Former Olympic 800 metres gold medallist and reigning world indoor champion over the distance, Pamela Jelimo, could be heading back to the limelight.
This is after judges of the Safaricom Sports Personality of the Year Awards (Soya) lined up the athlete who rose to fame five years ago as a candidate for the new prestigious Comeback of the Year award at the gala night to be held next Thursday.
Jelimo, who earned the nickname “Kapsabet Express” when she rose to stardom four years ago in Beijing Olympics, is a hot favourite for the Comeback Award, which is given to athletes who defy debilitating circumstances to return to the top of their sport.
Jelimo was bogged down by a string of injuries after her Olympic triumph in Beijing and spent the following three years fighting to make a comeback with little success.
However, early this year, her star started shining at local races after which she won the World Indoor Championship title and qualified for the Olympics where she reached the final and finished fourth behind the winner Mariya Savinova of Russia, Caster Semenya of South Africa and Ekaterina Poistogova (Russia).
Jelimo also won the 800 metres Samsung Diamond League title this year. But it may not be Jelimo’s for the taking as rallying driver Ben Muchemi and athlete Phillip Mosima could just pose the strongest competition.
Muchemi has twice defied cancer to make a comeback, driving in seven out of eight rallies this season. In 2010, he was declared motor sportsman of the year after returning from India where he underwent treatment for the terminal disease.
Mosima, a former world junior cross country champion, was virtually a retired athlete after his long stay in Japan and was almost being forgotten. But he emerged from self-imposed semi-retirement to dominate this season’s cross-country circuit, especially the Gusii Golden Series from where he was selected for the Chiba Ekiden which Kenya won only a few days ago.
The Soya panel have also short listed candidates for the Most Promising Sports Personality category.
On the men’s short-list, Timothy Kitum, who won a 800m silver medal in the World Junior Championships in Barcelona and a bronze medal in London Olympics, is the favourite.
But Upper Hill High School’s Mike Olunga’s dribbling skills and goal-scoring ability could just prove to be Kitum’s Achilles heel.
The third athlete in this category in Conseslus Kiruto, who won 3,000m steeplechase at the World Junior Championships in a championships record of 8:06.10.
Then there is also the young student, Isaak Iqbal from Wajir High school who beat so many odds to outshine many from privileged and developed schools and areas to lift the badminton trophy during national championships in Mombasa.
On the women’s side, Neddy Atieno, the highly-talented Tartar Girls High School football captain, is hoping to spoil the party for athletes Faith Chepng’etich Kipyegon, the world junior 1,500m champion and Mercy Chebwogen, who won 3,000m gold in the World Juniors in a personal best of 9:08.88.