Muchai, Chelagat atop race for Para-athletes of the Year


Kenya Paralympics star, Samwel Muchai celebrates his 1500m T11 victory. PHOTO/Rio 2016
Kenya Paralympics star, Samwel Muchai celebrates his 1500m T11 victory. PHOTO/Rio 2016

The Rio 2016 Paralympics double gold medalist Samuel Muchai and silver medalist Nancy Chelagat lead the race for the race for Para-athletes of the Year, according to a nominees list for athletes living with disability category unveiled ahead of the Safaricom Soya awards slated for January next year.

Muchai, who also captained Team Kenya, led the team in Rio by example by winning two gold medals in the T.11 5,000m and 1,500m while Chelagat was the only Kenya female medalist at the Games where she won silver in the T11 1,500m.

Chelagat clocked 4:48.70 to finish second behind China’s Jin Zheng of China who posted 4:47.36 for the gold medal.

The 25-year-old had won the T11 200m gold at the IPC Grand Prix in Marakkesh, Morocco to qualify for Paralympics Games. She, however, finished fourth in her 200m heats at the Paralympics, clocking 29.88 that currently stands as her personal best.

Facing off with her will be another Paralympian, Irene Cherono, who won the T46 400m gold medal at the IPC Grand Prix, a qualification for the Rio Paralympics, where she failed to come home with a medal.

Also in the race for Female Para-athlete of the year is the 42-year-old Nelly Sile.

Sile was chosen from the field event, where she was a gold medalist in the F55 Javelin gold at the 2016 IPC World Championships in Dubai.

Jane Ndenga, who is ranked 109th in the ITF women’s singles wheelchair tennis is the fourth nominee in the women category.

Ndenga is Kenya’s number one seed and  she led the women’s team to a  third place finish in this year’s World Team Cup Regional African Qualifiers in Nairobi.

Additionally, Ndenga contested for the ITF Wheelchair Futures that was held for the first time on Kenyan soil and powered all the way to the final, where she placed second. At the ITF- Africa Wheelchair Futures held in South Africa, she reached the quarter finals in both the singles and doubles partnering Phoebe Masika.

Muchai, with his guide James Boit, saw off close competition from Brazil’s multiple world champion Odiar Santos in both races, clocking 4:03.25 to win the T.11 1,500m event and beating Odiar by 0.60. He remains the reigning world record holder in the T.11 1,500m though he had earlier anticipated tosmash his own record (3:58.37) set in the 2012 London Paralympics.

He clocked 15:16.11 to win the T.11 5,000m race, setting his personal best. This was the second time ever for Muchai to run the T11 5,000m. He first contested in this race at the 2016 International Paralympics Committee Asia-Oceania Championships in Dubai in March and recorded 15:49.00, winning gold and qualifying for the Rio Paralympics. He again beat Odiar (15:17.55) to the second place.

Experienced Henry Kirwa, a double medalist at the Rio Paralympics has been nominated too. The T13 athlete won gold in the 5,000m competition, and bronze in 1,500m. This was after bagging silver in 1,500m in Marakkesh, Morocco at an IPC Rio Paralympics qualifying event in May.

Kirwa, a triple Gold medalist T12 1500m, 5000m and 10,000m in the Beijing Paralympics in China, timed 14:17.32 in the T13 5,000m race to defeat Morocco’s El Amin Chentouf by 3.72 seconds.

He was beaten to double silver at the International Paralympics Committee’s Marrakesh Grand Prix by Moroccans-Chentouf and Youssef Benibrahim in the T12 5,000m and 1,500m respectively in March 2016.

Wilson Bii is the other nominee in the athlete of the year category. Alongside his running partner Benard Korir,  Bii stopped the clock in 15:22.96 and placed third in the T11 5,000m at the Rio Paralympics.

He also garnered two silver medals from the IPC athletics meet in Marakkesh in both the 1,500m and 5,000m in T11 categories.Top Wheelchair Tennis player in Kenya Peter Munuve rounds off the men nominees.

Munuve successfully defended his Britam Kenya Open titles both at the singles and doubles this year, partnering Rajab Abdalla. He is currently placed 273th in the ITF wheelchair Men’s singles ranking.

He also reached singles quarterfinals of the ITF Wheelchair Futures event held in Kenya for the first time. He lost in the doubles final.

At the ITF Wheelchair Futures in South Africa, he performed brilliantly in the doubles, only losing in the final. He reached singles quarterfinals. He has represented Kenya in the BNP Paribas regional qualifiers for all the six years that the tournament has run and he has always been at the team’s forefront.

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Story By Matthews Mutai
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