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Africa’s Fastest Sprinter Almost Misses Race, Due to Delayed U.S. Visa

By: Andrew Lu

The 2022 World Athletics Champions, held in Oregon, is one of the world’s most prestigious track and field tournaments. The event brings track all-stars from every continent – besides Antarctica – to compete against each other for the world champion title.

Ferdinand Omanyala, the fastest man in Africa – at least in the 100-meter dash – almost missed his race because of a delayed U.S. Visa. Omanyala was supposed to fly in on Monday, giving him five days to prepare for the races. He had not yet received his documentation, barely a day before the Friday evening opening. Omanyala finally got his visa with a few hours to spare, and by the time he got to Oregon, he didn’t have any time to warm up.

Omanyala told the Washington Post that he applied for the visa – with the rest of the Kenya team – on July 7th. Most of his teammates got theirs the next day, but Omanyala’s didn’t show up until much later. The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi got blamed for this.

“It’s disappointing, and I hope they do better next time,” Omanyala said. “I know they are hosting the Olympics in 2028, so I hope they learn from this and do much better next time.” The U.S. should work faster when approving visas in the future. When Omanyala woke up Thursday morning, he had already given up going to Oregon. But coming in the nick of time, Omanyala still decided to compete.

When the visa finally arrived, he rushed on a five-hour flight to Doha. Next was a fourteen-hour flight to Seattle. Then, he rushed to Eugene. He arrived only three hours before the first round.

Omanyala finished third in the first round, achieving a time of 10.10. Despite a great performance, this is far behind his record this season, 9.85. He was able to advance into the next round, but despite his efforts, got eliminated there.

Following the blaming of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Andrew Veveiros, a spokesman from the Embassy, clarified that the case couldn’t be explained. Visa records are confidential. So in return, Veveiros wrote in a WhatsApp message, “Therefore, we cannot discuss the details of individual visa cases.”

In this case, the Embassy might not be the ones that should be blamed. The Kenyan Directorate of Criminal Investigations will investigate the case, and find why exactly Omanyala’s visa was delayed.

After, George Kinoti, the director of the office, explained that the group may have to investigate non-official allegations or bribers.

Following this, Kenyan sports officials declared that it may be because Omanyala didn’t provide enough information on the visa that may have caused the delay.

Omanyala’s manager, Marcel Viljoen told the Washington Post that he doubts the explanation. “As far as I know, the whole team went to the embassy at the same time. Ferdinand is accustomed to the process and knows the implications of leaving out information. So I doubt it,” he wrote, also in a WhatsApp message.

Omanyala said that he didn’t receive the “explanation” until after his second race. He clearly states that he is sure that he provided all the needed information for the visa, so the Embassy will still have to write an explanation.

But, Omanyala has already proceeded on, planning to take a flight to the United Kingdom for another race directly after the World Athletics Champions.

“I hope this time I get there early,” Omanyala said.

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