Okutoyi face stiff competition for SOYA award

Kenya’s Angela Okutoyi in action against Uzbekistan’s Sevil Yuldasheva during the W15 Nairobi World Tennis Tour on November 17, 2022. (Kelly Ayodi, Standard)

The 19th edition of Sports Personality of the Year Awards (SOYA) gala will be held at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) in Nairobi on January 20, 2023.

The gala returns to the Kenyan capital after stints in Kakamega, Naivasha and Mombasa counties in the last four editions.

This time, the gala has 11 categories including the return of the schools’ contest.

The schools category missed out last season as there were no school games which were hampered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tennis star Angella Okutoyi is among the top nominees battling it out with other world beaters including Faith Kipyegon, Mary Moraa, Beatrice Chebet, Sharon Chepchumba, Naomi Wafula, Peres Jepchirchir and Janet Okello among others for the 2022 SOYA Sportswoman of the Year Award. 

The gala, sponsored by the Communications Authority, NSSF, Safaricom, Lotto Foundation and Kenya Pipeline, promises to be a tough fight for the top prize going by the list of nominees that have been shortlisted for the Sportswoman of the year category. 

Okutoyi, who had an outstanding 2022 season, has been pitted against some world champions on the track and also from volleyball, basketball and boxing spheres.

The tennis sensation made history by becoming the first ever Kenyan to win a Grand Slam following her girls’ double victory at Wimbledon tournament alongside Dutch partner Rose Marie Nijkamp.

She also won the doubles in the J1 Repentin competition alongside Polish partner Malwina Rowinska in Canada after gallantly rallying from behind where they trailed 3-6 in the first set against fourth seeds German Ella Seidel and Belgian Amelia Waligora.

Okutoyi also reached the second round at the US Open singles after edging out Germany’s Carolina Kuhl by straight sets in the first round, before losing 2-1 to eighth seed Taylah Preston in the second round among other achievements this year.

She will however face 1,500m world champion Faith Kipyegon and two other track queens in Mary Moraa and Beatrice Chebet. Kipyegon was able to add the world title to the Olympic gold medal that she won at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. 

She was also able to win the 1,500m Diamond League trophy after another outstanding season which saw her narrowly miss the world record held by Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba over the distance.

On her part, Moraa crowned a wonderful 2022 season by first winning a bronze medal over 800m at the World Championships in Oregon before going to win gold at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. 

She also went ahead to bag the 800m Diamond League trophy after winning at the finals in Zurich.

Another track star, Chebet, won silver in the 5,000m race at the World Championships in Oregon before crowning it with gold at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and a Diamond League trophy.

Volleyballer, Chepchumba, will however be hoping to break the dominance of track stars and also beat Okutoyi to the top prize.

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