Tight race for Sportsman of the Year award

Monday January 7 2019

Eliud Kipchoge

Kenyan athlete Eliud Kipchoge gives his speech after receiving the IAAF Male World Athlete of the Year award in Monaco on December 4, 2018. PHOTO | VALERY HACHE | AFP 

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Past winners Eliud Kipchoge (2016) and Consenslus Kipruto (2017) will once again be up for the Sportsman of the Year honours during the 2018 Safaricom Sports Personality of the Year Award (Soya).

The athletics celebrities face fellow athlete Elijah Manangoi beside Kenya Sevens star William “Lomu” Ambaka and Harambee Stars keeper Peter Matasi for the award.

The winners will be known during 2018 Soya Gala planned for Friday at Fort Jesus, Mombasa.

Kipchoge, who is fresh from breaking 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 2017 World 3,000m steeplechase champion, won the title in 2017, but its Paralympic athlete Samuel Mushai, who claimed the overall title.

However, will Ambaka and Matasi halt athletics dominance for the men and eventually overall title?

That is the question as Ambaka and Matasi hope to join the few sportsmen from outside athletics to have won the men’s award after swimmer Jason Dunford (2007) and another Kenya Sevens rugby star Collins Injera (2009).

Kipchoge, who is the Olympic Marathon champion, started the year strongly with victory at 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.

Then Kipchoge went for Berlin Marathon victory where he shattered the World marathon record one minute and 18 seconds, setting news time of 2:01:39 in September 16 the Germany Capital City.

On his way to the WR and his third Berlin Marathon title, Kipchoge also broke the 30km World Record setting new times of 1:26:45. That accomplishment saw him declared the 2018 IAAF Male Athlete of the Year.

Kipruto has been on a roller-coaster since winning the Olympic 3,000m steeplechase title in Rio in 2016 and World title in 2017 London. Kipruto won Commonwealth Games gold in Gold Coast before going for the Africa title in Asaba, Nigeria.

Kipruto then retained his Diamond League for his third trophy in style, clocking 8:10.15, while running with one shoe in Zurich on August 30. Kipruto has also won in Rome and Birmingham.

Kipruto would finish the season in style, winning his first World Cup (IAAF Continental Cup) in Czech in 8:22.55 on September 8.

Despite finishing second at the Kenyan trials, Manangoi, the World 1,500m champion, went on to win his maiden Commonwealth Games title in Gold Coast, Australia, clocking 3:34.78 on April 14.

Manangoi followed it up with his first African title in a Championship Record time of 3:35.20 in Asaba, Nigeria on August 5, before ending his season with his first World Cup victory (Continental Cup) in Ostrava, Czech on September 9.

Ambaka was Kenya’s top try scorer this season with 31 tries from 155 points in 54 matches, feat that guided Shujaa to break the half-a-century-mark for the first time for 104 points.

That saw Shujaa finish eighth during the 2017/2018 World Rugby Sevens Series.

Ambaka made his first cap for the Kenya 15 rugby team, the Simbas this season, when he was named in Africa Gold Cup/ World Cup Qualifier squad to face Tunisia and he scored a brace as the Simbas mauled Tunisia 67-0 at RFUEA Grounds.

Ambaka also scored two tries despite Kenya Simbas going down 53-28 loss in the Africa Gold Cup decider. He also featured for Kenya Simbas at the other World Cup qualifier at Repechage in France.

Matasi kept a clean sheet against Ethiopia in Africa Cup of Nations qualifier which helped Kenya book their ticket to this year’s Africa Cup of Nations for the first time in 15 years.

In the Kenyan Premier League, playing for Posta Rangers before moving to Tusker in mid-season, he kept clean run in 29 matches and saved three penalties.

Matasi’s performance attracted the eyes of scouts, signing a three-year deal with Ethiopian top tier side St. Georges.