Kenyans make history at World Athletics gala

Faith Kipyegon and Faith Cherotich with their trophies at the World Athletics gala in Monte Carlo on November 11, 2023. [ World Athletics]

It was a night of history-making. Kenyan stars stood out not only in their elegant dressing but also scooped the 2023 World Athlete of the Year and Rising Star Awards on Monday.

The Kenyan sweep at the awards extended the country’s dominance in athletics.

Observers say it was another moment for Kenya to shine even though many were shocked that World Athletics decided to award all six nominees instead of the usual overall winners in both the women and men categories.

Going by what Faith Kipyegon had done in 2023 many were expecting her to be named the Female Athlete of the Year, but the World Athletics decided to surprise everyone by creating a category for each of the nominees.

World Athletics said that the World Athlete of the Year awards had been divided into three event categories: track, field and out of stadia following feedback received during the voting process.

"The adaptation of the World Athlete of the Year honours awarded this year follows feedback received during the voting process. Many sensational performances – including an extraordinary 23 world records – were achieved in 2023. When it came to compiling the votes, athletes, fans and World Athletics Family members commented that it was incredibly hard to limit the vote to just one athlete, because of the various disciplines and the vast differences in skill sets required. As a result, for 2023 the World Athlete of the Year awards have been divided into three event categories: track, field and out of stadia," World Athletics president Seb Coe said.

Kelvin Kiptum poses with his trophy at the World Athletics gala in Monte Carlo on November 11, 2023. [ World Athletics]

Record holder in 1500m and the Mile, Kipyegon and marathon record breaker Kelvin Kiptum were then named World Athletes of the Year 2023 – track and outside stadia respectively at the gala in Monte Carlo.

After the gala in Monte Carlo, there was even more good news for Kipyegon as she was recognised by President William Ruto with the Elder of the Order of the Golden Heart during the Jamhuri Day celebrations yesterday at Uhuru Gardens.

"Today, I have conferred upon our world-beating athlete Faith Kipyegon the rank and status of the Elder of the Order of the Golden Heart of Kenya, the highest honour our country awards its citizens who illuminate the path of excellence," Ruto said.

The President also recognised the efforts of Kiptum, Emmanuel Wanyonyi, Ferdinand Omanyala, Faith Cherotich and Mary Moraa for their stunning show in athletics and promised to award them later.

In Monte Carlo on Monday, world 800m silver medallist Wanyonyi and world 3,000m steeplechase bronze winner Cherotich clinched the World Rising Star awards in the men and women categories respectively.

In a historic feat, four out of the five Kenyan athletes who made the final cut brought home the coveted global awards.

Daniel Ebenyo lost to Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey in the International Fair Play Award of the year 2023.

Kipyegon wrote another chapter in the story of her glowing athletics career; she became the first Kenyan woman to win the Athlete of the Year Award.

An ever-smiling record holder Kipyegon, came out in a stunning dress while world 3,000m steeplechase bronze medallist Faith Cherotich also chose a long dress.

“Today is a beautiful closure of an amazing year for me. I am honoured that my performances on the track have been recognised by the athletics community. The support of my family, my team, my training partners, my fellow competitors fuel me to work hard and chase my dreams and ambititons. I hope my achievements motivate and inspire many girls to do the same,” Kipyegon said.

The men – Kiptum and Wanyonyi rocked in blue coats and trousers to match.

Their stunning victories and performances this year earned them the admiration of global enthusiasts who voted, as well as judges who determined the wins.

A sensational Kiptum became the third Kenyan man to be named an Athlete of the Year after 800m world record holder David Rudisha (2010) and marathon great Eliud Kipchoge who bagged the title back-to-back in  2018 and 2019.

Kiptum who broke the marathon record in Chicago in October after setting the London Marathon course record in April scooped the top award alongside USA’s Noah Lyles, the world 100m and 200m champion, who was named the World Athlete of the Year in the track.

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