NAIROBI, October 13 – Olympic marathon champion Samuel Kamau Wanjiru and Olympic 800 metres champion Pamela Jelimo are in the running for the IAAF World athlete of the year.
The duo made history at the Beijing Olympics with Wanjiru becoming the first Kenyan to win the marathon gold while Jelimo became the first Kenyan woman to gold medallist at the games.
They are in a 20 athlete shortlist for the annual awards.
Jelimo enjoyed a most successful season this year bettering the World junior record, African record and national record no less than five times as winning the IAAF $1 million Golden Jackpot.
The 18 year old also won the African title at The African Championships in Addis Ababa. She also posted the fastest time ever run on Kenyan soil clocking 1:57.71 during the national trials.
She will face competition from Olympic gold medalist and World record holder Yelena Isinbayeva and Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba who won the 5,000 and 10,000 metres double at the Olympic as well as breaking the 5,000 metres world record.
Other top contenders include Russia’s Gulnara Galkina Samitova who set anew World record in the women’s 3,000 metres steeplechase, Cameroon’s Francoise Mbango who became the first woman to defend the triple jump crown at the Olympics and Blanka Vlasic who suffered only two defeats the whole season in women’s high jump.
Others include Veronica Campbell-Brown who retained her 200 metres Olympic title, Barbora Spotakova who won javelin in Beijing and set a new world record weeks later, Valerie Vili who added the Olympic shot put gold to her world title and Melanie Walker who went the whole season unbeaten in the women’s’ 400 metres hurdles.
In the men’s category, Wanjiru faces an uphill task as he will be up against Jamaican sprint king Usain Bolt who set three world records and won three gold medals in Beijing.
The 22 year old Jamaican posted 9.69 second sin the 100 metres, 19.30 in the 200 metres and was a member of the 4×100 metres relay team that set a new time of 37.10 seconds.
Ethiopia’s Haile Gebrselassie who became the first man to go under 2:04 in marathon is in the running as is Cuba’s Dayron Robles who won the 110 metres hurdles Olympic title and set a new World record.
Other are; Kenenisa Bekele, Bryan Clay (USA), LaShawn Merritt (USA), Irving Saladino (PAN), Andrey Silnov (RUS) and Andreas Thorkildsen (NOR).
Selection of the three finalists in each category will be done by voting online and a shortlist of the finalists will be presented to a Special Jury of the International Athletic Foundation, who will then make a final selection of the World Athlete of the Year.
The winners will be announced at the annual IAAF awards gala dinner in Monte Carlo on November 23.