What you need to know:
- Time is on his side. Remember, Fredricks is the oldest man to have run a 200m in under 20 seconds, clocking 19.99sec in Rome on July 12, 2002 aged 34 years 283 days.
- If Omanyala stays clean, stays healthy, and keeps the hunger and discipline he has exhibited this season, I dare say, Kenyans could be on the way to owning their first truly global athletic sprints legend. I am sure, the late Seraphino Antao would agree.
I just cannot help writing about Ferdinand Omanyala Omurwa in this column. Please understand.
I first wrote about him on April 7, pleading with Athletics Kenya to allow him to represent Kenya at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
The flying Kenya had sensationally hit the Olympics men’s 100 metres qualifying mark with a national record time of 10.01 seconds (that was not ratified) in Lagos.
The Kenyan athletics body then was reluctant to let him compete in national colours as it would have run counter to their policy of blacklisting athletes with doping offenses from representing Kenya.
But Omanyala had served a 14-month ban for using prohibited substance betamethasone that he said was administered by his doctor to treat a back problem. Thankfully, reason, or should I say natural justice, prevailed.
I wrote about him again on June 30 congratulating the twinkle-toed University of Nairobi undergraduate science student for, not only making the Kenya Olympic Games team, but by doing it in commanding fashion. He pulverized the men’s 100m field at the national trials to win in a new Kenyan record of 10.02sec.
I went ahead to say that, yes, he was allowed to savour his win, gloat even, but to keep in mind running at the Olympics would be a different ballgame altogether.
There, he would meet the crème de la crème of world sprinters, and just qualifying was good enough.
Here I am again talking about Omanyala, this time saying he is on the brink of athletics greatness.
On Saturday during the Kip Keino Classic at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani Omanyala, then owner of the Kenyan record of 9.86sec set last month in Europe, faced the fastest man this year, Trayvon Bromell of the USA, who was keen to sign off the season in style after a disappointing Tokyo Olympic Games.
In that start list also was, easily the most accomplished runner in the field, Justin Gatlin, a multiple World Champion and Olympics gold medallist over the distance, and the fastest man ever to compete on Kenyan soil with a stupendous 9.74sec to his name.
I was at work in the office closely following the action live on NTV. No sooner had the announcement been made that the men’s 100m was about to start than the entire sports desk at Nation Centre got to their feet and moved closer to the giant TV screen in our corner of the newsroom.
It was 10 seconds of absolute madness. Pure magic. Glorious rapture. At the end of the race I found myself screaming, jumping up and down while thumping my chest with my fist like I had won a date with Miss Kenya.
The only other time I have ever reacted like this, in sports, was when Dennis Oliech scored with that thunderous strike for Harambee Stars against Cape Verde on July 5, 2003 at Kasarani that sent us to the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations finals.
That 10 seconds of racing left every Kenyan who was watching breathless, spent like the runners on the track.
The aftermath reverberated around the athletic world for days. The winner, Bromell, had run a personal best and world lead time of 9.76sec.
It also made him the sixth fastest runner in history, jointly with compatriot Christian Coleman. Second placed Omanyala ran a new Kenyan and African record of 9.77sec to place himself number eight in the all-time list of fastest men in the world.
The two electrifying times by Bromell and Omanyala were the fastest achieved on Africa soil.
Breaking the African record is a major, major feat for Omanyala. The previous record of 9.84 sec was held by South African Akani Simbine, set just two months ago on July 6 at the Istvan Gyulai Memorial Meet at the Hungary.
Simbine had broken the record set by Nigerian Olusaji Fasuba way back in May 12, 2006 at the Doha Grand Prix. It had stood for 15 years!
No pundit of athletics in his or her right mind would have predicted that a Kenyan would hold this momentous continental record.
Frankie Fredericks, arguably Africa’s best sprinter ever, held the African 100m record of 9.85sec from July 3, 1996 until Fasuba claimed it 10 years later.
For Omanyala, at just 25 years, that mind boggling 10 seconds of work last Saturday has placed him at the pantheon of the all-time greats of sprinters.
Is this his career apotheosis? Almost.
Why do I say this? Omanyala only just burst into the international scene this year. He achieved his publicly stated goal of dipping under 10 seconds in100m this season with back-to-back 9.96sec, 9.86sec runs in Austria on August 14.
In fact, it’s only at the tail end of the season that his name started rumbling on the international atmosphere.
He now needs to start winning titles the likes of Golden League, African Games, African Athletics Championships, Commonwealth Games, World Athletics Championships and Olympic Games.
Time is on his side. Remember, Fredricks is the oldest man to have run a 200m in under 20 seconds, clocking 19.99sec in Rome on July 12, 2002 aged 34 years 283 days.
If Omanyala stays clean, stays healthy, and keeps the hunger and discipline he has exhibited this season, I dare say, Kenyans could be on the way to owning their first truly global athletic sprints legend. I am sure, the late Seraphino Antao would agree.