Letsile Tebogo (left), Ferdinand Omanyala (centre) and Ackeem Blake (right)
Ferdinand Omanyala was the first Kenyan to win a 100m Diamond League meeting with victory in Monaco last month

Commonwealth Games champion Ferdinand Omanyala has compared the “aggression” of a 100m race to boxing as he targets gold at this month’s World Athletics Championships in Budapest.

The Kenyan will line up in the Hungarian capital on the back of his first Diamond League win in July.

Omanyala, 27, claimed the victory in Monaco ahead of Botswana’s Letsile Tebogo, the junior 100m world record holder, with Jamaicans Ackeem Blake and Yohan Blake third and fourth respectively.

Now the East African says he’s ready to land a punch on the global stage in a discipline he says captures the biggest track and field interest due to its similarity to boxing.

“The 100 metres is most popular because of its hype – I consider it like a boxing match,” he told BBC Sport Africa.

“In a boxing match, there’s a lot of hype around it, there’s a lot of media and (the 100m race) is like nine seconds of aggression.

“The concentration of a human being is 45 seconds. So for nine seconds, you understand that people pay a lot of attention, and it’s most interesting.

“For 100m athletes, I can say they’re very hyper – hyperactive – so that’s why we make the sport interesting.”

Africa ready to rise

As Africa’s fastest man, having run 9.77 seconds in 2021, Omanyala claimed gold at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham when running 10.02secs.

On the back of the second-fastest 100m time this yearexternal-link – 9.84secs in his home city of Nairobi in May’s Kip Keino Classic – Omanyala is now targeting a first 100m podium finish at the World Championships.

The continent has won medals in the men’s 200m (via Namibia’s Frankie Fredericks, then Nigerian Francis Obikwelu and South Africans Anaso Jobodwana and Wayde van Niekerk) and in the women’s 100m (Ivorian duo Murielle Ahoure and Marie-Josee Ta Lou) but not in the men’s blue riband event.

“Africa has never medalled in this race and that’s something I want to break. I want to change that, so I want to win a medal – I want to win the gold,” Omanyala continued.

“Going in as one of the top sprinters, people are looking at and counting on you – people are counting you in that medal bracket.

“I’m going for nothing less than a gold.”

Not only is Ferdinand Omanyala Africa’s fastest man, he is also the inspiration for a new wave sprinters in Kenya.

The expectation is high for the first Kenyan to take a 100m Diamond League event, with only 400m runner Nicholas Bett having ever won a men’s Diamond League race for the country before.

Omanyala says another shot at history is not something that will phase him.

“There’s always a lot of hype around it, people making predictions here and there, and people posting different types of opinions.

“That’s always what brings the tension but the moment you step into the call room and then into the field, it’s always a different story – because there’s no turning back, you’re alone in this.

“The moment I get in the field, see the crowd and how the field looks and understand that this now is the reality of it, all my tension always just disappears.

“Then when you go on the blocks and onto marks, it’s either you make history here or you get defeated, and then people will talk either way.

“You just have to make sure that you run this race and make it the best of your life.”

A race for Africa

It is not only a race for Omanyala and Kenya however, as it’s also a race for Africa.

Liberia’s Joseph Fahnbulleh – who finished fifth in the Olympic 200m final before taking fourth in the same event at last year’s World Championships – believes Africa is now ready to challenge the United States’ dominance of the 100m.

“For a while, it’s been the the Americans. There’s a shift now to the African side – I like that,” Fahnbulleh told the BBC. “We are taking it by storm, but slowly.”

Ferdinand Omanyala (centre) racing in Kenya
Omanyala ran the second-fastest 100m time of the year (9.84s) at the Kip Keino Classic in May

Echoing Fahnbulleh, Omanyala says the continent is finally ready to take a place at the top table of world sprinting and despite his own aspirations, he knows even a podium place could open doors for more Africans.

“Leave alone the gold,” he concluded. “Any medal in the World Championships will mean a lot to me.

“One: financial status. Two: getting into that status, where you can run any race in the world and get that recognition you deserve and that we deserve as Africans.

“We go to the Diamond League and they say Americans are not here – stuff like that. So that’s something that I’m really holding close to my heart, because I know this will be a huge impact for Africa, for Kenya, and for the generation of sprinters coming after me and the legacy that I’m going to set.

“It’s not just for myself, but for my country, for generations, for people – upcoming sprinters in Africa – to show it’s possible and to show Africa that nothing is impossible in this world.”

The men’s 100m heats start on Saturday 19 August, the first day of action in Budapest, with the final taking place on 20 August.

The World Athletics Championships, which Hungary is hosting the first time, end on Sunday 27 August.