NAIROBI, Kenya, December 14- Vivian Cheruiyot completed a memorable year by being declared the first ever Safaricom Sports Personality of the Year Awards (Soya) Overall Sportsperson of the Year winner at the prestigious eighth gala ceremony of the event on Wednesday night in Nairobi.
World marathon record holder, Patrick Makau shared the limelight with the World Cross and double world champion Cheruiyot when he was named as the 2011 Soya Sportsman of the Year to crown his all time 2:03:38 best achieved in Berlin this September.
To rapturous applause from the large tent hosting the event, Cheruiyot rose to receive the coveted Sportswoman of the Year accolade before she was named the first Sportsperson of the Year at the annual Kenyan version of sports Grammies that are a brainchild of retired former world marathon record holder, Paul Tergat.
Dressed to the nines with a dashing floral design silver ensemble, the triple world champion who was overlooked for the IAAF World Female Athlete of the Year award in Monaco last month was deservedly feted at the gathering that brought the crème de la crème of high achievers this season.
“It’s so wonderful, these Soya Awards have made me happy since when I was in Monaco I was so disappointed and I kept asking why they did this to me since when I went there, I automatically knew, I would be the world athlete of the year,” the Daegu 5,000m and 10,000m said.
“This is so motivational and if I stay in good health, I look forward to adding the Olympics gold medal and the world record before the thereafter, I will see whether to continue on track or like Tergat or Haile Gebrsellasie, move to road running,” she added.
For Makau, succeeding fellow world record holder in 800m as Sportsman of the Year was an outstanding occasion for the runner who ended Gebresellasie’s three year reign as record holder in the ultimate race.
“For years to come, my children and their children will remember that I was crowned the Sportsman of the Year and it will motivate me to work harder so that I can maintain my performance next year. The biggest aim is to ensure that Kenya retains the Olympics title in the marathon and the London course will favour us,” Makau added.
After another year of roaring success, athletics duly dominated the awards with Athletics Kenya named the Sports Federation/Association of the Year.
Boston and New York Marathon winner Geoffrey Mutai was second in the Sportsman of the Year award with All Africa Games Javelin gold winner, Julius Yego, who improved his technique by watching Olympics champion, Andreas Tholkildsen and former world champion, Tero Pitkamaki on YouTube, finishing third.
World marathon champion, Edna Kiplagat and world half marathon record holder and London champion, Mary Keitany, trailed Cheruiyot in the corresponding Sportswoman of the Year Category.
Two-time World steeplechase titleholder, Ezekiel Kemboi, who was absent from the fete was honoured as with the Outstanding Performance Award that was also introduced for the first time this year after successfully defending his title in Daegu with the now famous jig to boot.
World Youth champions, Leonard Konsecha (800m) and William Malel (3000) trailed Motorcross rider, Shivam Vinayak in the Most Promising Sports Personality of the Year, Men whilst Linda Oseso (Hammer) and World Cross junior champion, Faith Chepng’etich came second and third behind teenage golfing sensation, Naomi Wafula in the equivalent women’s award.
Kenyan Premier League champions, Tusker FC edged out the national men’s volleyball team and Daegu Worlds marathon squad to the men’s Team of the Year Gong with Kenya Prisons women’s volleyball scooping the women’s honour ahead of the Daegu Worlds marathoners and World Cross representatives.
Tusker FC’s Sammy Omollo, was announced as the Coach of the Year while female golfing local icon, Rose Naliaka went home with the Community Hero Award. Laiser Hill Academy (basket ball) and Archbishop Njenga Secondary (football) went home as the boys’ and girls’ School of the Year.
Abraham Tarbei (Paralympics) and Centrine Namatasi (wheelchair) took the men and women Special Category Awards at the gala held at Nairobi Arboretum.
Ethiopian distance running star, Meselech Melkamu, was the chief guest where Sports Minister, Paul Otuoma, his Information and Communication counterpart, Samuel Poghisio and Assistant Sports Minister, Kabando wa Kabando were the high ranking Government officials present.
The captains of industry were led by Safaricom CEO, Bob Collymore who told the gathering his firm would use its innovation to ensure that stars such as Cheruiyot receive massive online backing when nominated for international awards and National Bank of Kenya Managing Director, Reuben Marambii among others.
Winners in each category took home Sh100,000 with runner-ups and third place finishers pocketing Sh75,000 and Sh50,000 apiece.