Africa’s Fastest Sprinter Nearly Misses Race Because of U.S Visa Delays
By: Alice Su
Ferdinand Omanyala from Kenya almost missed this week’s World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon. Omanyala is one of the fastest sprinters of all time, and this race is the most important event for runners after the Olympics.
Omanyala was supposed to fly to America on Monday, giving him enough time to prepare before the race. However, by Thursday, with barely a day left before his first 100 meter event, his visa still had not arrived yet.
Finally, Omanlaya received his documentation. He had just stepped off the plane (jet lagged, stiff, and disheveled) and had to race fresh-legged opponents. He finished third in his heat, running a 10.10, which was a far cry from his season best of 9.85. However, it was enough to progress him into the semifinals, where, unfortunately, he was eliminated.
Omanlaya told The Washington Post that he and his Kenyan team applied for a visa on July 7th. Most of his team received their visas the following day, but Omanlaya’s visa or explanation never came. He blamed the U.S Embassy in Nairobi for this. “It’s really disappointing, and I hope they do better next time,” Omanyala said. “I know they are hosting the Olympics in 2028, so I really hope they learn from this and do much better next time.”
Omanlaya’s situation isn’t a new development. Many African athletes have always had trouble getting their U.S visas in a punctual manner. Citizens have it worse than athletes, facing far slower schedules for visas.
Omanlaya’s close call also hit a nerve on social media, and Kenyans, frustrated about the wait, declared that the U.S was delaying the athletes’ visas on purpose, as they were afraid they would defeat their American athletes. Students protested how hard it was for them to enter the United States. They, unlike the athletes, don’t have the fame and support of millions.
“It is a huge crisis for us because we have so many bright students who have already been admitted to universities in the U.S.,” said Dennis Kiogora, founder of a program helping Kenyan students get into postgraduate U.S universities. “Most students who are supposed to report in September have [visa] appointment dates in 2023.”
Clearly, though a misfortune for Omanlaya, his plight has spread more awareness about the struggles of Africans, no matter if they are athletes, students, or just citizens. Well, perhaps punctuality truly is a virtue after all!