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World Athletics Championships: Ferdinand Omanyala races to compete after travel visa issues

Last updated on .From the section Sport Africa

Africa's fastest man Ferdinand Omanyala faces a race against time to compete at the World Athletics Championships after his American travel visa was approved.

"I am not giving up on the World Championships yet," told BBC Sport Africa.

"The information that I am out of the Championships is not true."

Omanyala will fly from Kenya at 18:00 local time on Thursday, and is expected to arrive in Eugene less than three hours before the men's 100m heats begin in the evening session on day one of the World Championships.

However, he will then need to clear United States customs, travel to the arena, pick up his accreditation and find time to warm up before bidding for a place in the semi-finals.

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According to Omanyala, Athletics Kenya executive member Barnabas Korir is holding talks with World Athletics about the possibility of staging a solo heat if the sprinter does not arrive on time.

"It's just about getting to Oregon and getting to that start line," Omanyala said.

"I hope I get there and compete with other competitors.

"The moment I get there, everything will be forgotten. My body has to run, it doesn't matter how tired it is. Challenges are laid in life but you have to face them head on."

Omanyala is the third-quickest man in the world this season behind Americans Fred Kerley and Trayvon Bromell, and set the African 100m record of 9.77 seconds in September last year.

World Athletics 'follow up' outstanding visas

Omanyala told the BBC's Michelle Katami in Nairobi that intervention from authorities in Kenya had helped him secure the much-needed permission to travel.

"I want to thank everybody who has worked around the clock to ensure I get my visa," he added.

"There's nobody to blame here. It's the system, how it works. You cannot force anything."

Korir said that several other Kenyan athletes had also been affected by visa delays, while Ethiopian and Nigerian athletes are also understood to have encountered issues.

World Athletics said it was working with the Oregon 22 organising committee and the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) to follow up on visa applications affecting some competitors, but said "the majority have been successfully resolved".

"We continue to follow up with those outstanding visa issues," a statement from the world governing body added.

"International travel in general has become more challenging due to the [Covid] pandemic and we are extremely grateful for the help and experience of the USOPC in helping to resolve issues that have come up in the last few weeks."

The World Championships begin on Friday and last until 24 July.

Omanyala's rise to African champion

A rugby player-turned-sprinter, Omanyala only started his athletics career in 2016, but served a 14-month doping ban in 2017 after returning a positive drugs test for a banned substance.

He made a strong comeback to reach the 100m semi-finals at his first Olympics, setting a new Kenyan record of 10.00s at the Tokyo Games.

The fast-improving Omanyala's African record last September now ranks him as the ninth-fastest man in history.

However, he admits the past continues to blight his achievements because his fastest times have come since returning from his doping ban – which he claims made him "a victim of circumstance" after taking a painkiller which had steroid in it.

Omanyala clocked a world-leading time of 9.85s in May in Nairobi before setting his sights on success outside his country.

He also delivered at June's African Championships. He was crowned continental champion after beating title holder Akani Simbine of South Africa by just three thousandths of a second.

That success in Mauritius made him the second Kenyan to become African 100m champion – and he is now inspiring new wave sprinters in the East African nation.

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