In the latest episode of African Voices Changemakers, CNN’s Arit Okpo meets an African runner to find out what it takes to set records in extreme environments. In Kenya, sprinter and African record holder Ferdinand Omanyala shares his own personal running experience and his desire to inspire future generations.
Omanyala is ‘Africa’s fastest man’ who is inspiring a running revolution in his country. While Kenya is normally recognised for its long-distance running prowess, Omanyala is challenging this narrative, “I’m changing the perception that Kenyans can’t sprint. The narrative has changed and I’m happy about it, and I’m happy that I’m the one who is causing the narrative to change. I hope once I’m done with the sport that this will continue a long way to actually make Kenya a sprinting nation”.
Omanyala won gold in the African Athletic Championships in June and at the Commonwealth Games in August. As a result, this has generated a lot of excitement around sprinting in Kenya. Although he is now ‘Africa’s fastest sprinter’, he did not always realise that he had this potential. Having been encouraged to put his running talents to use through rugby, he wants to shine a light on sprinting as a sport: “When a kid starts sprinting and their guardian tells him or her ‘You can’t go anywhere with sprint in Kenya,’ these kids always opt to go for football or rugby. And I believe there’s so much talent in Kenya and one of the things I want to do before I leave this sport is I want to create a sprinting nation”.
As well as his personal goal to run the world record, he also wants to encourage and support Kenya’s young sprinters: “It’s important to me to mentor these young people because it’s not a sport that I’ll be here forever. I’ll need to be proud of myself, that I mentored someone to be where he is or past where I am today. I’m really hoping that this goes a long way to encourage so many other sprinters to take up sprints and to believe that it’s possible”.
CNN learns that this goal is already being realised when Juma Tyson, an aspiring sprinter says, “Ferdinand is the one who inspired me to get into sprints. He’s one guy who really works hard in track and he gives you that feeling that you need to work hard to get to where you need to be.”
Finally, Omanyala shares his dream to see future young sprinters compete, “The biggest change I want to make one day, I’ll be sitting and seeing so many sprinters coming up to compete. That’s one of my biggest dreams in this country and I want Kenya to have an industry of sprints, because in the long and middle distance, there’s always someone coming up every year, so that’s what I want for sprints”.