NAIROBI, December 9- The stage is set to crown the Male and Female Athlete of the Year on Thursday with the final shortlist reading like a roll call of celebrated distance running royalty fit enough to illuminate any gala parade anywhere in the world.
After a year of turmoil at the helm of the federation and the deadly shackles of the doping vice that is choking the sport in a country recognised for distance running excellence, the best performers of the year will be feted at a glittering ceremony at Nairobi’s Safari Park Hotel on Thursday.
It will be the fifth edition of the Athletics Kenya (AK) Golden Gala that was not held last year after the previous event in Eldoret.
Speaker of the National Assembly, Justin Muturi, is the designated chief guest.
Six of Kenya’s most celebrated athletes are battling it out for Male’s top award.
They are World champions Julius Yego (javelin), Ezekiel Kemboi (3,000m steeplechase), Nicholas Bett (400m hurdles), Asbel Kiprop (1,500m) and David Rudisha (800m) and World Cross Country and World 10,000m silver medalist Geoffrey Kamworor.
Yego broke the national record four times besides setting a new Diamond league record on his way to the World title, the first Kenyan to ever win a world title in the field event.
Yego launched his season with victory at the IAAF Challenge in Ostrava with a national record throw of 86.88, finished second at Roma Diamond league with an improved performance of 87.71m before claiming his maiden Diamond League victory in Birmingham with a record breaking 91.39m.
The ‘You Tube Man’ would go for the World title in Beijing in a massive throw of 92.72m that counted for the new African record, and the third all-time best throw.
The ever green and elegant Kemboi affirmed his status as the king of steeplechase, chalking an unprecedented fourth consecutive victory at the Worlds after the 2009 Berlin, 2011 Daegu and 2013 Moscow.
Bett stunned even himself when he won the 400m hurdles title, the first World title by Kenyan in sprints.
Kiprop ran the third fastest time in history in 1,500m when he won in Monaco in 3:26.69, missing the world record of 3:26.00 by Hicham El Guerrouj. Kiprop went on to complete a hat trick of World titles over the distance with victory in Beijing.
Rudisha made a comeback to reclaim his 800m world title while Kamworor performance sliced across the board, winning the World Cross title and World 10,000m silver.
It’s left to be known whether Berlin Marathon champion Glady Cherono and World Cross Country champion Agnes Jebet have what it takes to edge out four other nominees for the Female award. Cherono has the best all time average after she finished second 2:20:03 in Dubai Marathon on debut over the distance before winning in Berlin with personal best 2:19:25.
Others in the category are Vivian Cheruiyot, who made a great return from maternity break to reclaim her World 10,000m, World champion Hyvin Kiyeng (3,000m steeplechase) and World silver medalists Hela Kiprop (marathon) and Eunice Sum (800m).
Kumari taki, who won the World Youth, Africa Youth and Commonwealth Youth 1,500m titles, World and Africa Youth 2,000m steeplechase champion Vincent Kipyegon and World Youth 800m gold medalist Willy Tarbei are some of the nominees for the Young Athlete of the Year-male award.
Also in the vanguard are World Youth 3,000m champion Richard Tayor and Africa Youth triple jump champion Vincent Kilel.
Damaris Akoth who won Kenya silver in 100m at the Africa Youth, World Youth 2,000m steeplechase champion Celliphine Chespol, World Youth 3,000 silver medalist Emily Chebet and World 2,000m steeplechase silver medalist Sandra Chebet, who is also the Africa champion.
Other categories to be awarded are Long Distance Athlete, Field Athlete and Cross Country Award of the year for men and women.
Two recipients will be bestowed with the Outstanding Performance of the Year (male and female) with one recognized for the Comeback of the Year.
A dozen legends of the past will be indicted into the Hall of Fame.
2015 Athletics Kenya Gala Final nominees
Athlete of the Year
Julius Yego, Ezekiel Kemboi, Nicholas Bett, Asbel Kiprop, David Rudisha, Geoffrey Kamworor
Agnes Jebet, Vivian Cheruiyot, Hyvin Kiyeng, Hela Kiprop, Eunice Sum, Gladys Cherono
Young Athlete of the Year
Kumari Taki, Vincent Kipyegon, Willy Tarbei, Vincent Kilel, Richard Yator,
Celliphine Chespol, Emily Chebet, Sandra Chebet, Damaris Akoth