MONTE CARLO, MONACO
Eliud Kipchoge won’t be celebrating too much when he returns home today after being crowned IAAF Male World Athlete of the Year here on Tuesday night.
The world marathon record holder left Monaco last night already planning more conquests in the 2019 season, but he won’t disclose his plans just yet.
Kipchoge, 34, on Tuesday night became only the second Kenyan athlete to be voted the world’s best after world 800 metres champion David Rudisha earned the accolade in 2010, the year he lowered the two-lap race mark twice.
“I’m a low-key person. I always have a way of celebrating with my family. Don’t expect me to be paraded on top of a car to celebrate my achievements because I consider that an insult,” he told journalists in Monaco, where the annual awards gala was hosted at the Grimaldi Forum, a popular events venue here.
“I always motivate myself, and I’m always motivated to face the next season,” added the Olympic champion who lives like a monk at his training camp in Kaptagat, Elgeyo-Marakwet County, and who has won 10 of his 11 career marathons.
Colombian jumper Caterine Ibaurguen, Kipchoge’s teammate at Dutch management company Global Sports Communication, won the IAAF Female World Athlete of the Year award.
She beat, among other nominees, Kenya’s steeplechase world record holder Beatrice Chepkoech.
The year’s highlights for the Colombian were victories in the long jump and triple jump at the Central American and Caribbean Games and also at the IAAF Continental Cup, an intercontinental competition. She was unbeaten all year in her eight triple jump competitions.
Swedish world under-20 pole-vault record holder Armand Duplantis and American sprinter Sydney McLaughlin, also a world under-20 record holder, were voted the most promising male and female athletes.
Kipchoge’s long-time coach Patrick Sang, himself an Olympic steeplechase medallist, described the Kenyan champion as “a special athlete who wants to leave a legacy”.
“He is focused, disciplined and doesn’t fear pain,” Sang, who started working with Kipchoge, 34, some 18 years ago in Nandi County, said.
Athletics Kenya President Jack Tuwei said Kipchoge’s win on Tuesday night at the black-tie reception in the affluent Monaco will go a long way in cleaning up Kenya’s athletics image that has been somewhat tainted by recent cases of doping.
“Eliud has brought a positive image to Kenya, particularly during this time of doping challenges in Kenya. This is a game changer and it means that not all athletes in Kenya are dopers,” Tuwei, a retired army general, said.
“We’d like to thank Eliud for showing the world that Kenya has clean athletes and they can win clean,” he added.
Kipchoge’s 2018 highlights were victory in April’s London Marathon with a time of two hours, four minutes and 17 seconds before he shattered the world record in September, running 2:01:39 at the Berlin Marathon.
He improved compatriot Dennis Kimetto’s previous record by 78 seconds, the biggest improvement over the 42-kilometre distance since 1967.
“The award means a lot to me,” Kipchoge said after being presented with his trophy by Prince Albert of Monaco and Seb Coe, the President of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
“It’s a tribute to the hard work that I’ve put in my career. I want to pass my gratitude to my family, they are my ignition key every morning when I wake up.
"Second, I want to say thank you to my coach Patrick Sang and to Global Sports Communications as they have showed me that when you believe in yourself, you can do great things. Finally a huge thanks to my sponsors Nike and NN who helped me to make it all possible, and also to members of the Fourth Estate.”
Kipchoge’s main competitors were French decathlete Kevin Mayer and American sprinter Christian Coleman. Others were Swedish European champion pole vaulter Armand Duplantis and Qatari hurdler Abderrahman Samba.