Samwel Mushai definitely won more than the 2017 Sports Personality of the Year (Soya) accolade during Wednesday night’s gala at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre.
The paralympian moved the packed auditorium at KICC with his eloquent and inspiring victory speech, shortly after he won the biggest prize of the night.
While many had tipped either world champions Conseslus Kipruto (3,000 metres steeplechase) or Hellen Obiri (5,000m) to bag the top prize, it is the soft-spoken Mushaiwho was the toast of the night, a win that not only shocked the guests but also himself.
His speech was gracious and drew applauds from the guests led by Deputy President William Ruto, celebrity guest and former Kenyan footballer Mike Okoth, Soya founder Paul Tergat, among others.
CHANGING THE MINDSET
“I take this opportunity to thank all of you. I’m very delighted to be awarded the overall Sports Personality of the Year prize..
“Since Soya began, no person with disability has ever won overall award. Glad that has changed today. As I stand here I am changing the mindset that people with disability cannot achieve,” Mushaisaid in his victory speech.
He followed up his exploits in the T11 (category for athletes with the highest level of visual impairment) men’s 5,000m and 1,500m at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games with a replica at the 2017 World Para Athletics Championships in London last July to win the overall title.
He had earlier on won the “Sportsman Living with a Disability” award for the second consecutive year, beating Deaflympians Simon Cherono and David Kiptum to second and third place, respectively.
He also paid tribute to his guide, James Boit, and called on more corporates to sponsor paralympians and left the crowd giving him a standing ovation as he made his way off the stage.
It is no wonder that guests at the event flocked to take selfies with the man of the moment as journalists jostled to get an interview with him.
Despite finishing second in his heat in four minutes, 14.63 seconds, Muchai, the world T11 1,500m record holder (three minutes, 58.37 seconds) went on to win the 1,500m gold medal at the London event in 4:11.5.
Mushaistopped the clock at 15:41.54 to win the 5,000m title and was the only Kenyan to win gold in London.
The DP led Kenyans on social media in congratulating Mushaifor his heroics.
DP RUTO'S TWEET
“Samuel Muchai, the Sports Personality of the Year, is a true hero and a shining example that with determination and focus, one can beat all odds. We are proud of you all as Kenya’s sporting ambassadors, for your unparalleled dedication and patriotism,” DP Ruto tweeted.
Mushaibecomes the second para athlete to win the overall title at the Sports Personality of the Year (Soya) awards after legendary long distance runner, Henry Wanyoike, who won at the inaugural 2004 ceremony.