Just what would it take for Vivian Cheruiyot to be recognised as the finest woman athlete in the world?
That’s the question many global athletics analysts and journalists were left asking themselves last night when Australia’s one-title wonder Sally Pearson was named the World Athlete of the Year, beating Kenya’s hot favourite for the award, Cheruiyot, a three-times world champion this year.
Cheruiyot had made it to the final shortlist of three alongside Pearson, Australia’s 100m hurdles world champion and New Zealand’s shot put world title holder Valerie Adamson.
The men’s award was equally surprising as world sprints record holder Usain Bolt clinched his third global award beating the two other finalists, his Jamaican training partner and 100 metres world champion Yohan Blake and Kenya’s 800m world champion and record holder David Rudisha, the 2010 World Athlete of the Year.
Both Person and Bolt said they were surprised by the awards that each come with a $100,000 (about Sh10 million).
“With three world titles Vivian was a great opponent and I’m surprised that I was given the award,” the Aussie said. “Of the three world awards I have won, this was the most surprising,” said Bolt.
The judges rewarded Cheruiyot, winner of the world cross country title and a double gold medallist at the Worlds in Daegu (10,000m and 5,000m) with the award of women’s performance of the year for the double, the men’s award going to Blake who ran the second fastest ever 200m (19.26 seconds) at the Samsung Diamond League in Brussels.
Kenya was rewarded when veteran John Velzian, who landed in Kenya in 1960 as a volunteer sports officer, was given the Coaching Lifetime Achievement Award for his dedicated service to athletics training.
Vivian was clear favourite
It was a bitter-sweet evening at the Monte Carlo Sporting Club last night for British athletics agent Ricky Simms who manages both Cheruiyot and Bolt.
“Vivian was the clear favourite a few days ago, but these things happen,” said Simms.
“The important thing for her next year is to get the Olympic titles in London. The Athlete of the Year award is just an extra. It is the performances on the track that matter,” he added.
Speaking minutes before the announcement was made, Cheruiyot, who travelled here with her husband Moses Kiplagat Kurui, said she accepts any decision made by the judges.
“If I win it’s ok and if they don’t give it to me, there’s no problem,” she said in the company of other Kenyan athletes invited to last night’s gala, Ezekiel Kemboi, the steeplechase world champion, and Edna Kiplagat, the world marathon champion.