IN MONTE CARLO, MONACO
On Tuesday night, Colombian Caterine Ibarguen was dazzling in a flowing black lace dress, strutting her stuff confidently on the IAAF Awards Gala runway at Monaco’s Grimaldi Forum with the finesse of the seasoned jumper that she is.
Eliud Kipchoge followed suit, his tuxedo – with a Nike lapel pin to boot - and matching bow tie making him stand out for the legend he is.
Both athletes, coincidentally, are 34 years old, with tonnes of experience in their celebrity feet.
The rest of the Kenyan party too didn’t disappoint, the Manangoi brothers Elijah and George, along with fellow miler Timothy Cheruiyot, all members of coach Bernard Ouma’s Rongai Athletics Club, resplendent in their black suits.
Africa 1,500 metres champion Winnie Chebet and steeplechase world record holder Beatrice Chepkoech also stood out in their silver and red dresses, respectively.
Athletics Kenya President Jack Tuwei, a retired army general, and Kipchoge’s celebrated coach Patrick Sang, an Olympic steeplechase silver medallist, are used to these black-tie receptions and were equal to the sartorial task.
But behind the scenes, Ibarguen didn’t really have a flawless night.
Her bright smile as she posed for camera clicks camouflaged the evening’s disappointment.
The Colombian long jumper/triple jumper lost her luggage at France’s Nice International Airport, where the stars landed before taking the half-hour car ride to the neighbouring Principality of Monaco, the tiny, helipad-strewn city-state with no space for an airport of its own.
The evening wear she had spent weeks to settle on was nowhere to be seen.
However, the night was salvaged when her management team quickly sought an alternative, parting with 1,500 Euros (Sh170,000) for the lace dress, enough cash to buy a second-hand Toyota Vitz.
The opulence of Monaco and its high price tags meant Global Sports Communications (GSC) – the Dutch management company that handles both Ibarguen and Kipchoge – had to part with the tidy sum to salvage the evening for the Colombian’s dress.
Their choice of the black lace would make Ibarguen’s fellow countrywoman Shakira green with envy.
It brought out Colombian hips that didn’t lie.
GSC’s team from Nijmegen, Netherlands, led by director Jos Hermens, was represented by a team of six, including a dedicated photographer.
Winning the IAAF male and female athlete of the year awards was a rare double for a management company.
Ibarguen season was highlighted by Diamond League victories in the triple jump and long jump, as well as an IAAF Continental Cup title.
“I want to say thank you to all of Colombia who have supported me since the start,” she said while accepting her award.
“To my coach Ubaldo, my family, all of the fans and to my management Global Sports Communication. I couldn’t have done it without you!”
She defeated four other nominees namely British sprinter Dina Asher-Smith, Kenyan steeplechaser Beatrice Chepkoech, sprinter Shaunae Miller-Uibo of The Bahamas and Belgian heptathlete Nafissatou Thiam.
“We met her when she came to Europe for the first time a few years ago – it must be 12 or 13 years ago - and she had a manager who was not too honest and who was taking her money,” GSC principal and founder Hermens recollected his professional engagement with the Colombian star to Nation Sport.
“She had a contract with Nike and at the end of the season she wasn’t getting the money from Nike.
“We had a little problem initially with her because both her and the coach didn’t speak English.
“But she is mentally very strong, like Eliud, because when she wins, she usually wins in the final jumps.
“To be at that level the mental part plays as big a role as the physical part. Not many athletes have the combination of the physical and mental talent.”
Kipchoge was rewarded for breaking the world marathon record at September’s BMW Berlin Marathon and also winning the Virgin Money London Marathon in April.
His new world record in a time of two hours, one minute and 39 seconds was 78 seconds faster than the previous mark set in 2014 by Dennis Kimetto.
“This has been his year,” AK President Tuwei said of Kipchoge’s triumph, paying tribute to the world record holder for his achievements this season.
“It’s not easy to break a record, but he did it this time. It’s the second time for a Kenyan to win the world athlete of the year after David Rudisha in 2010.
“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.
“We’d like to thank Eliud for showing the world that Kenya has clean athletes and they can win clean.”
In accepting his award, that comes with $100,000 (Sh10 million), Kipchoge paid tribute to his family, management, media and sponsors.
“This award means a lot to me,” the legend who trains in Kaptagat said.
“It’s a tribute to the hard work that I’ve put in during my career.
“I think I knew at 30km into the race I was sure I was going to run a world record. I didn’t know however that it was going to result into such a great time.
“I want to pass my gratitude to my family and my children, they are my ignition key.
“Secondly, I want to say thank you to my coach Patrick Sang and to my management Global Sports Communication 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 help me make it all possible, and members of the fourth estate also.”
Kipchoge was nominated alongside American sprinter Christian Coleman, Swedish pole vaulter Armand Duplantis, French decathlete Kevin Mayer and Qatari hurdler Abderrahman Samba.
The 2018 award winners were:
Male rising star: Armand Duplantis (Sweden)
Female rising star: Sydney McLaughlin (USA)
Coach of the year: Dr Joe Vigil (USA)
Woman of the year: Evelyn Lopez (Mexico)
President's Award: Andreas Brugger (Switzerland)
Male athlete of the year: Eliud Kipchoge (Kenya)
Female athlete of the year: Caterine Ibarguen (Colombia)