Kirwa, Ayimba, Ouma among five vying for Soya coach award
The race to be declared the Coach of the Year at the 2016 Safaricom Sports Personality of the Year Awards (Soya) has hit the bell after the panel of judges released five nominees drawn from various disciplines for the gong.
Harambee Starlets coach David Ouma who is fresh from leading the side to a first ever Africa Women Cup of Nations (Awcon) campaign in Cameroon will battle it out with the man who led Team Kenya to their record-breaking performance at the Rio 2016 Olympics in Brazil, veteran Julius Kirwa.
They will not have it their way with other strong short-listed contenders including Benjamin Ayimba who coached national rugby sevens team Shujaa to a first ever HSBC World Sevens Series leg victory in Singapore before taking the team to its maiden Olympics in Rio.
Also set to vie for the honour are Catherine Mabwi, the only female contestant and coach of the national under-23 women’s volleyball team and Telekom Orange women’s hockey team boss and previous winner at Soya Jos Openda who clinched yet another continental and league double.
“It’s a pleasant thing to be nominated once again. Last year I was shortlisted but did not win but I was happy for my colleague who won. It depends on what will be decided because there are so many factors to be considered and it’s good that my work is being acknowledged.
“It was a very difficult job Rio, I had a lot of problems to control the athletes at the Olympics, it was not easy and sometimes I don’t like remembering what happed. Due to my consideration and talking to them, they managed to perform well because when they decide to listen to you, it is important,” Kirwa told Citizen Digital.
The Kenya Defence Forces officer had decided to quit his role after the London 2012 Olympics before he was coaxed back to the role by the late Athletics Kenya President, Isaiah Kiplagat.
“I had decided to leave because we have so many good coaches whom I believed could do better than me. I decided to step aside due to the politics and even for Rio, I contemplated declining the position but the passion I have for athletics convinced me to go,” Kirwa added.
Amid all the chaos and drama that plagued Team Kenya, the nation’s track and field athletes returned the best ever performance at an Olympics when they won six gold, five silver and bronze- to surpass the performance at the Beijing 2008 edition where they also won six gold under the stewardship of Kirwa.
Ouma graces the awards for the first time after he also made history by qualifying Starlets to the Awcon as they took their place among the best ten continental teams in Cameroon.
Lack of experience cost the team dear after they lost all their group games to continental giants, Ghana (3-1), Mali (3-1) and titleholders Nigeria (4-0) who went on to retain their crown in testament of their Herculean task.
Starlets under Ouma also sailed to the finals of the Cecafa Women Championship in Uganda before falling 2-1 to the more seasoned Tanzania in the decider besides giving a good showing at the COTIF Invitational Tournament in Spain as the girls rose to national darlings.
Ayimba was nominated for turning around Kenya’s fortunes after a difficult 2014/2015 season. With Kenya lying third from bottom in the HSBC Series, Kenya Rugby Union turned to a familiar hand and Ayimba led his charges to Singapore 7s glory in September.
Shujaa were also Main Cup semi finalists in Cape Town and reached the quarterfinals in Hong Kong and Sydney legs of the elite global circuit.
Mabwi who is a former international continues to break barriers in a male dominated field and was in charge of the Malkia Strikers juniors that qualified for the 2017 World U23 Championships after finishing second to Egypt at the Africa qualifiers in Nairobi.
While winning a title is often said to be the easy part, Openda scaled the heights once again with Orange- the team he led to the Africa Club Cup Championship as well as the Kenya Hockey Union national league and the Vaisakhi International Tourney sponsored by Sikh Community as well as titles in the Sanaa and Nairobi Open.
As coach of the national team, he led Kenya to the bronze medal at the All Africa Games in South Africa.
The revealing of the coaching nominees is the latest development as the countdown to Kenya’s sporting Oscars/Grammys continues with Kenya Pipeline Company, SuperSport, Communication Authority of Kenya, NSSF, NHIF, Kenya Tourism Oard and Lotto Foundation partnering with integrated communications firm Safaricom to sponsor the event.
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