As the say, all is well that ends well. And indeed, the Athletics Kenya (AK) Awards last week went on well as we celebrated the country’s best athletes in 2017.
As expected, Elijah Manangoi and Hellen Obiri were voted male and female Athletes of the Year.
There is no doubt the two had an amazing season amid their nomination for the IAAF Awards. Manangoi displayed consistency, winning seven out of 13 races he competed in.
Besides, he won the world 1,500 metres crown and placed second in the Diamond League season. Manangoi beat World Marathon champion Geoffrey Kirui and 3000m steeplechase champion Conseslus Kipruto to the title. He also bagged the Middle Distance Athlete of the Year award.
Impressive Obiri was also a double winner as she won the Female Athlete of the Year and Long Distance Athlete of year awards.
Obiri, 28, lived up to expectations this season as the Olympic 5,000m silver medallist shattered the six-year-old 5,000m national record, shaving off two minutes at the Rome DL in June with a new time of 4:18.37.
She also won the world 5,000m title in London, obliterating Ethiopian rival Almaz Ayana. She beat World 1,500m champion Faith Chepng’etich and World marathon silver medallist Edna Kiplagat to the overall title.
Other big winners of the night were Leonard Bett, who was named the Young Athlete of the Year after beating George Manangoi, Dominic Ndigiti to the crown. World Under-18 2,000m steeplechase championship Caren Chebet won the contest against Jackline Wambui and Immaculate Chepkirui.
Despite the colourful gala, there were queries over the selection criteria in some categories with sprints and field missing out. As far as the panellists are concerned, participants in the two categories under-performed and this being Golden Awards, feting anyone in the categories would beat the purpose of the whole event, which I totally agree.
There were also silent murmurs about the coaches category. I would like to put it clearly that the criteria for selecting the coach of the year was changed with the panellists opting to award grass roots trainers this time round.
Kericho-based Japheth Kemei, who ventured into coaching in 2000, was named coach of the year ahead of Bernard Ouma and Barnaba Kitilit.
Rightly so, he deserved the gong if his work rate at the grassroots is anything to go by .
Just how else can we reward the grass roots coaches who rarely get a chance to take the team to international assignments? Again, this was a good move.
We hope the awards will going forward encourage both the athletes and coaches to give their best.