Omanyala says he ready to give his best despite visa challenges

Kenya's Ferdinand Omanyala reacts after qualifying or Olympics semifinals. [Reuters]

Africa 100m record holder Ferdinand Omanyala, who faced visa delays is expected to arrive in Oregon, USA, tomorrow morning. 

It’s a race against time for the Africa champion as gears up for an epic battle in men’s 100m showdown at the World Championships in Eugene, Oregon with the heats set for tomorrow at 4:50am.

He left Jomo Kenyatta International Airport last evening at 6pm via Qatar Airlines to Doha and he is expected to arrive in Oregon two hours 40 minutes before he lines up in men’s 100m heats. It’s like sprinting from Nairobi to Oregon, quite literally, for the crucial round one 100m battle.

But Omanyala said he’s has undergone several challenges that have hardened.

“I have come a long way. I am sure to give it my best. Just pray for me. Visa challenges are faced by all Kenyans and other people on a daily basis. In this case, I was no different.

“I have been called to go and pick the passport, my visa is ready. This is a huge relief. Now my hope is that I will be in Oregon before the race starts, my race is scheduled around 4am Kenyan time, that’s Saturday morning,” Omanyala said yesterday morning.

The 26-year-old believes he can still make it to Eugene in time for the men’s 100m heats.

Omanyala, who set the African men’s 100m record after clocking a time of 9.77 seconds at the Kip Keino Classic meeting in Nairobi in September 2021, has been tipped as a medal prospect in Oregon.

Ferdinand Omanyala (1184) on way to winning the 100m final during the 3rd Athletics Kenya Track and Field championship held at Nyayo national stadium in Nairobi on March 05, 2022.[Stafford Ondego, Standard]

The visa hitch also affected athletes in South Africa, India, Gambia among others. Tokyo 100m semi-finalist Gift Leotleta of South Africa and nine other South African sprinters were stranded in Italy as they have not received US visas.

The delay also affected Dhanalakshmi Sekar, 200m runner from India. Sekar was named in the 22-member Indian team in 200m.

For three days, Omanyala and five other team officials have been held up in Nairobi with hope of getting the travel document.

The team members who are yet to be cleared by the American Embassy include team manager Rono Bunei, physiotherapists Jessica Shiraku, John Muraya and Japheth Kariakim as well as team doctor Victor Bargoria. Athletics Kenya president Jackson Tuwei has also been caught up in the visa delay.

Athletics Kenya officials had expected the situation would be resolved on Tuesday to enable the athletes to travel on Wednesday.

The first batch left on Monday including the reigning world 1500m champion Timothy Cheruiyot, the second lot consisting of Wycliffe Kinyamal, Emmanuel Korir, Margaret Chelimo, Beatrice Chebet, Sheila Chepkurui left on Tuesday night.

Not only is Omanyala Africa’s fastest man, he is also the inspiration for a new wave of sprinters in Kenya.

It has been the norm that USA, Jamaica and the Caribbean region provide talking points in every Olympic year or World Athletics Championships season for sprint races.

But the script is different this time round thanks to Omanyala, the Africa 100m champion and continental record holder over the distance.


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