Omanyala’s big day as Kenya awaits gold in Tokyo

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:

  • Obiri said today’s 5,000m final race will be highly tactical and fast.
  • “The weather is good. It will be a mental and tactical race, and it will be very fast. It might even produce a world record,” Obiri, silver medallist in 2016, said of today’s final.
  • “This is a championship race without pacemakers and so it will be everyone for herself.”

In Tokyo

Ferdinand Omanyala was fielding questions from journalists at the mixed zone of the National Stadium in Tokyo when Johan Blake happened by. 

“Hi champ,” Omanyala turned back, saluting his sprints role model.

“Hi there,” Blake acknowledged as he walked past into the athletes’ changing room, his disappointment evident.

Kenya's Ferdinand Omanyala celebrates 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

The surreal moment highlighted the climax of a journey Omanyala had travelled, becoming a Kenyan sensation in the 100 metres

He might not have qualified for the final yesterday, but his semi-final time, a fraction of a second outside qualifying, will offer him so much hope.

USA's Fred Kerley (second left) crosses the finish to win the men's 100m semi-finals

USA's Fred Kerley (second left) crosses the finish to win the men's 100m semi-finals between third-placed Kenya's Ferdinand Omanyala (left) and second-placed Canada's Andre De Grasse (second right) during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on August 1, 2021.

Photo credit: Jewel Samad | AFP

Omanyala’s run overshadowed Kenya’s qualification in the women’s 3,000 metres steeplechase where, despite battling hamstring and Achilles injuries, world record holder Beatrice Chepkoech joined Hyvin Kiyeng in the final with Purity Kirui failing to make it.

“I’ve been having hamstring and Achilles’ problems and my leg felt heavy today,” Chepkoech, who holds the world record at 8:44.32, said.

Beatrice Chepkoech

Beatrice Chepkoech of Team Kenya (right) competes in the Women's 3000m Steeplechase heats on day nine of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 01, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan


Photo credit: Joan Pereruan | Nation Media Group

In the 100m semi-finals, the opening race of the evening session, no-one gave Omanyala a chance.

But having polished his take-off under strength and conditioning coach Geoffrey Kimani, Omanyala surprised even himself.

Initially, the giant electronic stadium screen had Omanyala as second behind De Grasse in Heat One, but when the Omega system calibrated, the Kenyan dropped to third in the national record 10.00 seconds, behind USA’s Fred Kerley (9.96) and Canada’s Andre de Grasse (9.98).

Today, Kenya stands a huge chance of bagging the elusive medals when the final in the women’s 5,000m and men’s steeplechase are called.

First up will be the steeplechase final from 9.15pm local time (3.15pm Kenyan time) where Kenya has Benjamin Kigen and Abraham Kibiwot, followed by the 5,000m featuring world champion Hellen Obiri, Lilian Kasait Rengeruk and Agnes Jebet Tirop.

The 5,000m race will be run from 9.40pm (3.40pm Kenyan time).

“I will fight for the medal…This is war, we cannot give up,” Kigen said after qualifying for today’s final.

“We have to fight for it. The steeplechase is a Kenyan tradition but we shall still have to fight to get it.”

Obiri said today’s 5,000m final race will be highly tactical and fast.

“The weather is good. It will be a mental and tactical race, and it will be very fast. It might even produce a world record,” Obiri, silver medallist in 2016, said of today’s final.

“This is a championship race without pacemakers and so it will be everyone for herself.”

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