Kenya's First Sprint Champion; Athlete Who Paved Way for Omanyala

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    A College of Kenyan Sprinters Serephino Antao and Ferdinand Omanyala
  • Ferdinand Omanyala, Kenya's current sprint sensation and Africa's fastest man stunned many when he shattered the ceiling, breaking several records to become a man of many firsts.

    First Kenyan to qualify for the 100-metres semi-finals in the Olympics, the first to run a sprint in 10.00 seconds, the first Kenyan to run sub-10 and then later becoming the first African man to run 100 meters on 9.77, earning him the continental crown.

    However, before Omanyala and before Kenya, there was a man, nearly as fast as Omanyala who dominated the sprint races. His name-Seraphino Antao. He was from Mombasa and of Asian origin. He grew up in Makupa and Ganjoni estates in the low altitude coastal city.

    A File Image odf Antao Receiving an Award.
    A File Image of Seraphino Antao Receiving an Award.

    Antao was a sprinting champion who participated in the 100 and 200 yards races in his hay days. He was the first Kenyan athlete to win a gold medal in a major athletics event.

    Represented Kenya in the 1962 British Empire and Common Wealth Games in Perth, Australia,  Antao clinched the double. He won gold in both the 100 and 200 yards races in the process setting a national record.

    The Kenyan sprinter ran100 yards in just 9.5 seconds

    He won two other gold medals at the British Amateur Athletic Association and several others at the East and African Championships. Antao became Kenya's flag bearer in the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo but did not perform well as he fell sick.

    A lot of parallels can be drawn between Kenya's two fastest men before and after independence.

    First, both sprinters broke national records before competing in a major international event. Antao broke the Kenyan 100  and 200 yards records in 1957 before the Commonwealth games while Omanyala broke the 100metre record before participating in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

    In addition, each of the two athletes reached the 100-metre finals in the Olympics; Antao-Rome ,1960 and Omanyala-Tokyo, 2020. Notably, both have participated in the Olympics held in Tokyo.

    While President Kenyatta witnessed Omanyala run 9.77 seconds at Kasarani, Antao received a personal telegram from President Jomo Kenyatta.

    Moreover, both athletes had interests in different sports but were derailed and urged to join athletics.

    Antao was a good footballer whose speed was spotted by an athletics coach while on the other hand, Omanyala was a rugby player who was then advised by his friend to try out athletic because of his speed.

    It goes without say, both athletes, worlds apart,  have made Kenya proud.

    President Uhuru Kenyatta congratulates Ferdinand Omanyala who recorded a best personal time of 9.77 at Kip Keino classics at Kasarani Stadium on Saturday, September 18, 2021