'Do you think you are Bolt?'- Ferdinand Omanyala opens up on how many discouraged him from pursuing sprinting

'Do you think you are Bolt?'- Ferdinand Omanyala opens up on how many discouraged him from pursuing sprinting

Mark Kinyanjui 06:00 - 14.05.2024

Ferdinand Omanyala has revealed how difficult it was for many to believe sprinting in Kenya was possible until he set the African record in 2021.

Africa’s fastest man Ferdinand Omanyala has revealed how difficult it was for people to finally take sprinting in Kenya seriously thanks to his brilliance in 2021.

Kenya is a country reknowed more for middle and long-distance racing, but its reputation does not precede enough in sprints, but the narrative started to change when both Omanyala and Mark Otieno qualifed for the Olympic games in Tokyo in 2021, although the latter was banned for two years after being found guilty of using a banned substance.

Omanyala initially opted to take sprinting as a career to make quick bob even though his true passion was rugby, but he found himself becoming an eventual sprinting star.

All was not plain sailing though, as several people, including even Atheltics Kenya itself, expressed doubts about him.

Omanyala's journey into sprinting was initially driven by the desire for quick financial gains, despite his true passion lying in rugby. Yet, against the odds, he rose to become a sprinting sensation.

However, the road to success was far from smooth, with skepticism surrounding Omanyala's capabilities prevalent even within the athletics community. Recounting the challenges he faced, Omanyala revealed the disbelief he encountered, including from Athletics Kenya itself.

"When I joined sprints, it was so hard because nobody could believe a Kenyan would become a sprint star," Omanyala recounted in an interview on Justin Gatlin’s Ready Set Go YouTube channel.

“I wanted to give this sport 100 percent of my time and attention when I started, so when I took my deferment letter to the department at the university, the guy receiving it told me, ‘are you even serious? Do you think you are Bolt, that you can make a life out of sprinting?’

 "Nobody believed we could get to this level in sprints, even the federation, there was a time they stopped the heats after I had ran just to confirm if the track was actually 100m long!"

Amidst the doubts and skepticism, Omanyala encountered resistance when seeking support from companies and institutions. Despite his persistence, rejections were commonplace, with many failing to see the potential in his endeavors.

However, the tide began to turn following Omanyala and Otieno's Olympic qualification, which garnered widespread media attention. Yet, it was Omanyala's achievement in setting the African record that finally garnered the recognition and belief he had long sought.

"It was so hard. You could approach a company, tell them your story, ask for money from them but they would tell you no flat-out," Omanyala shared. "Even companies were skeptical until I set the African record, and that is when they realized that, aah, ‘this guy is the real deal’."

Omanyala's perseverance and determination have not only propelled him to the forefront of sprinting in Kenya but have also paved the way for future generations of sprinters in a country traditionally associated with long-distance running.

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