It was a memorable night at the Safaricom Sports Personality of the Year Awards (Soya) gala as world marathon record holder Eliud Kipchoge was declared on 2019 over sports personality title in Mombasa on Friday night.
Fireworks lit up the night sky at Mombasa Sports Club to crown as the sonorous cheers livened the air as Kipchoge walked to the podium to receive the prize. Kipchoge won the 018 crown at Fort Jesus Museum in Mombasa.
Kipchoge, who is preparing to compete at the 40th Virgin London marathon against Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele among other top cream marathoners on April 26, upstaged three other athletes in world 1,500m champion Timothy Cheruiyot, world half marathon record holder Geoffrey Kamworor and world 5,000m champion Helen Obiri to win the overall title.
Kipchoge stood out as hot favourite from the onset thanks to his brilliant shows last season. He defended his London Marathon title in a course record of 2:02:37, bagging his fourth title in the United Kingdom’s premier race in April.
The 34-year-old unlocked human potential as he ran a jaw dropping 1:59.40 at the Ineos 1:59 Challenge in Vienna, Austria, on October 12 -to become the first man on the planet to run a marathon distance in under two hours.
The feat saw him win the World Male Athlete of the Year award in Monte Carlo in Monaco, France, during the World Athletics gals last November.
“I am excited with this win. My legacy is not to build houses but if you want freedom, then get into sports and you won’t regret,” Kipchoge said.
On the forthcoming London marathon, Kipchoge said he is well prepared and ready for his challengers. “I don’t discuss people’s affairs but I am ready for London marathon,” he said.
He will take on Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele, the world second fastest marathon of all time at 2:01.41, at the London Marathon.
Helen Obiri overcame a strong opposition to win the Female Sports Personality of the Year award. The 2016 Olympic silver medalist won gold medal in 5,000m at the 2019 World Championships in Doha, setting a new Championship Record time of 14:26.72 to lead compatriot Margaret Chelimo to a 1-2 finish. Obiri defeated Brigid Kosgei and Ruth Chepngetich for the Friday night award.
“I had strong feeling that I would emerge the female of the year following my successful performance in 2019 events. My focus now is the 2020 Olympic Games where I will be going for the gold medal,” she said.
Paul Bitok, who guided Malkia Strikers to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games in Cameroon was named the Coach of the year while the Federation of the Year award went to Kenya Special Olympics.
The event was graced by Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed, Sports Principal Secretary Joe Okudo and Mombasa County Deputy Governor. Former Nigeria’s striker Victor Ikhepa was celebrity guest.
Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed said plans are at an advanced stage to establish a Contributory Medial and Pension Scheme for retired sportsmen and women.