Will Harambee Stars goalkeeper Patrick Matasi and Kenya Sevens rugby star William Ambaka halt athletics dominance for the men and eventually overall title at this year’s Safaricom Sports Personality of the Year award (Soya)?
That is the million-dollar question on the lips of the events enthusiasts ahead of the 15th edition of the gala which take place at Fort Jesus in Mombasa County Friday evening.
Apart from swimmer Jason Dunford who won the award in 2007 and Collins Injera who won in 2009, no male athlete from a sports other than athletics has won the award making sports fans wait on Friday’s announcement with bated breath.
Past winners Eliud Kipchoge (2016) and Conseslus Kipruto (2017) will once again be vying for top honours at the event where they will face fellow athlete Elijah Manangoi, Kenya Sevens star Ambaka and Matasi.
Kipchoge, who broke the world marathon record, won the men’s title in 2016, but was beaten to the overall title by the 2016 Rio Olympic 5,000m champion Vivian Cheruiyot.
Kipruto, the world 3,000m steeplechase champion, won the title in 2017, but was pipped to the overall title by Paralympic athlete Samuel Mushai.
The battle will, however, be between Kipchoge and Kipruto who both had stellar seasons and are strong favourites to lift the sportsman of the year crown.
Kipchoge, who is also the Olympic Marathon champion, started the year strongly with victory at the London Marathon in 2 hours, 04 minutes and 17 seconds on April 22, which was the 15th fastest time over the distance, having won at the same course in 2015 in 2:04:42 and 2016 in 2:03:05, missing the world record by eight seconds.
Kipchoge then went for Berlin Marathon victory where he shattered the world record by a massive one minute and 18 seconds, setting a new time of 2:01:39 in September on the streets of the German capital.
On his way to the world record and his third Berlin title, Kipchoge also broke the 30km world record setting a new time of 1:26:45. That accomplishment, was among many that led to him being declared the 2018 IAAF Male Athlete of the Year.
Kipruto has been in fine form since winning the Olympic 3,000m steeplechase title in Rio in 2016 and World title in 2017 London. He won gold at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia before going for the Africa title in Asaba, Nigeria.
Kipruto then retained his Diamond League trophy in style, clocking 8:10.15, while running with one shoe in Zurich on August 30. He then finished the season in style, winning his first World Cup (IAAF Continental Cup) in the Czech Republic in 8:22.55 on September 8.
OBIRI, CHEPKOECH BATTLE FOR HONOURS
Athlete Beatrice Chepkoech, the Africa, Continental and Diamond series steeplechase winner will battle it out with World 5,000m champion Helen Obiri, boxer Fatuma Zarika and rugby star Janet Okello for the Sportswoman of the Year award.
Swimming sensation Maria Brunlehner and tennis rising star Angela Okutoyi headline the girl’s category in the Most Promising Player awards.
In the boy’s category, Edward Zakayo - who grabbed 5000m Commonwealth Games bronze before following it up with victories over the same distance at the World Under-20 and Africa Championships, will be the man to beat.
Also in contention for the girl’s award are world Under-20 5,000m champion Beatrice Chebet, Youth Olympics 1,500m champion Edinah Jebitok and Harambee Starlets forward Teresa Engesha.
Okutoyi won the ITF under-18 tournament in Burundi which saw her join the ITF World Tour team that embarked on a five-week tour of France, Germany, Belgium and Czech Republic earlier this year.
She also made history as the first Kenya to reach the final of the Africa Cup on Nations in November in Botswana.