NAIROBI, Kenya- The 2017 domestic award season ends on Wednesday evening at the 14th Safaricom Sports Personality of the Year (SOYAs) gala in Nairobi where an imposing cast of top performers across various disciplines will be celebrated and crowned on the night.
The biggest prize for the nominees on parade at the function themed Passing the Baton, will be the Overall Sports Personality of the Year won by Olympic champion, Vivian Cheruiyot who also walked away as the Female Sports Personality of the Year following her exploits at Rio 2016 where she took 5000m gold and 10000m silver.
The SOYA Panel of Judges announced Kenya Simba XV star; Darwin Mukidza (rugby) will take on four athletics stars in world champions, Elijah Manangoi (men 1500m), Conseslus Kipruto (men 3000m steeplechase) and well as major city marathon winners; Eliud Kipchoge (Berlin) and Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor (New York) for the coveted Male Athlete of the Year award.
Kipchoge won the coveted prize at the 2016 gala on the back of winning the London Marathon before becoming the second Kenyan to bag marathon gold at the Olympics in Brazil and will be seeking a second successive podium show at the glitzy black tie event.
Last year, he ran the fastest ever time recorded over a full marathon course of 2:00:25 in Monza, Italy on May 6 although the performance was not eligible for world record considerations owing to the controlled environment and changing pacemakers in the Nike Breaking 2 project.
Having won silver at the 2015 Worlds in Beijing, Manangoi came to his own at London 2017, dethroning three-time winner, Asbel Kiprop from the men 1500m throne besides running the fastest time of the year in his speciality of 3:28.80 at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco on July 21.
Kipruto battled an injury-plagued season that saw him miss most of the Diamond League circuit to preserve Kenya’s unbeaten streak in the water and barriers race in London to add to his Olympic title won in Brazil a year earlier.
Kenya Commercial Bank RFC full back, Mukidza led from the front in inspiring Simbas to finish second to Namibia in the 2017 Africa Gold Cup.
The corresponding Female Sports Personality of the Year to be vacated to Cheruiyot who stepped up to marathon running in 2017 will see Kenya Lionesses star, Snaida Aura and breakthrough starlet; Edith Wisa who was voted the Best Blocker at the CAVB Africa Nations Cup cum World Championships qualifiers in Yaounde, Cameroon as Malkia Strikers booked their ticket to the global showpiece in Japan battle for SOYAs glory.
Despite failing to bag a 10th African title, Wisa’s star continued to rise when she was named the October Sports Journalists Association of Kenya/StarTimes Player of the Month.
Before that, the Kenya Prisons ace was named the Best Blocker at the CAVB Africa Women Volleyball Championships in Monastir, Tunisia and looks better equipped to crash the athletics party.
The formidable challenge for the top women gong at the SOYAs comes in the potent shape of London 2017 winners, Faith Chepg’etich Kipyegon (1500m) and Hellen Obiri (5000m) as well as the ever-green Boston Marathon winner, Edna Kiplagat, 38, who took the second medal at the World Championships.
Kipyegon underlined her status as the best mid distance track runner when she added her first senior world title to the Olympics gold she blasted to in Rio while Obiri was peerless at her distance, breaking two national records on the way to scorching feared Ethiopian 10000m record holder, Almaz Ayana to capture the top medal at London 2017.
Kiplagat continued to defy age when she battled to win the Boston crown before losing the world title by only three seconds as she bid to make history as the first-ever female three-peat winner of the crown.
The Team of the Year-Men award will see record Kenyan Premier League winners, Gor Mahia FC who blew away the competition take on, KCB RFC, the Under 19 Cricket Team, national champions Kenya Police Hockey Team and Vihiga United FC who earned promotion to the domestic football top flight.
Besides blowing away the local competition, K’Ogalo also made history in 2017 when they were crowned the inaugural winners of the SportPesa Super Cup in Tanzania, beating the old enemy, AFC Leopards SC 3-0 in the final where victory earned them the right to play English Premier League side, Everton FC in Dar.
Six nominees made the shortlist of the competitive Team of the Year-Women namely with volleyball dominating the roster as has been the recent tradition at the SOYAs.
Prisons will vie for the crown against bitter rivals, Kenya Pipeline national team Malkia with Lionesses, the peerless Telkom Kenya (hockey) who sealed a record 20th national championship last week and the National Cricket team rounding the list.
Other top categories in the 2017 SOYAs roster include the Most Promising male and female sports personalities of the year, the School Team of the Year (boys and girls), Coach of the Year (male and female), Sports Federation of the Year, Person Living with a Disability (male and female), Community Hero as well as one legend being indicted to the Hall of Fame.
Title partners, integrated communications giants, Safaricom extended their sponsorship into the 14th-straight year with the National Hospital Insurance Fund and MultiChoice Kenya coming on board with KSh4m and KSh2m in that order among other supporters for this year’s edition.
The SOYAs are a brain-child of National Olympic Committee-Kenya President, two-time Olympic 10000m silver winner and former world marathon record holder, Paul Tergat, and have grown to be the signature sports awards locally, earning the recognition of ‘Kenya Sporting Oscars’.
Sports Personality of the Year nominees
Darwin Mukidza- Rugby
Elijah Manangoi- Athletics
Conselsus Kipruto- Athletics
Eliud Kipchoge- Athletics
Geoffrey Kirui- Athletics
Snaida Aura- Rugby
Edith Wisa- Volleyball
Hellen Obori- Athletics
Faith Chepng’etich- Athletics
Edna Kiplagat- Athletics