Ferdinand Omanyala: Why Africa’s fastest man is not the exuberant, big-talking athlete of last season

© Ferdinand Omanyala

Ferdinand Omanyala: Why Africa’s fastest man is not the exuberant, big-talking athlete of last season

Joel Omotto 06:00 - 25.04.2024

Ferdinand Omanyala has employed a more laidback approach to his 2024 campaign compared to the big talk of last season, so what changed?

Africa’s fastest man Ferdinand Omanyala has taken a more laidback approach to his 2024 season unlike the buoyant runner he was in 2023.

At this time last year, Omanyala had made several promises of becoming the first African to win a medal at the World Championships and also targeted to lower his African record of 9.77.

He backed it up with impressive performances before the Worlds in Continental Tour as well as the Diamond League meetings but when it mattered most, he failed to deliver.

Omanyala made it into the men’s 100m final at the 2023 World championships as one of the fastest losers and finished a disappointing seventh, with Botswana sprint sensation Letsile Tebogo achieving what he had initially promised, winning a silver medal behind American Noah Lyles, who claimed gold.

That experience seems to have humbled Omanyala and heading into the 2024 campaign, he did not just change his approach but also his coach, swapping his mentor Duncan Ayiemba for Geoffrey Kimani.

Now, Omanyala is measured and chooses his words carefully, not making big promises or setting highly ambitious targets, preferring to take one step at a time.

“Life teaches you how to handle stuff and the races humble you at some point so we are approaching the season in a different way so now it’s just building up the 100m as we go deep into the season,” Omanyala said of his new approach after finishing fifth at the Kip Keino Classic on Saturday.

Omanyala was seen as the favourite to win a third straight title at his home meet but only managed fifth with American Kenneth Bednarek, who he had previously beaten in Nairobi, finally getting his revenge by winning in a time of 9.91 seconds.

“This season we are changing how we are looking at the race, we are happy with what we have run today [Saturday] so we just build on that so now we know where we are,” added Omanyala, who clocked 10.03 seconds, in his first 100m race of the season.

“We are approaching this season differently, I don’t want to peak too early, I don’t want to peak in March and then we go down before August so that is the plan so we will make sure we correct everything as we go on.”

Another example of the new and modest Omanyala was how he responded to a jibe from Bednarek after Saturday’s race. The American tweeted, “I just bought land in Kenya,” in response to Omanyala’s earlier promise to protect his turf.

However, the Commonwealth champion did not fire back as would have been the case previously.

“Sprints is all about showboating so whatever he said is okay but this season we're going in differently. We're having so many races ahead so let's see,” said the 27-year-old.

Omanyala reached the semi-final of the 100m at the delayed Tokyo Olympics three years ago but there is hope that he will go one better this time and possibly win a medal which will be a first for Kenya over the distance.

Whether the laidback approach will deliver him to the Promised Land is something Kenyans will have to wait and see.