Kenyan sports stars to watch in 2022
By Washington Onyango | January 3rd 2022
The Nairobian Sports looks into selected top athletes with a promising 2022.
Ferdinand Omanyala- Fastest man in Africa (100m)
Kenyan sprints sensation Ferdinand Omanyala Omurwa is a force to reckon with. The 25-year-old rugby player turned sprinter survived 14-month ban from athletics for doping and returned with much force that took him to the ranks of world's best sprinters.
Omanyala embarked on a journey that saw him reach the semifinals at the 202 Tokyo Olympic Games. As if that was not enough, Omanyala shocked the world in September after beating former Olympic great Justin Gatlin to emerge second in 9.77 behind American Trayvon Bromell who won the race in 9.76 at the Kip Keino Classic at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani.
In the process, Omanyala became the African record holder, the second fastest man in the world in 2021 and eighth fastest ever. Looking into the new year, it is not only Kenyans who will be watching him but the world with Winter Olympics and World Continental Tour among some of the major international championships he will take part in.
While Omanyala put Kenya on the global map in an unlikely sprint category not synonymous with East African athletics kings, we cannot forget when Brigid Kosgei immortalised Kenya’s name in the most dominant category; Marathon.
Kosgei, 27, broke the women’s marathon record after clocking 2:14:04 to win the 2019 Chicago Marathon in October and in the process broke the previous world record by 81 seconds.The feat saw her erase Britain’s Paula Radcliffe’s time of 2:15:25 set on April 13, 2003 in London.
In 2021, Kosgei did not have a successful campaign after finishing second at the Tokyo Olympics and fourth at the London Marathon. Nevertheless, we cannot rule out the Queen of long distance running ahead of the 2022 season.
Felix Oluoch-Kariobangi Sharks
A new star has been born at Kariobangi Sharks in striker Felix Oluoch. Sharks were left with a big void to fill when their captain and 2020/21 Most Valuable Player and Golden Boot winner Erick Kapaito left the club for Ethiopia’s Arba Minch in September.
Kapaito scored an incredible 24 goals to bag the awards. However, the problem seems to be solved with Oluoch showing early signs of stepping up to fill the void. After opening his account with a brace in Sharks’ 3-0 win over Vihiga Bullets on October 20, Oluoch has shone for Sharks after netting his first hat-trick in their 6-0 win over Mathare United in October 30.
Currently sitting atop, the summit of the top scorers chart with six goals, many eyes will be on Oluoch to see if he will replicate Kapaito’s heroics.
Enez Mango- Vihiga Queens
2021 was a year women football in Kenya shone brighter than their men’s counterparts, who failed to impress on the international stage, both for club and national team.
It was all joy to see the lowly ranked Vihiga Queens dominate the East African regional club championship and represent the region in the continental showpiece in North Africa.
Vihiga’s Jentrix Shikangwa and the Cecafa Women Club Championships are inextricably linked in the minds of Kenyans.
The 20-year-old striker was the star of the Cecafa championships after helping her club Vihiga Queens qualify for the inaugural CAF Women Champions League.
The three-time Kenya Women Premier League champions beat Ethiopia’s CBE 2-1 in the final to win the inaugural Cecafa Women Club Championships at Kasarani on September 9.
However, despite Shikangwa’s goal scoring heroics, the team would be nothing without their Miss Reliable Captain Enez Mango.
Through her leadership, Vihiga Queens were able to achieve the Cecafa bragging rights.
It is important to note that Mango was clearly the engine of the team at the inaugural CAF Women Champions League in Egypt after putting in a Woman of the Match performance in Vihiga’s only win when they defeated Morocco’s ASFAR.
When her team was down, she was always there to support them and that is why all eyes will be on her in 2022 as Vihiga attempts to reclaim their FKF Women’s Premier League title they lost to Thika Queens last season.
Jacinta Sengera -MYSA
Kenya seed five Jacinta Sengera of Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA) dominated major local badminton tourneys played in 2021. The 25-year-old won at least five single tournaments and many doubles.
Recently, she finished third at the 2021 Nyanza Mega Badminton Open played in Kisumu in singles and won gold in doubles. An improved 2021 season has placed her in the radar heading into 2022 where much is expected.
Edwin Waitathu - National Bank
Kenya seed two Edwin Waitathu of National Bank lost his Nyanza Open title to new champion and Kenya seed one John Wanyoike but the future is still bright for him.
Waitathu, who has won Kenya many titles while playing with Wanyoike as doubles team mates in international tournaments, has the capability of thriving in singles despite being dominated by the latter who won major singles in 2021.
Felmas Koranga - Troy University, US
US based forward Felmas Koranga stared for Kenya national women’s basketball team, Lioness, during the 2021 Fiba AfroBasket Zone Five qualifiers played at the Kigali Arena in Rwanda in July.
Koranga was crucial in helping the Lioness qualify for the FIBA Women’s Afrobasket played in Cameroon.
She was named the Best Forward of the tournament after playing an instrumental role in helping Kenya claim the Eastern and Northern Africa basketball bragging rights. Koranga, who features for Troy University in the US, finished as Kenya’s highest scorer with 88 points as Reynolds followed with 83 points. Kenya qualified for the 2021 Afrobasket Championship after defeating pre-tournament favourites Egypt 99-83 in final.
Despite missing the Afrobasket, Koranga is considered a gem for the national team and many will be looking at her numbers next year.
Albert Odero - Kenya Morans
Albert Odero always believes there is nothing impossible in life if one can dream big. He impressed after debuting for Kenya Morans at the 2021 FIBA AfroBasket in Kigali, Rwanda. Playing under unfamiliar waters, Odero averaged 14 points and 5 rebounds per game in Kigali and was Morans’ second best player after Taylor Ongwae.
Morans has turned their attention to the 2023 FIBA World Cup qualifiers and so are fans who would love to see what Odero can do in the 2022 qualifiers.
Kevin Wekesa - Kabras RFC
Kenya Sevens head coach Innocent Simiyu has termed debutant Kabras RFC forward Kevin Wekesa as a player with a lot of potential and views him as the next Andrew Amonde.
Wekesa debuted for Shujaa at the Dubai Sevens in November and many expected the Kabras Sugar prospect not only to impress for Kenya next year but also fill Amonde’s shoes.
Grace Adhiambo - Nakuru Topfry RFC
Lioness scrum half Adhiambo has been Kenya’s crucial rugby player. Adhiambo is living her dream and has inspired the Kenya women’s 7s leading the way to the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
Also playing for the national 15s women’s team, Adhiambo is a player with much potential whom many will be hoping to see in 2022.
Alice Owiti -Lakes Hockey Club
Lakers Hockey Club striker Alice Owiti has been influential not only for her club in the local KHU Women’s Premier League but also the national women’s hockey team. After impressing during her debut in South Africa at the Tokyo Olympics qualifiers, Alice will be keen to impress again for Kenya during the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations set for Ghana in January next year.
Angela Okutoyi is the 2021 Africa Junior Under-18 champion. Okutoyi, who is ranked 142nd on the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Junior Rankings and seeded second in Africa, swept aside top seed Aya El Aouni (126) of Morocco 6-3, 6-3 to be crowned champion in the finals played in Sousse, Tunisia in November. Set to make her grand slum debut in 2022, many will be eying her serves as she aims to put Kenya on the global map.
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