Fine lines set to determine best sportswoman at SOYA

Hellen Obiri displays her sports woman of the year award during the Safaricom Sports Personality ...
Hellen Obiri displays her sports woman of the year award during the Safaricom Sports Personality of the Year Awards (SOYA) 2017 gala at KICC on January 17, 2018. Photo/Stafford Ondego/Sportpicha

In Summary

  • Two highly anticipated duels between some of the world’s greatest distance runners will highlight the Cross Internacional Juan Muguerza, the fifth leg of the IAAF Cross Country Permit series in the Spanish town of Elgoibar on Sunday
  • At a press conference on Wednesday, elite race manager Zigor Díez announced the names of the athletes in contention. As is often the case in Elgoibar, world-class podiums are guaranteed given the quality line-ups of both the men’s and women’s contests

The year 2018 can be summed up as 12 months of consistency in the Kenyan sporting arena, for most of the athletes if the SOYA gala nominees for Friday is anything to go by.

Barely hours to the eagerly awaited fiesta at Fort Jesus in Mombasa, almost all sporting figures that dominated last year’s are already in the coastal town waiting for confirmation, according to pundits, who edged the other in performance.

However, it is the list of women contesting for the Female Athlete of the Year Award that is more interesting, looking at the massive records posted by exuberant Kenyan women in their respective disciplines.

Arguably, World record marathon holder and Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge is the overall athlete to beat having won the IAAF Athlete of the Year award in 2018, but that won’t be said easily for the corresponding female award.

Top on the list is 5,000 World Champion Hellen Obiri, who will defend the accolade successfully if she finally clinches it.

Obiri won the Commonwealth Games 5,000 title in Gold Coast, clocking 15:13.11 in April and went on to win the National Championships title in 15:09.82 in June, setting the stage for her maiden Africa title in 15:47.18 latter in August.

The 28-year-old claimed her first Diamond League Trophy in 3,000m/5,000m after she won the final 5,000m race in Zurich in a time of 14:38.39.

Reigning World Boxing Council (WBC) World female super bantamweight champion Fatuma Zarika is a new comer in the list, her show as she retained the WBC female world super-bantamweight title for the second time undoubtedly lifting her to the table of merit.

She overcame Mexican Yamileth Mercado in September last year at Kenyatta International Convention Centre, in a phenomenal fight that attracted large crowd at the arena.

Carrying the day for the one event, would be a big blessing for Zarika who has besides Obiri, rugby star Janet Okello to beat.

Okello was Lionesses’ top try scorer in all competitions with 15 tries. In the Africa Sevens, where Kenya were crowned champions for the first time, Okello touched down eight tries and was the star in the women’s World Sevens Series qualifiers in Hong Kong, where she scored seven tries as Kenya reached the Cup semi-finals, a big improvement from the previous season where the team was eliminated in the quarter-finals. At the Commonwealth Games, she scored three tries as Kenya finished sixth overall after losing to Fiji 40-5.

She was named the MVP at 2018 Safari Sevens tournament, helping Kenya to retain the title.

World 3,000m steeplechase record holder Beatrice Chepkoech has her admirable records, probably making the race to the finest woman 2018 more complicated.

She has been phenomenal this season, taking silver in 1,500m at Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in personal best 4:03.09 before winning Africa title in a Championship Record time of 8:59.88 on August 5 in Asaba, Nigeria.

Chepkoech won four of her five Diamond League races this season with victory in Monaco, on July 20 producing a world record time of 8:44.32 to become the first woman to run under 8 minutes and 50 seconds.

She also shattered Bahrain athlete Ruth Jebet’s previous record of 8:52.78 by nine seconds.

Also in contention for the title is World Under-20 3,000m steeplechase champion Cellphine Chespol, whose 2018 achievements adds to the competitiveness of the women title.

Chespol won senior women’s 10km race at the Africa Cross Country Championships in March, and took 3,000m steeplechase silver at the Commonwealth Games and retained World Under-20 3,000m steeplechase title in a championship record of 9:12.78.

She wound up the year by winning a silver at Africa Championships.

Meanwhile, Soya Founder Paul Tergat lauded the Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho for embracing the event and said the awards will soon be rolled out to other counties.

“It’s a historic moment for Soya to be celebrated outside Nairobi for the first time and I appreciate Governor Joho for accepting our idea of hosting the event in Mombasa,” said Tergat.

“I’m sure in the coming years, other counties will be interested in associating and celebrating our sports stars,” said Tergat.

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Story By Jacob Icia
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