Ferdinand Omanyala’s Wife Opens Up on Africa’s Fastest Man Inspiring Journey to Stardom

Ferdinand Omanyala’s Wife Opens Up on Africa’s Fastest Man Inspiring Journey to Stardom

Martin Moses
updated at September 5, 2023 at 11:21 AM
  • Ferdinand Omanyala has become a household name in the athletics world
  • Omanyala currently holds the fastest time in Africa in the 100-metre event
  • This is the story of Africa's fastest man from his wife's perspective

When Ferdinand Omanyala stormed into the semi-finals of 100-metre event of the Tokyo Olympics in August 2021, many thought it was a passing facade.

Kenya is known for its prowess in long-distance and middle-distance races. The Eliud Kipchoges, the Faith Kipyegons, and the Paul Tergats have elevated the country's name as an athletic powerhouse worldwide.

Ferdinand Omanyala, Commonwealth Games, Laventa Amutavi, 100 metres African record
Ferdinand Omanyala celebrates after winning the 100 metres race at the Commonwealth Games on August 3, 2022. Photo by Mike Egerton.
Source: Getty Images

But here was a man who was determined to change the narrative. Omanyala might have failed to get to the finals, but he became the first Kenyan to ever run at the semi-finals of the 100 metres in an Olympic race.

And so, a new beautiful sprinting story was born and it is a story that has never stopped giving.

Nearly 18 months later, the 27-year-old brought the African record down to 9.77 seconds, won the African title, and followed it up with the Commonwealth title. Coincidentally, he usurped South African Akani Simbine in two of the categories.

In his interviews, he has never shied away from admitting his wife, Laventa Amutavi, has been one of his greatest sources of strength and inspiration.

Sports Brief caught up with Amutavi for an exclusive interview.

How Omanyala met Amutavi

Unknown to many, Amutavi is also a professional athlete who specialises in 100-metre discipline and long jump.

Her love story with Omanyala began in July 2016 when they met during company games in Nakuru, a city northwest of Kenya's capital, Nairobi.

Amutavi was then a student at Moi University pursuing a degree in social work, while Omanyala was at Nairobi University. She had earlier heard there was a promising new kid on the block - that 'kid' was Omanyala.

While eating at a kibandaski (a Kenyan name for a low-tier restaurant), he took interest in her and, with his characteristic confidence, asked for her number.

Amutavi declined and instead asked Omanyala for his, promising to call him. You know how the story goes; she never did.

As fate would have it, they bumped into each other again months later during university games and this time around, there was no way Omanyala was going to allow Amutavi to walk away.

"When he requested my number for the second time, I decided to text him out of guilt."

Stars quickly aligned for them as they were both selected to represent the country at the World University Games in Taipei, China. The rest, as they say, is history.

Moral of the story: ladies, text him back. You might be ignoring a future African champion.

Omanyala's doping case

Omanyala's insistence saw the birth of a relationship that stood the test of time, even when he was at his lowest point. His budding career took a hit when he was accused of doping and subsequently handed a 14-month ban.

Amutavi states that the lack of information about doping at that time worked against them. She recounts how her husband spent a lot of time in court hoping to be cleared immediately, only for the process to drag on longer than anticipated.

"I remember I was in school when he called me. It was a shock to all of us. We had no idea how long it would take. Handling that situation without any experience or knowledge was very challenging."

Omanyala has always maintained his breach of doping regulations was by accident, claiming he had taken a painkiller that contained a banned substance.

Omanyala, Amutavi's strong relationship

It took quite a while for his career to get back on track and it was around the same time the family was blessed with their son, Quinton. However, finances became an issue, so Amutavi had to work at night.

"Omanyala used to leave in the morning to train and go to school. He would then come back and relieve me in the evening, remain with the baby overnight as I went to work. Quinton was only 6 months old at that time."

Omanyala has always credited his partner for standing by him during his trying times, but Amutavi is quick to note that he helped her as much as she helped him. It was a two-way traffic.

"Our bond is built on helping each other. The things that he has done for me behind the scene, I don't think there is another man who could have done that for me."

In the course of our chat, Quinton interrupts the interview, complaining about someone who was disturbing him. I ask if he was old enough to comprehend how prolific his father is at the moment.

"Yes, he is four years old now; what do you expect? Every time the dad runs, he always tells those around him that 'daddy ni mnoma, daddy ni champion' (my dad is a champion)."

Omanyala's mental strength

Omanyala's fearless nature and mental strength are Amutavi's favourite qualities in her husband. The Commonwealth Champion is always upbeat before races, sporting a big smile irrespective of who he is facing.

"He was once asked 'aren't you afraid of facing greats like Yohan Blake?' He then surprised everyone when he asked 'what it is that those mega superstars use that I don't. It's not like they run on petrol. Haven't I trained? I am not afraid of them. Bring it on'."

Amutavi then referenced Kenya's famous trade unionist, Francis Atwoli, who once used the term tusitishwe sisi - translated as 'no one can threaten us'.

She juggled dancing and school games mainly for the allowances while in the university, but since Omanyala's upturn in fortunes, she has gone back to athletics full-time, looking to make a career out of it.

"Once Omanyala's career started paying off, we agreed that it was best I leave work and focus on my career as well. He wants to see me hit the same levels he has."

She said she is blessed enough to have a role model like Omanyala. The duo train together, but Amutavi has a different program for long jump disciplines.

"I had plans to compete at the All Africa Games, which was unfortunately postponed. I haven't given up on the World Athletics Championships. I believe I have what it takes."

Apart from her partner, she looks up to American two-time Olympian Tianna Bartoletta, who also specialises in long jump and short-distance races. Amutavi's personal best in the 100 metres is currently 12 seconds.

The establishment of Track Ferdy

The couple has since established a company, Track Ferdy, which they intend to use to push Omanyala's brand. She shared that the end goal was to start a shoe line that could support African athletes.

There are also plans in place to set up an academy that can nurture the next Omanyalas. The company currently supplies merchandise, complete with the branding of Africa's fastest man.

Amutavi on Omanyala's future plans

Amutavi admitted her husband has already made it but quickly followed it up with a warning: there is more to come.

His short-term goal is to lower the African record again - preferably at the Kip Keino Classic in Nairobi on May 13. Doing so in front of the home crowd could be crazy.

She is also insistent he will atone for his misfortunes in Oregon last year by putting on a much better show in Budapest this year. The Diamond League title is also firmly in their sights.

There is no denying that Omanyala has captured the attention of the whole nation. Former President Uhuru Kenyatta made it a habit to watch his races live.

And with his proud wife ramping up her training, we could soon have the Omanyalas representing Team Kenya in international events.

I don't know about you, but where I come from, that's called beauty. The beauty of dreams, the beauty of how talent pays off. And we will be here to take it all in. It can only get better.

Tusitishwe sisi.

Martin Moses photo
Martin Moses
Martin Moses is a sports journalist with over five years of experience in media. He graduated from Multimedia University of Kenya (Bachelor of Journalism, 2017-2021)
KenyaFerdinand Omanyala