Prayers abound, fingers crossed as athletes await top awards

Silver medallist Kenya's Daniel Simiu Ebenyo and bronze medallist Kenya's Kibiwott Kandie celebrate with teammate Kenya's Edward Zakayo.[Courtesy]

Countdown to the World Athletics Awards 2023 is over, and fingers are crossed as the much-awaited feat happens in Monaco tonight.

It is down to the knees for prayers as four Kenyan stars wait to know whether they will taste glory in this year’s awards.

Their stellar shows this year propelled them not just to the pinnacle of athletics, but also to the hearts of enthusiasts across the world, who voted for them as their favourite nominees ahead of the shortlisting last month.

World record holders Faith Kipyegon and Kelvin Kiptum made it to the final list of the Athlete of the Year award.

World 800m silver medallist Emmanuel Wanyonyi and World 3,000m bronze medallist Faith Cherotich made the Rising Star Awards cut, while World 10,000m silver medallist Daniel Ebenyo Simiu made it to the Fair Play awards finalists.

The rising stars in the final list are youngsters who won gold medals during World Under-20 championships.

World 10,000m silver medallist Letesenbet Gidey of Ethiopia has already won the International Fair Play Award after garnering the highest number of votes.

That means Ebenyo, who was controlling the proceedings during the final stretch of the men’s half marathon at the World Road Running Championships in Riga, and saluted compatriot Sebastian Sawe as he (Sawe ) overpowered him (Ebenyo), is out of the contention for the Fair Play award.

We look at the Kenyan stars hoping to shine at the coveted World Athletics awards on Monday.

Faith Kipyegon of Kenya celebrates after the Women's 1500m final of the World Athletics Championships Budapest 2023 in Budapest, Hungary, Aug. 22, 2023. (Xinhua/Wang Lili)

Faith Kipyegon

This year, Kipyegon stormed to the most memorable wins in the history of her athletics career.

The 29-year-old athlete is one of the most decorated athletes in the history of the sport.

She broke three World Records in 1,500m, 5,000m and One Mile.

The 5,000m record she set in June was in September lowered by Ethiopian Gudaf Tsegay.

Kipyegon lined up for the 1500m at the Florence Diamond League meeting with her sights set on the World Record, and she achieved it.

A week later at the Paris Diamond League, she shocked the world by shattering the 5,000m former record and later followed with the One Mile record.

In February, she won the Sirikwa cross country Tour, sending a clear signal that she was on a mission to produce bigger achievements in 2023.

Her historic achievements earned her a Sh5 million cash award and a house in Nairobi courtesy of the Kenyan government.

She is on the final list alongside marathon World Record Holder Tigist Assefa of Ethiopia, World indoor 400m record holder Femke Bol of the Netherlands and World 200m champion Shericka Jackson (Jamaica).

Kenya's Kelvin Kiptum lunges to the finish line as he wins men's elite race at 2023 London Marathon in London. [Xinhua]

Kelvin Kiptum

Kiptum, 24, has raised eyebrows since last December when he won the Valencia Marathon in a jaw-dropping 2:01:53 in his debut.

Since then, he has not lost a marathon contest. The most sensational of his performances was when he obliterated Eliud Kipchoge’s World Record at the Chicago Marathon in October.

Kipchoge was among athletes nominated for the Athlete of the Year award but did not make the final list.

After the Valencia win in December 2022, Kiptum clinched another stunning victory at the London Marathon, setting the course record.

And in October the man from Chepsamo in Elgeyo Marakwet County went for the highest achievement in the marathon – the World Record, and he delivered that in the most spectacular fashion in Chicago. He set the record at 2:00:35.

Emmanuel Wanyonyi competes in 800 Men semifinal 2 race during the Trials for World Athletics Championship held at Nyayo National stadium in Nairobi on July 07, 2023.[Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Emmanuel Wanyonyi

Wanyonyi, 19, delivered a silver medal after finishing behind gold medallist Canadian Marco Arop at the 2023 Budapest World Championships in August this year.

The teenager won the Diamond League legs in Rabat, Paris and Xiamen, establishing himself as one of the rising stars in the two-lap race.

At the World Under-20 Championships in 2021, Wanyonyi set a new Championship Record of 1:43.76 to win the men’s 800m in 1:43.76 in the showdown staged in Nairobi. He was aged 17 then.

Wanyonyi finished with an exciting final kick, defeating Algeria’s Mohamed Ali Gouaned, who settled for silver, and compatriot Noah Kibet, who secured a bronze.

He was in the team that delivered gold in the mixed relay at the World cross country Championships in Bathurst, Australia.

The Kenyan star faces stiff competition from Jamaica’s Roshawn Clarke and USA’s Erriyon Knighton for the men’s Rising Star award.

Kenya's Faith Cherotich celebrates with the flag after winning the women's 3,000m steeplechase final at the World Athletics Under-20 Championships in Cali, Colombia on August 5, 2022. [Athletics Kenya]

Faith Cherotich

Cherotich’s journey to stardom is punctuated with humility and resilience.

The 19-year-old surprisingly outclassed stars to win a bronze medal in 3,000m steeplechase at the 2023 World Championships.

She crossed the finishing mark behind gold medallist, Kenyan-born Bahrain Winfred Yavi and World Record holder Beatrice Chepkoech.

At the global show, all hopes were on the trio of Beatrice Chepkoech, Cherotich, and Commonwealth Champion Jackline Chepkoech.

And Cherotich could not afford to disappoint an expectant nation which was hoping for a clean podium sweep in the women’s steeplechase. She delivered the bronze as Chepkoech brought home silver.

Cherotich will be contesting the Rising Star award with Medina Eisa of Ethiopia, a World Cross Country Under-20 silver medallist.

High jumper Angelina Topic of Serbia, a national record holder, is also in the mix. She started writing history in 2022 when, at the age of 17, she won a bronze medal at the European Athletics Championships, becoming the youngest medallist of the entire championships.

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