Year in Review: Kipchoge, Omanyala stamp authority in their races

Ferdinand Omanyala

Kenya's Ferdinand Omanyala competes during the men's 4x100m relay round 1 athletics event at the Alexander Stadium, in Birmingham on day nine of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, central England, on August 6, 2022.

Photo credit: Glyn Kirk | AFP

What you need to know:

  • After ending Kenya’s 38-year dominance in steeplechase at the Olympics last year,  Morocco’s El Bakkali twists the knife on the backs of Kenyan fans by winning the world title in Oregon
  • Other than surrendering global title in the water and barriers race, Kenyan men collected four medals at the world championships, posting the country’s worst performance in the track and field competition since the 2005 edition in Helsinki

The ended season saw Eliud Kipchoge affirm his status as distance running legend, breaking his own world marathon record, while sprinter Ferdinand Omanyala continued to rewrite history with momentous performances over 100 metres at home and abroad.

Emmanuel Korir gave Kenya the only gold medal in men’s competitions at the 2022 World Athletics Championships held from July 15 to 24 in Oregon, USA, but Kenya registered her worst performance in 15 years at the global track and championship.

It was a season in which the country’s male athletes struggled to assert themselves in track competitions amid rising cases of doping. Many of the country’s athletes also faced visa hitches as they sought to travel to Oregon for the World Athletics Championships.

However, Kenyan men dominated the World Marathon Majors (WMM), winning all the six races in the series to lock out their Ethiopian rivals.

Kipchoge and Evans Chebet each completed a brace of victories in the WMM.  Kipchoge recaptured the Berlin Marathon title, smashing his own world record by 30 seconds on September 25 in the German capital.

The 2016 and 2020 Olympic marathon champion clocked two hours, one minute and nine seconds to win, beating his previous world record time of 2:01:39 which he had set  in victory at the 2018 Berlin Marathon.

Kipchoge had on March 6 won the Tokyo Marathon in a course record time of 2:02:40, relegating his compatriot Amos Kipruto to second place in 2:03:13.

That victory earned the two-time Olympics marathon champion nomination for the 2022 World Athlete of the Year Award, which eventually went to world pole vault champion, Mondo Duplantis from Sweden.

Amos Kipruto claimed a maiden victory in the WMM Series when he won the London Marathon in 2:04:39 on October 2. That victory saw Kenya recapture the title Kipchoge had won in 2019.

Evans Chebet timed 2:08:41 to win in New York City on November 6, just seven months after winning the Boston Marathon in April in a time of 2:06:51.

At the 2022 World Athletics Championships in Oregon, Kenya finished fourth globally with 10 medals; two gold, five silver and three bronze as the country’s 15-year reign in 3,000 metres steeplechase came to an end.
Morocco’s Soufiane El Bakkali, 26, broke the hearts of Kenyans in the water and barriers race in Oregon,  becoming the only non-Kenyan to hold both the Olympic and world titles.

El Bakkali, who claimed silver medal in 2017 World Athletics Championships in London and bronze in 2019 edition held in Doha, won the world title in Oregon to add to his gold medal from the delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

Kipruto settles for bronze

He timed 8:25.13 for victory at Hayward Field Eugene,  Oregon. Ethiopia’s Lamecha Girma settled for silver in Oregon, having also claimed  second place at the Tokyo Olympics in 8:26.01. Two-time champion Conseslus Kipruto of Kenya took bronze in 8:27.92.

It’s El Bakkali who ended Kenya’s 38-year dominance in the steeplechase at the Olympics when he reigned supreme at the Tokyo Summer Games last year.

Kenyan men collected four medals from Oregon, the  country’s worst performance since the 2005 edition in Helsinki, where Benjamin Limo gave the country her only victory of the championship in 5,000m.

It was also in Helsinki where for the last time, Kenya lost the steeplechase title to Kenyan-born Saif Saaeed Shaheen (Stephen Cherono) of Qatar.

Before then, Kenyans had registered good results in the specialty, with Brimin Kipruto winning in 2007 (Osaka), and Ezekiel Kemboi claimed back-to-back steeplechase titles in 2009 (Berlin), 2011 (Daegu), 2013 (Moscow) and 2015 (Beijing) before handing over the baton to Conseslus Kipruto who won in 2017 (London) and 2019 (Doha).

Korir won Kenya’s first of the two gold medals at the Oregon, claiming his first world title, clocking his season’s best time of 1:43.71.

His victory was instrumental to Kenya as he reclaimed the crown last won by world record holder David Rudisha in 2015  edition in Beijing.

Besides Kipruto’s bronze medal, Stanley Waithaka and Jacob Krop gave Kenya silver medals in 10,000m and 5,000m races respectively. 

Just like Krop, Waithaka made his debut in the senior category on a high, beating favourites like Olympic champion Selemon Barege of Ethiopia and Jacob Kiplimo to give Kenya silver in a season best 27:27.90.

Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegeimade light work of the Kenyan youngster, winning in 27:27.43. Kenyan had claimed bronze in the 2019 edition through Rhonex Kipruto.

Krop takes silver

Krop finished second in men’s 5,000m final ahead of surprise package Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Norway, who won in 13:09.24 against Krop’s 13:09.98. Oscar Chelimo of Uganda took bronze.

After 2021 Boston and Chicago Marathon champion Lawrence Cherono was locked out of  men’s marathon in Oregon, the onus was on Geoffrey Kamworor and Barnabas Kiptum to deliver.

But 2017 and 2019 New York City Marathon champion Kamworor, and Kiptum fell short, finishing fourth and 15th respectively as Tamirat Tola gave Ethiopia a third world marathon victory, Lelisa Desisa having won it in 2019  before Gezahegne Abera triumphed in 2001 in Edmonton.

Defending champion Timothy Cheruiyot and World Indoor 1,500m bronze medallist, Abel Kipsang, finished sixth and seventh respectively in Oregon as Briton Jake Wightman claimed the 1,500m title, ending Kenya’s 11-year reign in the metric mile race.

The 2015 World javelin champion Julius Yego failed to reach the final.
Fleet-footed Ferdinand Omanyala hogged the limelight on the countdown to Oregon after a visa hitch almost cost him a first appearance in the world event.

Omanyala arrived in Oregon just hours before the start of his 100m race but he only went as far as the semi-finals, denying him a second major title since winning the Africa 100m crown in June.

But Omanyala put behind his frustrations in Oregon to become the first Kenyan to win the men’s 100m title at the modern Commonwealth Games when he triumphed in the final at the Birmingham Games.

Omanyala clocked 10.02 to win, relegating defending champion Akani Simbine from South Africa to second place in 10.13 sec.

Omanyala had wrestled the Africa title from Simbine in June. Omanyala handed Kenya her first gold medal at the ‘Club Games’ after the country flopped in both men and women’s 10,000m, and the marathon races.

It was at the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games where Kenya’s Seraphino Antao won the country her first gold medal with victory in 100 yards and 200m yards respectively.

In Birmingham, Philemon Kacheran was stopped from competing, having failed a drug test, then a wrong entry locked out Eric Kiptanui from competing. Michael Githae won Kenya bronze medal in the marathon.

Ugandan Victor Kiplangat won the race.

Kiplangat’s step brother Jacob Kiplimo, who was fresh from claiming bronze in 10,000m at the Word Athletics Championship in Oregon, upheld Uganda’s dominance in the men's 10,000m race to win. Kenya’s Daniel Simiu and Kibiwott Kandie took the other podium places.

Wycliffe Kinyamal (800m) and Abraham Kibiwott (3,000m steeplechase) were the other gold medallists from Birmingham. But Kenya’s heartbreak in men’s 1,500m from Oregon continued in Birmingham where Kenya relinquished the 1,500m title to Oliver Hoare from Australia.

Kinyamal put behind his eighth place finish in Oregon to retain his Commonwealth Games title, leading at the bell in 55.56 before holding up the field to win in 1:47.52.

Kibiwott saved the nation another embarrassment when he held off Avinash Sable from India to win in 8:11.15. Sable claimed silver in 8:11.20 as 2021 World Under-20 3,000m steeplechase champion Amos Serem took bronze in 8:16.83. Defending champion Conseslus Kipruto finished sixth in 8:34.98.

It was a good outing for Kenyan men at the Africa Senior Athletics Championships held from June 8 to 12 in Reduit, Mauritius even though female athletes   had a better medals tally.

From the collection of 23 medals; 10 gold, five silver and eight bronze, Kenyan men accounted for five gold, two silver and three bronze. Kenya restricted South Africa to second place with nine gold medals, 13 silver and 14 bronze medals. The men’s 4x100m victory was by far the performance of the championship.

Omanyala became the second Kenyan to win the Africa 100 metres title, a feat achieved 32 years ago by Joseph Gikonyo at the 1990 edition in Cairo. Omanyala then anchored his team of Mike Mokamba, Samuel Imeta and Dan Kiviasi to the historic 4x100m victory, the first by the country in the event.

Yego retains African title

Yego, the reigning African Games champion, sealed his fourth Africa javelin title after previous wins in 2012 edition (Porto Novo, Benin), 2014 (Marrakech, Morocco) and 2018 (Asaba, Nigeria).

Samuel Gathimba, too, completed a hat-trick of titles in men’s 20km race walk in Mauritius following his previous wins in 2016 in Durban, South Africa and 2018 Ababa, Nigeria.