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Who will it be? Mombasa hosts Soya Gala

Thursday January 23 2020

Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho (right) hands over the Sportsman of the Year trophy to World Marathon record holder Eliud Kipchoge during the 2018 Safaricom Sportsman of the Year Awards (Soya) gala held at Fort Jesus, Mombasa on January 12, 2019. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT |

Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho (right) hands over the Sportsman of the Year trophy to World Marathon record holder Eliud Kipchoge during the 2018 Safaricom Sportsman of the Year Awards (Soya) gala held at Fort Jesus, Mombasa on January 12, 2019. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

AYUMBA AYODI
By AYUMBA AYODI
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Kenya’s top athletes, teams, coaches and federations parade at the Mombasa Sports Club which will host the 16th edition of the Safaricom Sports Personality of the Year Awards (Soya) Gala Friday evening.

Ultimately, the 2019 Sports Personality of the Year will be crowned at the end of the gala themed “A Night Under the Stars, with the Stars.”

Former Africa Footballer of the Year Victor Ikpeba, who won gold with Nigeria's Super Eagles at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, is the chief celebrity guest at the awards ceremony being held at the coastal city for the second year in a row. The County Government of Mombasa is partnering with Safaricom to hold the event.

Can the sportsmen and women living with disabilities outdo the able bodied ones to win the coveted overall title again?

No sportsperson outside athletics has ever won the top title since the introduction of the overall Sports Personality of the Year category in 2011. Only long distance runner Vivian Cheruiyot has managed to win the overall title twice in 2011 and in 2016.

DUNFORD TRIUMPHS

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Previously, two athletes from outside athletics -- swimmer Jason Dunford in 2007 and rugby superstar Collins Injera in 2009 -- won the award which was formerly known as Sportsman of the Year Award.

Two Paralympians have managed to scoop top accolades at the Soya Gala Night. The inaugural winner was Henry Wanyoike in 2004 and the 2018 overall winner Samuel Mushai. All are long distance runners.

Bodybuilder Evelyne Okinyi Owala is looking to upset the odds as she takes on three world champions and a World Marathon record holder in the Sports Woman of the Year category. Owala faces world champions Hellen Obiri (5,000 metres), Ruth Chepng’etich (marathon) and Beatrice Chepkoech (3,000m steeplechase).

World Marathon record holder Brigid Kosgei, who is also the London and Chicago marathon champion, is also in the mix.

No footballer has ever won the Sportsman of the Year Award and whether Harambee Stars striker Michael Olunga will also make history is left to be known. Olunga faces a horde of athletics heavyweights including World 1,500m champion Timothy Cheruiyot, Olympic and World 3,000m steeplechase champion Conseslus Kipruto, World Half Marathon record holder Geoffrey Kamworor and World Marathon record holder Eliud Kipchoge.

Owala entered her name into the annals of history when she won the 2019 African title in the Wellness Division held in Angola. She also clinched the Arnold Classic during the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB) Championships in South Africa.

Owala finished third in the 2019 IFBB World Cup and 10th at the Arnold Classic to qualify for elite pro league, making history as the first Kenyan female to do so.

Chepng’etich opened Kenya’s medal account at the 2019 World Championships in Doha with victory in women’s marathon and also won the Dubai Marathon with the third fastest time ever of 2:17:08 by then. Brigid won London Marathon before breaking the women’s world record that stood for 16 years, clocking 2:14:04 in Chicago. She erased Paula Radcliffe’s record by 1 minute 24 seconds.

Obiri won the World Cross Country title in Aarhus, Denmark, before retaining her World 5,000m title in Doha where she finished fourth in the 10,000m final.

Chepkoech won her first ever world title in 3,000m steeplechase in Doha and also retained her Diamond League trophy.

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 in June last year.

Olunga was voted man-of-the-match for his efforts in the Tanzania match. He also propelled Kashiwa Reysol, a second tier outfit to the Japanese Premier League.

Kipchoge started the year with victory in the London Marathon in a course record of 2:02:37. Then on October 12 last year, he became the first man to run a marathon in under two hours when he clocked 1:59:40 in the Ineos 1:59 Challenge in Vienna, Austria. He retained the World Athletes Athlete of the Year Award.

Cheruiyot claimed his maiden World 1,500m title in Doha a few weeks after retaining his Diamond League trophy.

Kipruto battled to retain his World 3,000m steeplechase title while Kamworor set a new World Half Marathon record at the Copenhagen Half Marathon, winning the race in 58:01. Kamworor also won bronze at the World Cross Country Championships and the New York City Marathon.

Vincent Mutai, who won an unprecedented three gold medals at the International Para Athletics Championships last year, is pitted against the 2018 Sports Personality of the Year Samuel Mushai and three other nominees for the Sportsman Living with a Disability Award.

Multi-talented Asiya Sururu, who is set to go to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in rowing, and World Para Athletics bronze medallist Nancy Chelagat highlight the Sportswoman Living with a Disability category.

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