Dare to dream, Mark Otieno’s ambitious 100m finals target
Mike Okinyi in Tokyo, Japan
Sprinter Mark Otieno will start his Olympic journey this week as he boards the plane for Tokyo, Japan. This marks the culmination of a five-year journey where he has thrown everything in his power into trying to qualify for Tokyo 2020.
As reality sank in, Otieno was part of the delegation that went to receive the flag from President Uhuru Kenyatta on July 8.
“It was really nice (meeting the President), it was a good experience just standing in front of the President and all the top names in the corporate world – such a big moment for me,” said an elated Otieno.
The sprinter was given the responsibility of showcasing the Team Kenya travel kit – sponsored by one of Olympics Kenya partners, EABL through their tusker brand.
“It was something that I had never done (Cat walking on the red carpet). It was quite interesting, I felt like the ground should open up and swallow me!” he quipped.
Training has been going on well and he says he has settled in camp, just counting the days before departure for Kurume City, Japan.
He had tried all paths to qualify for the Olympics, and the moment came when he fired his last bullet at the Kenya Olympic Games trials.
“I was really stressed out but could not control anything. I left everything to God. Then at the starting blocks, I felt light. I felt good. In my mind, something was whispering 10.03 (seconds) 10.03… It was just an encouraging voice that I am going to qualify, so I was just waiting for the moment.”
Otieno was fortunate that on the start line, he had a company in Ferdinand Omanyala, another athlete who also had the burning desire to qualify for the Olympic Games. After a massive four false starts, they took off, Omanyala finishing first ahead of Otieno. The clock read 10.02 seconds – enough to send Omanyala to the Olympics.
“I knew that since I was close to him (Omanyala), I made the qualifying time because you know, sometimes you can judge when you run close to someone that you have done it fast,” explained Otieno who finished second, clocking 10.11 seconds.
He says the Olympics mean everything to him, as this is the biggest stage an athlete can perform on. He never made it to the Olympic Games in Rio in 2018 despite putting in a lot of time in training but made it to the world championship in athletics the following year – 2019 but still, his heart was not settled until now that he has qualified.
“It shows that I am capable. It means a lot to an athlete like me especially in a country where we are not based on sprints events. So, since I have qualified for the Olympics, it shows that we are capable,” he explained.
After picking a silver medal at the world relay series in 2021, Otieno wants a better performance at the Olympic Games – a target that comes with a lot of pressure on young athletes.
“Now I am looking forward to reaching the finals because that is what we are aiming for. And since we are close to where the world (of sprinters) is, we are taking a race at a time – all the way to the finals. I am looking forward to doing something extraordinary,” he promised.
Otieno adds that: “I’m curious for the time I’m going to open within the heats and looking forward to facing top athletes, especially from the USA.”
The sprinter is one of the spiritual athletes in the Team Kenya camp. He serves at the Nairobi LightHouse Church Ministries – dealing with teenagers.
He says he loves walking with God through his journey: “Sometimes it is a bit frustrating, but if it is where God wants me to be in that season, I am at peace. Sometimes, you might feel like you want to please people but we have to please God. If he is happy, I am happy,” he concluded.
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