African champion Ferdinand Omanyala etched his name in history books by winning Kenya’s first Commonwealth Games 100m title in 60 years as the East African national finally struck gold in Birmingham on Wednesday.
The 26-year-old led from the blocks to win his second title in as many months in 10.02 seconds. Defending champion Akani Simbine of South Africa claimed silver in 10.13s while Sri Lanka’s Yupun Abeykoon took bronze in 10.14s.
Ghanaian Benjamin Azamati was fourth in 10.16 while Cameroon’s Emmanuel Eseme finished seventh in 10.24s.
Kenya last won the men’s sprint title back in 1962 when Seraphino Antao won the men’s 100 yards in 9.5s in Australia. But Omanyala has been on a one-man mission rewriting history books and he again delivered in style. In June this year, he won Kenya’s first 100m African title in 32 years after beating Simbine in a close final.
Having struggled to make an impact at the World Athletics Championships in Oregon after visa hitches saw him arrive only three hours before his heats, Birmingham provided the perfect redemption for Omanyala.
He showed his intent right from the heats and was the fastest man in the semis earlier on Wednesday after clocking 10.07 to set up a grand finale. A perfect start meant that he was in the clear after 40 metres, motoring away to victory.
In the women’s 100m final, Nigerian duo of Rosemary Chukwuma and Nzubechi Grace Nwokocha finished just outside the medal brackets in a race win by Elaine Thomspon-Herah. Chukwuma came fourth in 11.17 seconds while Nwokocha was fifth in a time of 11.18s.
Kenya added two more medals winning silver and bronze medals in the women’s 10 000m after Irene Cheptai and Sheila Chepkirui lost out to Scotland’s Eilish McColgan who set a new championship record of 30:48.60.
The trio led most of the way but with 1 000m to go, Chepkirui suffered an injury and fell off the pace leaving the two women to fight it out for gold.
Cheptai made her move at the bell but try as she might, she simply could not shake off McColgan who then pulled away on the final straight to claim the title after a herculean effort backed by a raucous home crowd.
Cheptai settled for silver in a seasonal best time of 30:49.52 while Chepkirui limped home to take bronze in 31:09.46. Reigning champion Stella Chesang finished fourth with the Ugandan clocking 31:14.14.
Four African women will compete in the 400m semifinals after getting through the heats. Patience Okon George (52.63s), Veronica Mutua (53.02s) and Lydia Jele (53.24s) all squeaked through as fast losers while Leni Shida qualified from heat four in 53.65s.
Commonwealth Games champion Wycliffe Kinyamal was among three Africans who made the 800m final. The Kenyan was second in heat three in a time of 1:48.15 while Ghana’s Alex Amankwa also made it after placing third in the same heat. Botswana’s Boitumelo Masilo will also feature after timing 1:47.30.
Zambia’s Muzala Samukonga set a new PB of 44.89 to qualify for the men’s 400m semifinals. Compatriot Kennedy Luchembe also joined him in the semis.
Other African athletes who qualified include; Ivan Danny Geldenhuys (Namibia), Leungo Scotch, Zibane Ngozi, Anthony Pesela (Botswana) Boniface Mweresa (Kenya), Samson Nathaniel, Dubem Amene, Adewale Adeyemi (Nigeria) and Haron Adoli (Uganda).
Olympic and World 800m champion Emmanuel Korir’s dreams of winning a 400m title were dashed after he was disqualified for lane infringement.