Breakthrough Athletes of 2021

  • Athletes Heristone Wanyonyi, Jentrix Shikangwa and Ferdinand Omanyala
    Athletes Heristone Wanyonyi, Jentrix Shikangwa and Ferdinand Omanyala
  • Kenya continues to give a platform for athletes to prove themselves and become stars with their exceptional performances in different fields.

    Just like other years, the country had a number of rising stars who stole the show and won accolades at various events, setting up their careers.

    Heristone Wanyonyi

    Before Saturday, August 21, only a handful of people knew Heristone Wanyonyi. His breakthrough moment came after he made history in Nairobi by clinching the first-ever gold in the race walk at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani.

    Heristone Wanyonyi After Clinching Gold on August 21
    Heristone Wanyonyi After Clinching Gold on August 21

    The 18-year-old won the race walk in a personal best of 42 minutes and 10.84 seconds becoming a national hero.

    However, it later emerged that the award-winning athlete was living in abject poverty.

    On Friday, August 27, the athlete spoke to the media at their Andalala Village in Kapenguria West Pokot County in his family's mud house, where he revealed that he works as a farmhand and a casual labourer to earn a living.

    "I do these casual jobs to help my parents get some food for the family," Wanyonyi stated, during an interview with a local TV station.

    He has pleaded with the national government and athletics Kenya to look into his situation.

    Ferdinand Omanyala

    Sensational sprinter, Ferdinand Omanyala, excelled in so many ways in the year 2021. His rise to fame started during the Olympics game in Tokyo. The Sprinter made history at the competition breaking his own national record despite not winning a medal in the 100M race.

    Omanyala, a second-year Bachelor of Science student at the University of Nairobi, clocked 10.01 seconds on March 30, 2021, in Lagos, Nigeria. The event was dubbed the 'Making of Champions (MOC) Grand Prix' where he qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

    Omanyala did not stop there, he went ahead and participated in other races breaking records after records earning the title of the fastest man in Africa.

    Despite losing some of his sponsors along the way, the 25-year-old continued with his winning streak with the National Police Service inducting him into service through an announcement made public on Friday, December 3.

    He further revealed that he was joining the service as part of the General Service Unit's (GSU) elite Recce Squad with him officially joining in January 2022.

    Agnes Tirop

    Before her brutal murder on Wednesday, October 13, Agnes Tirop was among the athletes who had made history.

    On September 12, she was the face in most publications after becoming the fastest woman over 10km in a strictly women-only race setting a world record.

    The then 25-year-old, two-time bronze world champion medallist over 5000m, set the new world record time of 30:01 at the Road to Records event hosted in Herzogenaurach, Germany.

    The old record of 30:29, held by Asmae Leghzaoui of Morocco, had stood since 2002.  Other than that, she had also excelled in the Tokyo Olympics before she was allegedly murdered by her boyfriend.

    Her case shocked the country with President Uhuru Kenyatta calling on law enforcement agencies to get to the bottom of the matter. That led to the apprehension of the husband who was implicated in the inhumane act.

    Tyler Onyango

    The 17-year-old has been on a steady rise in the English Premier League (EPL) side, Everton FC. He started off by playing in the junior side before graduating to the first team side in January 2021. 

    Onyango, the youngster with Kenyan roots, was promoted to the first team by the then Everton manager, Carlo Ancelotti. He then went on to make his debut in the EPL game, making history.

    Onyango featured in the U23 side from last season but his steady growth saw him earn a promotion to the senior Premier League side.

    Jentrix Shikangwa Milimu

    Jentrix Shikangwa Milimu, born November 27, 2001, has contributed to the growth of female soccer in an immense way.

    Shikangwa, who is a forward for Kenyan club Vihiga queens, has been on the rise and winning hearts with her football skills and goal scoring prowess.

    Shikangwa’s fame grew in 2019 when she helped Harambee Starlets bag the Cecafa Women Challenge Cup in Tanzania against the hosts. She emerged as the tournament's top scorer with 10 goals two of which were scored in the final game.

    Being a student at Wiyeta Secondary School, Shikangwa explained that she manages to balance sports and her education.

    Top clubs have been linked with the teenage sensation, who at the moment is among the top-rated female footballers in the country.

    Her star continues shining bright as she was called for national duty in 2018 and managed to score her debut goal against Ethiopia while she was aged 16.

    The country has produced other stars including Erick Ouma popularly known as Marcelo, who impressed in both national football teams, Harambee Stars and his Swedish club. 

    The entire national men’s basketball team, the Kenya Morans, won the hearts of citizens in so many ways. The team earned its first-ever qualification to the FIBA Afrobasket tournament in 28 years. The team picked a qualifying ticket for the fourth time in its history and a first since 1993 when they hosted the tournament and finished fourth.

    All the players in the team became Kenya's favourite reviving the spirit of basketball in the country.

    Tyler Onyango (Left)
    Tyler Onyango (Left)