Africa's fastest man speaks, advises Letsile

Star power: Omanyala (right) talks to Mmegi Sport’s Calistus Kolantsho
Star power: Omanyala (right) talks to Mmegi Sport’s Calistus Kolantsho

NAIROBI: Kenya is globally acknowledged as a long-distance running hub. The country has some of the best marathon runners, most of them originating from The Great Rift Valley. Long-distance running in Kenya is incomplete without the mention of the 2020 Olympic gold medallist, Eliud Kipchoge, who is regarded as the greatest marathon runner of all time.

But recently, there is one man who is on the verge of amplifying a shift and turning Kenya into a sprint nation. Ferdinand Omanyala Omurwa is a national hero who counts Kenya's first citizen, President Uhuru Kenyatta among his fans.

Omurwa proved his mettle when he upset American sprinter, Fred Kelly during the Kip Keino Classic-World Continental Tour Gold held in Nairobi last week. It was the much-anticipated event in the programme and the organisers were intelligent enough to put the race at the end. Omurwa made a quick dash to the finish line clocking 9.85 (+2.0). The performance made him Africa's 100m record holder and he is now pushing to be the continent's 100m champion. The win saw the Moi International Sports Centre explode into joyous celebrations, which were led by Kenyatta. As it stands, Omurwa is ranked the number one 100m runner.

Speaking to Mmegi Sport, Omurwa said he was happy about how he has kicked off his season.


“I started my season with the 60m at the World Athletics Indoor Championships. That was more like training to improve my speed and it really did help. From there I went to compete in South Africa but I had to compete in Kenya and run 10.00 flat. That was a positive way to start the season. I am always looking at dropping my time every time I compete,” he said.

The 10 seconds he recorded at the time was the world leader. Omurwa, a former rugby player, is bursting with confidence ahead of the Africa Senior Championships slated for next month in Mauritius. The competition will be followed by the World Championships in the US in July.

Omurwa said he used to play rugby as a winger and was the fastest on the field, which encouraged him to try out sprinting.

“Sprint was not known in the country and I decided to pull that up. I wanted to be the first one to run fast. It was not an easy transition because it is not the same way you run on the field. It took me six months to start running under 11 seconds and I have been building every season since 2016 until now,” he said.

Track beast: Omanyala
Track beast: Omanyala



Despite his success, Omurwa is a humble man.

“I am doing what I love. I do not want to put pressure on myself due to the attention that I am getting. Attention can easily be a distraction. I am being myself, humble and hungry for success,” he said.

During the 2021 Kip Keino Classic edition, Omurwa finished in second position posting 9.77. He said getting a second chance to compete in the event is an indication that World Athletics was impressed by the performance that they put up last year.

“The guys were here to compete with me. I always work under pressure when I face a competitive field. There is a beast that comes out of me,” he said.

Meanwhile, Omurwa had advise for provisional 100m World Under-20 record holder, Letsile Tebogo saying he should not let fame sway him.

“Tebogo is a good sprinter and I am sure we will meet a couple of times this year but he should remember that I am still Africa’s fastest man. He should continue with the good job and not lose focus,” he said with a giggle.

The 26-year-old is an inspector in the Kenya Police Force, a job that he was given six months ago by the Inspector General of Police.

“This was due to my performance and it is a great gesture from the country. It is something that I can fall back on when everything stops in athletics. There was an outbreak of COVID-19 and everything stopped. Now as a police officer, I now have a salary and I support my family. Before that I was not working, I am a student pursuing Bachelor of Science and Chemistry at the University of Nairobi,” Omurwa said.

The sprint sensation said he has suspended his studies because he is still busy with athletics but he will eventually complete his degree.

Omurwa is married to Laventa Omanyala, who is also a sprinter.

“My wife also runs long distances. We have a three-year-old son, Quinton. That keeps me in check and every time I make money, I remember that I have a family to feed,” he said.

Omurwa is sponsored by Adidas and negotiations are ongoing with other potential sponsors.

“Sponsorships come out when you are performing. So currently there are some contracts that are being discussed,” he said.

Duncan Ayiemba is the man behind the sprinter’s success. Omurwa said Ayiemba is a good coach and a brilliant man.

Omurwa enjoys quiet spaces and spends time with his family when he is away from the track.

FACT FILE

Full names: Ferdinand Omanyala Omurwa

Date of birth: January 2, 1996

Profession: Sprinter

Country: Kenya

Favourite meal: Ugali with kuku choma

Role model: Yohan Blake

Favourite sport: Rugby

I look up to Collins Injera, a Kenyan rugby player. He holds second place for the number of tries scored in the World Rugby Sevens Series with 271.

Editor's Comment
What about employees in private sector?

How can this be achieved when there already is little care about the working conditions of those within the private sector employ?For a long time, private sector employees have been neglected by their employers, not because they cannot do better to care for them, but because they take advantage of government's laxity when it comes to protecting and advocating for public sector employees, giving the cue to employers within the private sector...

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