Down but not out: Why Omanyala should be celebrated more despite his seventh-place finish in Budapest

© Ferdinand Omanyala.

ATHLETICS Down but not out: Why Omanyala should be celebrated more despite his seventh-place finish in Budapest

Joel Omotto 19:39 - 24.08.2023

The sprint sensation has already achieved what no Kenyan had managed before in 100m and the country can only feel proud of him with the 2024 Olympics around the corner.

Africa’s fastest man Ferdinand Omanyala met his waterloo at the 2023 World Athletics Championships when he finished seventh in the 100m final.

It was a disappointing end to a race and event that promised so much for the African record holder. He had done everything within his power to stay in great form and shape ahead of the World Championships in Budapest, Hungary.

Omanyala had stayed on the coattails of his rivals all season, beating some of them, and all hopes were that he would make history by winning not only Kenya’s first 100m medal at the Worlds but also Africa’s.

As it turned out, Africa ended its drought with Botswana sprint sensation Letsile Tebogo winning silver but Kenya and Omanyala ended up empty-handed.

“I would have done better. But I don’t dwell on the past…it’s gone and we can’t go back in time and change anything. I want to focus and move on,” said Omanyala after the race, opting to focus on the future.

“My body wasn't just firing from the semi-final as it did in the heats. We just have to go back and see what happened and see where to correct and see what to do best next time,” he added.

A number of reasons have been given for Omanyala’s failure to finish on the podium with poor tactics among those cited.

For starters, he squeezed into the final by sheer luck after finishing in third place in the semi-final and had an agonising wait before he went through as one of the fastest losers after defending champion Fred Kerley shockingly missed out.

In the final, he did not have the best starts in the ninth lane and never recovered as American Noah Lyles, Tebogo and Great Britain’s Zharnel Hughes completed the podium.

But poor tactics or not, Omanyala can feel proud of himself having conquered where no Kenyan has done before,

The 27-year-old simply broke the glass ceiling since 100m is not a race Kenyans have ever had a chance in with Americans and runners from Caribbean nations dominating the distance.

So, to go into the World Championships as an 100m medal prospect was already an achievement in itself even if the ultimate goal was not achieved.

The fact that Omanyala has taken on Americans and Jamaicans, and beaten some of them, while posting some of the best times in the world with not as much support and facilities as what they have is a testament to the heights he has hit.

Omanyala finished third at the Rabat Diamond League behind winner Kerley and South African Akani Simbine before improving to second place in Florence when the former world champion also won.

The African champion then finished second in Paris behind Lyles, before winning his first Diamond League race in Monaco last month. That was after winning the Kip Keino Classic in Nairobi in May.

He is already the first Kenyan to break the 10-second barrier in 100m, reached the semi-final at the Olympics, and won the country’s first Commonwealth gold over the distance in the Games’ 60-year history.

With all these, Omanyala should be celebrated more which will give him the impetus to right his wrongs at the 2024 Paris Olympics.