Africa’s fastest man Ferdinand Omanyala had to race to the World Athletics Championships in just 3 hours after a US Visa 24 hour delay.
Omanyala who is in the entry list for the 100-metre race had less than a day to fly in from Kenya to the event’s venue in Oregon, USA.
The 100m heats are part of the morning session, which begins at 9:05 local time (16:05 GMT) on Friday.
“Onto the next flight to Oregon,” Omanyala, who will travel from Nairobi, said on Twitter. “Am positive that I will compete.”
Omanyala who received his visa on Thursday, added that the delay was likely due to the significant backlog of cases resulting from closures due to COVID-19.
“Visa challenges are faced by all Kenyans and people daily, in this case, I was no different,” Omanyala added.
Omanyala had to race through the air just to make it to his race. He stated that he’d been resigned to sitting this one out.
But his paperwork was approved at the final hour and his team quickly scrambled to book a flight. It was an arduous journey with flights from Nairobi to Doha, then to Seattle, and finally to Oregon. All in all, he spent about 20 hours on planes. That doesn’t include the layovers.
Omanyala arrived at the racing track approximately two hours before his 100 race. He was placed in the seventh of seven heats, buying him some extra time to stretch out. He finished third in his heat, which was good enough to move him through to the semis.
His case was one of about 375 that had been flagged to local organizers, World Athletics and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. World Athletics officials said that of the 5,500 participants and officials coming to Oregon, less than 1% still had visa issues on the eve of the championships.
This response from officials however deepened unsatisfactory sentiments. Social media was not pleased with the delay, with some stating that stringent Western Visa application procedures for Africans were not only demeaning but also intrusive.
BBC World News anchor Nancy Kacungira posted on Twitter her dissatisfaction with the visa delay.
In the end, Africa’s fastest man said, “They [officials] need to learn from this and do it better next time.”
Omanyala received a lift from the applause at Hayward Field.
“It’s nice when you see so many fans cheering you on,” said Omanyala, whose season-best time is 9.85 seconds. “I felt elevated for sure.”
However, the conversation regarding US Visa woes for Africans is far from settled