What you need to know:
- Omanyala has after all done enough to earn his rightful place in the Kenyan team for the rescheduled 2021 Olympic Games that will be held in July-August this year
- The flying Omanyala, 25, not only breached the Olympic qualifying time of 10.05 seconds but did it in sensational fashion in Lagos last Tuesday
- AK in their effort to hit drug cheats hard passed a resolution never to allow anybody found guilty of a doping offense to represent Kenya in competition
When a genuine world-class sprinter emerges in Kenya, a once in a blue moon occurrence, he or she should be given all the support necessary to excel to the highest level.
In this case, Nairobi University Bachelor of Science student Ferdinand Omanyala should have the green lights flashing for him to proceed to Tokyo.
The speedy varsity lad has after all done enough to earn his rightful place in the Kenyan team for the rescheduled 2021 Olympic Games that will be held in July-August this year.
The flying Omanyala, 25, not only breached the Olympic qualifying time of 10.05 seconds but did it in sensational fashion in Lagos last Tuesday, clocking an impressive 10.01 to win the Making of Champion (MOC) Grand Prix men’s 100m.
Omanyala shattered the four-year old Kenya record held by his rival Mark Odhiambo Otieno of 10.14 set at the National Championship in Nairobi on June 10, 2017.
That the undergraduate university student had come within one 100th of a second of dipping into the rarefied sub-10 seconds made this achievement poignant, something for the nation to celebrate and Athletics Kenya to shout about.
But, alas, Omanyala may never board that plane to Tokyo. There is a little blemish in his seemingly meteoric rise in track and field.
Omanyala was banned for 14 months by Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (Adak) from September 14, 2017 after being found guilty of using prohibited substance glucocorticoids/betamethasone.
And here is where things get difficult for him. AK in their effort to hit drug cheats hard passed a resolution never to allow anybody found guilty of a doping offense to represent Kenya in competition.
What an unfair decision. I have argued in this column before that anyone who makes a mistake, deserves a second chance. You do not lock the door on them and throw away the keys.
US sprinter Justin Gatlin, a five-time Olympic medallist, is a famous example of an elite athlete who served two bans for doping, returned after both punishments to compete successfully at the highest level.
Omanyala in his defense said he had been given an injection by a medical doctor to treat a back problem and had not knowingly used a banned substance.
He took his case last year to the Sports Disputes Tribunal seeking to be allowed to represent Kenya.
Personally, I will give him the benefit of the doubt and pray he gets to represent the country at the Tokyo Olympics.
I must confess that I also want him to compete for selfish reasons.
Kenya has produced quality sprinters in fits and starts. In fact, one or two appear every 20 years or so.
Arguably our most famous was the late Seraphino Antao. The “Kenyan Gazelle” won the gold medal in the 100 yards clocking 9.5 seconds and the 220 yards clocking 21.1 at the 1962 Perth Commonwealth Games.
He reached the semi-finals of the 1960 Rome Olympics setting a time of 10.5 that only a handful of Kenyans have bettered to date.
You have to fast-forward to the late 1980s and early 1990s to find Kenya’s next kings of sprints, famous duo Kennedy Ondiek and Joseph Gikonyo who carried the national flag high on the global scene.
The late Ondiek reached the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games 100m quarter-finals. He was part of the exciting Kenyan quartet that also included Peter Wekesa, Simeon Kipkemboi and Elkana Nyang’au who reached the semi-final of the 4x100 metres relay race at the same Games.
Ondiek once ran a stupendous 9.9 in Nairobi on July 27, 1991, but it was not a legal time according to World Athletics.
Gikonyo held the Kenya record of 10.28. His achievements included winning 200m bronze at the 1995 All Africa Games, and 100m and 200m gold at the 1990 African Championships. He also competed in the 1996 Olympic Games 200m.
Gikonyo’s record was broken by Kenya Navy man Tom Musinde. I had the privilege of seeing him live scorch the Stade 5 Juillet 1962 running track with a new national time of 10.26 in the preliminary round of the 2007 All Africa Games in Algiers, before pulling a hamstring in the second round and disappearing into oblivion.
His record though survived until 2015 when Mike Nyang'au ran 10.23 at Kasarani to clinch the Kenyan championship.
But the sprinters of this decade are surely Otieno and Omanyala. In fact, Otieno broke Nyangau’s national record on June 10, 2017 at the Kenyan Championships in Nairobi with a blistering 10.14.
Otieno had shown his potential two year’s earlier with a hand-timed 10.1, tantalizingly close to the magical single digit seconds.
Otieno and Omanyala have been trading punches in recent years, their rivalry helping raise the profile of the low-key sprint races in Kenya.
“My target in Lagos was to break the national record as well as post the Tokyo Olympic Games qualifying time,” Omanyala said after taking over ownership of the national record. Earlier in the year he warned he was in great shape and eager to set personal best times.
This kind of runner in Kenya comes after a generation. In his current form, he could very well dip under 10 seconds. Wow! Imagine how such an accomplishment would help raise the allure of this Olympics blue riband track event in the country.
I say let the boy run to his full potential. If he is clean, I will share in his glory, but if he is juiced up, the consequences will be his to bear alone.