The Safaricom Sports Personality of the Year Award (Soya) judges risk starting a controversy should they fail to declare World Athlete of the Year David Rudisha the winner at Friday’s ceremony.
The world passed its verdict in Monaco last month and all that remains is the coronation as the Masai moran is expected to chalk up more jewels to decorate his illustrious cap.
Rudisha however has international football star McDonald Mariga, swimming maestro Jason Dunford, Commonwealth and African 400m champion Mark Mutai as well as Richard Mateelong, the 3,000m specialist, to beat to the top honour.
The women’s field has volleyball centre player and captain of Kenya team Prackcides Agala, World 5,000m champion Vivian Cheruiyot, Olympic 1,500m winner Nancy Jebet Lagat and Milcah Chemos, the world 3,000m steeplechase bronze medallist.
The question is, who will succeed Linet Masai and Collins Injera?
The awards, the biggest in Kenyan history, are closely contested, with local and multi-national companies dangling endorsement contracts.
Has given world new imagination
Rudisha stands out as the favourite. His success this year has given the world new imagination while leaving the Soya judges scratching their heads.
Said the Soya founding patron and athletics legend Paul Tergat: “It’s true he has done well. But there are others who have excelled too. It’s still an open race. Of course when it’s this close the judges must feel the pressure.”
With Mariga’s rise in Italy where he is a regular with European champions Inter Milan and Mutai, Dunford and Mateelong all having returned better performances this year, the stage is set for tough choices.
Among the finalists only Dunford has felt the texture of the gala, in 2007 together with World and Olympic 800m silver medallist Janeth Jepkosgei.
Six years of Soya and no two-time winner spices the challenge ahead of the main dinner gala at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre Plenary Hall.
Tergat and the giant mobile telephony service provider have pumped Sh7 million in the prize kitty, with the winner taking home Sh150,000.
Co-sponsors include Coca-Cola through their Dasani water brand, Deacons through their Life Fitness brand, National Bank of Kenya, National Social Security Fund and the Communications Commission of Kenya.
Recorded stellar performances
The year 2010 has been splendid for Kenyans, especially among the men, who recorded stellar performances – including in the World Cross Country Championships in Poland, IAAF Samsung Diamond League series, CAA African Senior Athletics Championships (Nairobi) and the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
No wonder national and Kenya Prisons women’s volleyball captain Prackcides Agala is a lone wolf thanks to her being skipper of the two most successful teams in the continent.
After exasperating Gor Mahia fans in a close two-horse race, will Ulinzi Stars’ Benjamin Nyangweso yet again pip Zedekiah “Zico” Otieno in the Coach of the Year contest?
Or will the honour be reserved for Kenya sprints coach Steven Mwaniki, the dark horse credited with the sudden change of fortune in short distance races?