In this piece, Deji Ogeyingbo opines on the status that Ferdinand Omanyala has arrived at in 2023 with five wins in five starts this season. Today, May 13, 2023, Ferdinand Omanyala enjoyed a win over 100 meters at the Kip Keino Classic in front of 60,000 of his fellow Kenyans.
Ferdinand Omanyala takes down another world-beater at the Kip Keino Classic. Is he now a genuine contender for the world title?
In the men’s 100m professional circuit, arguably no sprinter has been on an upwards trajectory in the last 18 months than Kenya’s Ferdinand Omanyala. The Kenyan has become the African and Commonwealth Games Champion in that span while taking a big chunk out of the African Record by lowering it to 9.77s.
But as much as athletics is a sport that is always inundated with numbers and how far athletes can reach in their individual discipline, the wider picture will always be winning global medals. Titles can’t be taken away from you even after retirement, and more importantly for the athletes, these are what sponsors use to gauge how much you are worth in monetary terms compared to their rivals.
For Omanyala, who you will tag as a late bloomer into the sport, he has been behind his rivals in terms of global appeal and medals won, and the only way to get to their level is to beat them at every given opportunity. That is a tough question considering how hard it is for meet organizers to get marquee sprinters to lock horns in the same meet. Most times, it’s due to the financial cost and, more cheekily, athletes not wanting to risk losing before a major championship.
Ferdinand Omanyala wins 100m in 9.84, to the delight of 60,000 fans, May 13, 2023, photo by Sila Kiplagat
And one by one, Omanyala is sprinting his way to the top, having gotten a smaller piece of the pie at the start of his career. At the Kip Kieno Classic, the Kenyan once again took down another world beater in 100m World Silver medallist Marvin Bracy and 200m Olympic and world medallist Kenny Bednarek. The time is 9.84. A world leader and it was into a negative headwind of -0.5 m/s. That was very fast by any metric, giving him a psychological advantage going into the summer.
Omanyala’s duel with Bracy was the rather more enticing prospect. You will consider the latter to be in the top bracket of earners in the sport, having just penned a new deal with Nike after his Silver medal in Oregon in 2022. Before today, Bracy held a 3-0 head-to-head win over the Kenyan. They were to renew that rivalry in Gaborone at the Botswana Grand Prix last month, but the American pulled out at the last minute.
Here, Omanyala looked reborn. He always does in almost all his races. Omanyala 3.0 if you like. Guess it’s that mindset that has taken him this far. Surely being buoyed by the home crowd must have played its part, but in the end, it boils down to what you are able to deliver at the sound of the gun. At this point, you will struggle to find any sprinter that can match up to the force of the Kenyan.
Ferdinand Omanyala, photo by Athletics Kenya
Stride by stride in the first few meters, Omanyala began pulling away from Bracy, who looked stiff when he got out of his drive phase. Maybe the lack of races this year played its part, but once the gap began to open up, there was no coming back from that. And like he took down Kerley last year on this same track, Bracy became one of his causalities in recent times.
It already made five wins in five 100m final races in 2023 for Omanyala. At what point do we begin to put him at the forefront of being a genuine contender for the World title? As we know, titles aren’t won in May, but the signs are looking good. During the indoor season, Omanyala also stole a match with Olympic Champion Marcell Jacobs during the indoor season, too.
As Omanyala takes down his rivals one by one, it gradually shifts the mark to his head. Nobody wants to play second fiddle, especially with sprinters with egos larger than they deserve to be earning for delving into the sport. This win puts him amongst the very best, and the deservedly earned his spot to sit at the 100-dollar meal table.
Now that Omanyala is at the table, he needs to justify it. Two weeks from now, he would face Jacobs and Kerley at the Rabat Diamond League. World Junior Champion Letsile Tebogo is in the mix, too. He’s on a mission to knock Omanyala off his perch. Regardless, we are in for a thrill in the men’s 100m leading into the world championships. For now, Omanyala leads the pack.