NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 8- Olympic marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge and world champion Vivian Cheruiyot were named Kenya’s male and female athletes of the year at the annual Athletics Kenya awards held at a Nairobi hotel on Wednesday night.
Draped in a meticulously sparkling black suit complete with a crisp clean white shirt, Kipchoge majestically walked onto the stage to pick his maiden award on Kenyan soil for the first time since beginning his athletics career 13 years ago.
The 31-year old ended 2016 on a high, a year that saw him pick Kenya’s second ever marathon gold, coming hot on the heels of his second successive London Marathon title in April.
“I feel really honored by this award and it is a motivation to the young athletes never to give up. In 13 years, I have never walked up to a Kenyan stage to pick up any award. I am here today. It is because of hard work and believing in myself,” an emotional Kipchoge said as he received the award from Kalkaba Malboum, the Confederation of African Athletics (CAA) president who was the chief guest.
The award is a second for Kipchoge in the space of less than two months having received the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS) Best Marathon Runner Award for the second time in October.
In April he won the London Marathon for the second straight time, setting a course record of 2:03:05. He then followed that up by winning his first, and Kenya’s second Olympic gold medal in the marathon, in a time of 2:08:44.
“It has been a great year for me to be honest. Winning the marathon was a huge success and it came at a time in which I felt my body was in the right shape,” the former 5,000m athlete.
Kipchoge beat off competition from Diamond League winner and Olympic 3,000m Steeplechase champion Conseslus Kipruto and 800m champion David Rudisha who however won the middle distance athlete of the year award.
“Having won the World title last year in what I consider not my best form, then struggle through the season and win the Olympic gold for the second time, it is a huge thing for me. I now feel that my body is coming back to shape and the David Rudisha of yesteryears is coming back,” Rudisha told Capital Sport after collecting his award ahead of Ferguson Rotich and Asbel Kiprop.
Cheruityot, nicknamed the pocket rocket was named female athlete of the year after her stellar performance in the Olympics which saw her scoop gold in the 5,000m race at the Rio Olympics, coming immediately after losing the 10,000m race to Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana.
The four-time World Champion edged out marathoner Jemimah Sumgong who made history in Rio de Janeiro by becoming the first ever Kenyan to win the women’s marathon gold.
Sumgong, a corporal at the Kenya Air Force was however awarded the female road runner athlete of the year award.
“This has been one of the best years of my career. Rio was my fourth Olympics and in all the three others I attended, I was never lucky to win a medal. After losing the 10,000m to Ayana, I went in and challenged myself to take her on in the 5,000m and I successfully did. Getting this award today is a huge thing for me,” Cheruiyot said while announcing Rio was her last ever appearance on the track.
Cheruiyot also bagged the female long distance athlete of the year award with Diamond League winner and Olympic 3,000m steeplechase champion Kipruto winning the male award.
At the same time, 2016 Chicago Marathon champion Abel Kirui was handed the comeback of the year award after battling injury for the last two seasons and go on to win a grueling Chicago marathon race.
World Junior 3,000m steeplechase champion Celiphine Chespol won the female young athlete of the year award with his 800m counterpart Kipyegon Bett scooping the corresponding male award.
Full list of winners:
Athlete of the Year
Male- Eliud Kipchoge, Female- Vivian Cheruiyot
Young Athlete of the Year
Male- Kipyegon Bett (800m), Female- Cellphine Chespol (3,000m s/c)
Sprints Athlete of the Year
Male- Boniface Mucheru (400m-H), Female- Maureen Jelagat (400m),
Middle Distance Athlete of the Year
Male- David Rudisha (800m),Female-Faith Chepng’etich (1,500m)
Long Distance Athlete of the Year
Male- Conseslus Kipruto (3,000m s/c), Female- Vivian Cheruiyot (10,000m)
Field Athlete of the Year
Julius Yego (Javelin)
Road Running Athlete the Year
Male- Eliuld Kipchoge (Marathon), Female- Jemimah Sumgong (Marathon)
Comeback Athlete the Year
Abel Kirui (Marathon)
Coach of the Year
Julius Kirwa (Rio Olympics)