brussels on September 3, making him the first Kenyan to compete in 100m in the event. He finished fourth 10.02.

Jepchirchir, the World Half Marathon champion handed Kenya its second women’s Olympics marathon title at the Tokyo Summer Games, winning in 2:27:20 before staging a successful World marathon Majors debut in New York City where Kenya won both men and women’s races.

Kenya’s Joyciline Jepkosgei claimed her second World Marathon Major (WMM) Series victory, winning her first London Marathon race in 2:17:43 on October 3 to see Kenya uphold its dominance in London since 2011, winning every year except in 2015.

Kenya's Peres Jepchirchir wins the women's marathon final

Kenya's Peres Jepchirchir crosses the finish line to win the women's marathon final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Sapporo on August 7, 2021.

Photo credit: Giuseppe Cacace | AFP

The London Marathon title escaped Kenya for the second year when Ethiopian Sisay Lemma won in 2:04:01, shrugging off leader Kenya’s Vincent Kipchumba in the last kilometres. Just like in 2020, Kipchumba finished second but in personal best 2:04:28.

After finishing third in London in 2020, World marathon champion Ruth Chepng'etich finally won her first race at WMM Series in Chicago in 2:22:31, putting behind the Tokyo Olympics disappointment.

After seventh place in 2020 London, Benson Kipruto had his act in place this time to win in Boston in 2:09:51 on October 11 as compatriot Diana Kipyogei won the women’s race in 2:24:45.

Kipyogei led three of her colleagues in sweeping the first four places; two time former world champion Edna Kiplagat (2:25:09), Mary Ngugi (2:25:20) and Monicah Ngige (2:25:32).
Olympic 800m silver medallist Ferguson Rotich teamed up with Naomi Korir to give Kenya silver in 2x2x400m mixed relay with the quartet of Mark Otieno, Mike Mokamba, Elijah Mathayo and Hesbon giving Kenya silver in men's 4x200m.

Nusra Rukia, Priscilla Tabunda, Wiseman Were and Michael Musyoka settled for bronze in the shuttle mixed relay as Kenya finished seventh overall at the Silesia World Relay Championships.