Athletics Kenya has questioned the process used to award Australian hurdler Sally Pearson the 2011 IAAF Female Athlete of the Year at the expense of Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot.
On Tuesday, AK chairman Isaiah Kiplagat, who is also one of the IAAF council members, said Cheruiyot’s performance that saw her win three major world titles supersedes Pearson’s achievement of only one world title.
“We are disappointed and everybody was not happy about the verdict of the IAAF, especially when they said Pearson beat Vivian (Cheruiyot) by 30 votes in online voting,” Kiplagat charged.
“That is not enough since this is not a beauty pageant where people are judged according to looks and how they strut on the runaway.”
“This (selection) process must change because it should be based on how someone performs on the athletics track,” explained Kiplagat, adding that the process should take cognisance of the fact that Africa still lags behind in terms of technology and as far as accessing internet is concerned.
“Africa is not like Australia, Europe and America where people have internet access in real time,” said Kiplagat.
Kenyans urged to vote
However, Kiplagat advised Kenyans to embrace technology so that the International Athletics Foundation which has the last say on who wins the award does not have an accuse of locking out a Kenyan from winning next year.
“How do you explain a stunned Pearson who admitted that Cheruiyot should have won it? Everybody was of the same opinion but like a football referee, the foundation’s decision is final but we have petitioned to have the whole process re-looked,” Kiplagat explained.
Cheruiyot won the World Cross Country Championships women’s 8km race in Punta Umbria, Spain before going for a double at the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, winning both the 5,000m and 10,000m titles. Cheruiyot also retained her 5,000m/3,000m Diamond League crowns unbeaten.
Broke Commonwealth record
She also broke her own Commonwealth record in the 5,000m race with a world-leading 14 mintes, 20.87 seconds as she went through the 3,000m marker in a world-leading time (8:38.67).
“What else should Vivian have done if not to post the fastest times in 3,000m and 5,000m races? What does Female Athlete of the Year award stands for if not winning the top accolades?”posed Kiplagat. “It’s useless to try an appease her with things that never existed in the first place.”
Apparently, Cheruiyot was sacrificed because IAAF saw an opportunity to market the sport in Oceania in giving the undeserving Pearson the award.
Athletics as a sport is struggling against cricket and rugby in Australia, New Zealand and the Oceania region in general. There has never been a winner of the world award from Oceania region.
Top European papers expressed shock after Pearson’s win. France’s L’Equipe said.
“It’s not Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot, who won three global titles in the cross country, 5,000m and 10,000 who is the 2011 world athlete of the year. It is Australia’s Sally Pearson who only won the 100m hurdles world title!”
Anglo-saxons voted in favour of Pearson, but everyone else, including IAAF and BBC statisticians voted for Cheruiyot, raising questions on powers of the athletics foundation that has the final say on issues of performance.
The foundation is chaired by Prince Albert II of Monaco and comprises IAAF president Lamine Diack.