By Ndune Mwaringa
Ferdinand Omanyala Omurwa, Kenyan’s fastest 100m sprinter, departed the country yesternight for a Euro trip ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, leaving behind a proud country looking forward to his exploits in Japan.
The twenty-four-year-old recently made the media headlines when he clocked a result of 10.02 seconds in the recently concluded Olympic Trials, with his counterpart Mark Otieno Odhiambo who fell just three microseconds behind him at 10.05 seconds.
The father of one is the third child in a family of five boys from Kitale.
It first dawned on him that he is a fast runner when he was playing rugby during high school and at the University. A second year-University of Nairobi student undertaking a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, he identifies it as his birthplace for the sport.
“My very first event was in Mumias,” he admitted, during an event where he went sponsored by the University’s sports office. He said it was an eye-opener to his abilities.
His 2016 race at the Kipchoge Keino stadium thrust him into the national limelight as he interacted with seasoned athletes like Mark Otieno and even though he was a newbie, the sprinter won his first race.
He spiraled and was chosen in the Kenya team for the 2017 World Relays held in the Bahamas, where they managed to be number seven. He reckoned that they proceeded to World Games Universiade in Taiwan but he did not compete due to severe backache. He clarified that this was when he was prescribed painkillers that had steroids and he did not declare.
In August 2017, Ferdinand Omanyala was slapped a 14 month ban, with his coach Duncan Ayiemba receiving a two-year ban when he tested positive for a prohibited substance by the Kenya Anti-doping Agency (ADAK).
This ban led to his disbarment from all athletic activities by Athletics Kenya (AK), the national governing body for all activities involving athletics, where he fell off the public eye to train until his reinstatement in 2018.
Ferdinand made it to the Olympics team twice in 2019 but was not picked due to the injunction, which developed into an ongoing legal battle between him and the AK. This was after a decision by the adamant athletics mother body claiming that no athlete who had a doping history, should ever be allowed to represent Kenya. Ferdinand however had different views that he had every right to participate after successfully serving his ban.
Despite clocking a record 10.11 seconds in January at the Nyayo Stadium, it was not ratified as a national record because it was wind-assisted.
This did not daunt him as he went on to participate at the Making of Champions event held in Nigeria in March, where he clocked his personal best of 10.01 seconds, another record that awaits ratification from Athletics Kenya.
It came to a point where he considered running as an independent athlete under the National Olympic Committee Kenya (NOCK), but he turned out to be eligible for the pre-trials held at Kasarani stadium.
Omanyala awed the nation when he dashed past the finish line just before Mark Otieno becoming the first athlete ever to be representing Kenya in the Olympics for the 100m sprints.
“I feel really excited to have qualified. This year it was just about me and the time. I did not want to prove anything to anyone. I just wanted to run well. Actually, it was my dream to come here and qualify at home in front of everyone”, he excitedly said.
Otieno added; “This is historic for us. It is the first time that Kenya is represented at the Olympics in 100m and we feel proud to be the ones going. I felt great running alongside Ferdi because he really pushed me.”
The duo has received praise and motivation messages from fans, officials and even politicians ahead of their races which are scheduled on 31st July and finalize on 1st August.