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Kenya Sprinter Wants Speed Celebrated

FILE: Eliud Kipchoge, second right, trains with other athletes just after dawn in Kaptagat Forest in western Kenya. Ferdinand Omanyala wants sprinting made as prominent as marathoning and long-distance running. Taken 1.30.2016

Africa's fastest man Ferdinand Omanyala is on a mission to put sprinting on the map in Kenya, a country where the long-distance runner is king.

Ferdinand Omanyala is the third quickest man in the world this season behind Americans Fred Kerley and Trayvon Bromell.

He wears two wristbands on his right arm: one, made of black and green beads, bears the numbers 9:85, his season-best 100m time set in May.

The other, a bracelet crafted from leather and metal, is inscribed with 9:77, the African record he set last September. It made him the ninth fastest man ever, behind four Americans and three Jamaicans.

The 26-year-old Kenyan is hoping to shine in the 100m at the World Athletics Championships opening this week in Eugene, Oregon.

Making the podium in Eugene would be an historic first for an African runner.

But he was facing a race against time on Wednesday to obtain a US visa to enable him to get to Oregon for the 100m heats on Friday.

"Sad that I haven't travelled to Oregon yet and 100m is in 2 days. Visa delays!!" he posted on Instagram.

"We are anxiously waiting for the US embassy to issue visas for a number of athletes, including Omanyala. Hopefully they will be able to fly out today," Athletics Kenya executive member Barnabas Korir told AFP.

Omanyala said he has set his sights on at least reaching the final on July 16.

"I'm targeting 9.6," he told AFP in an interview during a training session at the main stadium in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

"That will be my biggest achievement. And of course, I am going for the win."

The young athlete and his coach Duncan Ayiemba have been mapping out ways to make sprinting more popular in Kenya, renowned for its top middle and long-distance runners.

"Normally it's long distance in Kenya, so I want the 100 metres to be something big in Kenya this year," said Ayiemba.

Omanyala became the first Kenyan sprinter to reach an Olympic semi-final at the Tokyo Games last year.

The chemistry student took up athletics six years ago after playing rugby sevens.

"When I started athletics, my aim was to make people know that Kenyans can sprint, that is something that has changed," he said.