2017 500m world champion Helen Obiri and his counterpart Elijah Manangoi headline the shortlists for 2017 Sports Personality of the Year Awards (SOYA) slated for next Wednesday in Nairobi.
Obiri and Manangoi bagged the best female and male athletes of the year gongs from Athletics Kenya (AK) gala held last month. The duo was also nominated for IAAF World Athlete of the Year Awards but failed to garner sufficient votes thereby falling out. They seem destined for greater fetes after being shortlisted for the SOYA awards.
In the SOYA Sportsman of the year category , 2016 winner Eliud Kipchoge is among the five athletes shortlisted, with all but rugby player Darwin Mukidza being runners.
Kipchoge won Berlin Marathon but is still deemed to have had a subdued season, going by the standards he set in the previous year. IAAF World Championships marathon surprise winner Geoffrey Kiprui is also a contender alongside track stars Manangoi and Conseslus Kipruto.
Having sparkled in 2016 Diamond League, Manangoi crowned the year by winning gold in World Championships 1500m while Kipruto, the Olympic 3000m steeplechase record holder added the world championship title to his fast piling medal collection.
Sportswoman of the year category will be contested by three runners, volleyball and rugby player. Olympic and world 1500m champion Faith Chepngetich, sensational 5000m world champion Helen Obiri and evergreen marathoner Edna Kiplagat are in contest alongside exciting and highly rated volleyball player Edith Wisa and marauding national rugby player Sinaida Aura.
Aura and Wisa have been exceptional in 2016 but are bogged by the weight of team sports in a contest where Obiri, Chepngetich and Kiplagat’s individual brilliance don’t share their glows.
Obiri was a revelation in the Diamond League and raced to her first career gold medal by trouncing Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana in world championships 5000m.
Chepngetich also fell another Ethiopian great Genzebe Dibaba to win the 1500m World Champion while Kiplagat settled for silver in world championships marathon but the veteran won 2017 Boston Marathon.
Kenyan Premier League champions Gor Mahia are contesting for the Men Sports team of the year category alongside Kenya Cup champions KCB RFC and Kenya Police Hockey team. Also shortlisted for the male sports team of the year award are Under 19 Cricket National Team and National Under 20 Football Team.
A tight race for Women Sports Team of the year pits three national teams and three club teams. The national women volleyball team Malkia Strikers, National women cricket team and national women rugby team Kenya Lionesses – are propped alongside all conquering Telkom Hockey team, Pipeline and Prisons Volleyball teams for the gong.
Athletics Kenya (AK) is shortlisted for federation of the year gong alongside Football Kenya Federation (FKF), Boxing Association of Kenya (BAK), Cricket Kenya and Kenya Secondary Schools Sports Association (KSSSA).