NAIROBI, Kenya, November 28 — World Indoor champion, Pamela Jelimo is the favourite for the newly introduced Comeback of the Year category at this year’s Safaricom Sports Personality of the Year Awards.
Jelimo, fondly known as Kapsabet Express when she rose to stardom four years ago in Beijing Olympics, is a front runner for the decoration to be presented to competitors who defy debilitating circumstances to return to the top of their sport.
She who rose to global acclaim four years ago when she won the Olympics title in Beijing before she endured the nightmare of a three-year injury lay-off as she quickly faded from the limelight.
Her semi final exit at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin where she quit the race with 600m gone was the lowest ebb for the athlete who stormed to the scene in devastating fashion, winning 13 out of 13 races she started the previous season.
During her Annus Mirabillis, Jelimo set the world junior record at 1:54.01, won the $1m (Sh86m at today’s rates) defunct IAAF Golden League, African title as she iced her cake by becoming the first Kenyan female runner to win an Olympic gold medal on the track.
Upon her return to competition at the start of the indoor season, Jelimo reclaimed the global spotlight by striking the top medal in Istanbul with a world leading effort in March, before collecting her first Samsung Diamond League crown after finishing fourth in her Olympics title defence in London.
She will battle rally driver Ben Muchemi and former World Cross champion, Philip Mosima for the award.
‘Baba Shiru’ Muchemi has twice defied cancer to make a comeback, driving in seven out of eight rallies this season. In 2010, he was declared Motor Sportsman of the year after returning from India where he underwent treatment for the terminal disease.
Mosima, a former world junior cross country champion, was virtually a retired athlete after his long stay in Japan and was almost being forgotten.
But he emerged from self-imposed semi-retirement to dominate this season’s cross-country circuit, especially the Gusii Golden Series from where he was selected for the Chiba Ekiden only a few days ago where Kenya won the overall title.
Olympics bronze medallist Timothy Kitum, who won 800m silver at World Junior Championships in Barcelona, is the best bet to collect the Most Promising Male Athlete of the year.
Barcelona teammate and 3000m steeplechase champion, Conseslus Kipruto who posted a 8:06.10 championship record in his victory and Upper Hill High School footballer Mike Olunga who has impressed with his dribbling skills and goal-scoring ability are the other strong nominees in this category.
Then there is also the young student, Isaak Iqbal from Wajir High School who beat so many odds to outshine many from privileged and developed schools and areas to lift Badminton trophy during national championships in Mombasa.
Neddy Atieno, the highly-talented Tartar Girls High School football captain, who also captained the national Under-20 team in the World Cup qualifiers and led her school team to third place in the East African Games in Burundi is hoping to spoil the party for athletes Faith Chepng’etich Kipyegon, the world junior 1,500m champion and Mercy Chebwogen, who won 3,000m gold in the World Juniors in a personal best of 9:08.08.