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Olunga to battle Kipchoge for top men's award

Sunday January 12 2020

Kenya's forward Michael Olunga celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations match against Tanzania at the Stadium in Cairo on June 27, 2019. PHOTO | JAVIER SORIANO |

Kenya's forward Michael Olunga celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations match against Tanzania at the Stadium in Cairo on June 27, 2019. PHOTO | JAVIER SORIANO | AFP

AYUMBA AYODI
By AYUMBA AYODI
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Harambee Stars striker Michael Olunga is among five athletes nominated for the Safaricom Sportsman of the Year Award (Soya).

The winners will be declared during the 2019 Safaricom Sports Personality of the Year Award (Soya) gala on January 24 in Mombasa.

Olunga faces an a horde of top athletes including World 1,500m champion Timothy Cheruiyot, Olympic and World champion Conseslus Kipruto, World Half Marathon record holder Geoffrey Kamworor and World Marathon record holder Eliud Kipchoge.

Olunga became the first Kenyan to score a brace at the Africa Cup of Nations as he spurred Kenya to a 3-2 victory against Tanzania in the group stage in Egypt June last year.

Olunga was voted man of the match for his efforts in the Tanzania match.

At club level, Olunga - who plies his trade with Kashiwa Reysol in Japan's second tier - scored 29 goals and provided nine assists in 33 appearances in all competitions.

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That helped the side gain to the Japanese Premier League.

In August this year, Olunga was crowned the player of the month after scoring his first hat-trick for Kashiwa Reysol in their win 4-1 against Renofa Yamaguchi.

Kipchoge hit headlines once more when he became the first man to break the two-hour barrier in marathon.

Kipchoge started the year with victory in London Marathon in a course record time 2:02:37. Then in October 12, he became the first man to run the marathon in under two hours when he clocked 1:59:40 in "Ineos 1:59 Challenge" in Vienna, Austria.

Cheruiyot savoured a good 2019 season, winning 10 out of 11 races. He claimed his maiden World 1,500m title in Doha a few weeks after retaining his Diamond League trophy.

Kipruto will be remembered for his dash in Doha to retain his World 3,000m Steeplechase title, a feat he achieved following a troubled 2019 season with injuries.

In September, Kamworor took 17 seconds off the World Half Marathon record at the Copenhagen Half Marathon, winning the IAAF Gold Label road race in 58:01.

Kamworor had in Match won bronze at the World Cross Country Championships besides winning his second New York City Marathon in November.

Apart from Safaricom as the title sponsor, this year's gala has also been sponsored by the County Government of Mombasa, Kenya Pipeline, Communication Authority of Kenya, New KCC, Lapfund, Kenya Power, UBA Bank, Nairobi Bottlers, Kenya Ports Authority, NHIF, NSSF, Kenya Tourism Board and GOtv.

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