NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenyan sprinter Ferdinand Omanyala is in a race to make his race at the world championships in Eugene, Oregon. The clock is ticking even before the medal contender in the 100 meters is due for his first qualifying heat at Hayward Field on Friday night.
Omanyala was scheduled to leave Kenya only on Thursday because of a delay in receiving his visa to travel to the United States. He’d given up hope of running but the visa was finally issued a day before his race and he will embark on a late dash to make it in time.
His was one of about 375 cases that had been flagged to local organizers, World Athletics and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. World Athletics officials said that of the 5,500 participants and officials coming to Eugene, fewer than 1% still had visa issues on the eve of the championships.
“We’ve battled to do as much as we possibly can,” World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said. “And we’ve been doing this now for some months. And of course there are political complications about nations being able to travel and nations coming into the United States.”
For Omanyala, the flight time from Nairobi to Oregon is 20-plus hours at best. If all goes well with flight connections, Omanyala thinks he will make it with just a few hours to spare.
He tweeted on Thursday that he had his visa and a seat on a flight out of Nairobi.
“Am positive that I will compete,” he wrote. “Thanks so much for your support and prayers.”
He also thanked Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and sports minister Amina Mohamed for help in ensuring the visa was issued.
Omanyala gave up hope earlier in the day, when his visa was still in limbo.
“I don’t understand why my passport is still in the U.S. Embassy,” Omanyala said on an early morning program on Kenyan radio station Vybez Radio. “Officials have been working on it overnight and I’m hoping to get some positive news but, either way, the race is tomorrow (Friday) and I can’t make it.”
Omanyala, who is the third-fastest man in the world this year in the 100, had said he was “shattered” to miss the worlds.
But in a late scramble, Omanyala was due to leave Kenya at 6 p.m. local time, the ministry of sports said. One Kenyan newspaper speculated that, with flight connections, Omanyala would touch down in Eugene around three hours before his qualifying heat.
Omanyala gave notice he might be a medal hope in Eugene after he beat Olympic silver medalist Fred Kerley of the U.S. at a meet in Kenya in May. He clocked 9.85 seconds to win that race at the Kip Keino Classic.
Only Kerley and fellow American Trayvon Bromell have run faster times this year.
Imray reported from Cape Town, South Africa.
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