NAIROBI, December 10- Julius Yego and Vivian Cheruiyot were crowned the Male and Female Athlete of the Year winners to crown a rip-roaring year they both made history at the IAAF Beijing World Championships, the signature event of 2015.
Fellow Beijing champions, Ezekiel Kemboi, Asbel Kiprop, David Rudisha and Nicholas Bett who collected two awards at the black tie event left the gala hall winners as local athletics loyalty gathered to celebrate their heroes at the fifth Athletics Kenya (AK) Golden Gala in Nairobi.
The night belonged to Yego as the Javelin star became the first field athlete to win the top domestic award after a season he excelled by setting four national and two African records on his way to making history as the first Kenyan world champion outside track and marathon running in China.
“This is special to me after the great year I’ve heard and I can only be grateful for being recognised this way,” the two-time African and Commonwealth men Javelin titleholder gushed as cameras clicked to document his latest achievement in an expanding list of honours.
“This shows that its not only track and road runners who can be recognised and its a challenge to field athletes that if you work hard, then you can be honoured. I dedicate this to my wife and young son who have stood by me and encouraged me,” Yego who arrived at the stage to the soundtrack of Kalighraph Jones’ hit ‘Yego’.
Earlier, the ‘You Tube Man’ walked the stage to accept the Field Athlete of the Year trophy for the men with no female athlete deemed to be worthy of recognition in the corresponding class.
“We are here to celebrate Kenya topping the world at the IAAF World Championships and other great performances at the IAAF World Youth Championships that we are hosting in 2017, IAAF World Cross Championships and Africa Youth Championships among others.
“However, we are deeply concerned with the drop in performances from our female athletes this season and that is why there are no awardees in some categories,” AK President, Lt. Gen (Rtd), Jack Tuwei, said.
The gala themed On Top of the World, Uniting Kenya was a roll call of present and past greats who have established the country as a distance running powerhouse but in the end, everyone rose to applaud a man who has pushed the frontiers of the sport outside the traditional cocoon.
Yego; who polished his season with his 91.39m and the monster World Championships- winning 92.72m throw African record beat three-time world men 1500m winner, Asbel Kiprop and four-time Worlds steeplechase king, Ezekiel Kemboi to the top male award.
Cheruiyot who bounced back from attending to maternal duties was head and shoulders above her competition as she picked her second AK top award following her success in 2011 when she returned home a double world champion from Daegu.
The ‘Pocket Rocket’ who became the first and only Kenyan female to bag four world titles clinched the Female Athlete of the Year Award ahead of surprise steeplechase champion, Kiyeng and Agnes Jebet who won the senior women IAAF World Cross title in Guiyang, China.
After winning the Africa Youth, World Youth and Commonwealth Youth titles this year, Kumari Taki rose to be acknowledged as the Young Athlete of the Year-Male ahead of Vincent Kipyegon who won the boys’ 2000m steeplechase crowns at the African and World Youth championships in Reduit, Mauritius and Cali, Colombia.
Africa Youth Triple jump gold medallist, Vincent Kilel, was rewarded for his groundbreaking feat by coming third in the closely contested category.
World Youth champion, Celliphine Chespol beat her archrival Sandra Felis Chebet to the Young Athlete of the Year-Female after the pair traded honours in Reduit and Cali to close the list in that category.
Bett was named the Best Male Sprinter ahead of US Based sprinter, Carvin Nkanata and fellow 400m Hurdler, Boniface Mucheru, a finalist at the Beijing Worlds with no recipients announced in the corresponding female categories.
Kiprop topped Rudisha and Worlds silver medallist, Elijah Manangoi to take the Middle Distance Athlete of the Year gong with African mile record holder and Beijing silver winner, Faith Chepng’etich taking the honours in the female category with former world champion and Diamond League winner, Eunice Sum and Worlds debutant, Nancy Chepkwemoi rounding the top three.
Two-time Olympics steeplechase champion, Kemboi beat the versatile World Cross champion, Geoffrey Kipsang who took 5000m silver in Beijing and steeplechase Diamond League winner, Jairus Birech to the Long Distance Athlete of the Year, men.
Cheruiyot had earlier picked her first award of the night by being named the Long Distance Athlete of the Year ahead of Kiyeng and African 10,000m champion, Alice Aprot.
The Cross Country Awards went to Kipsang (men) and Jebet (women) after delivering gold for their nation at the Guiyang World Cross in March while Bett rose to accept the Most Outstanding Performance of the Year for men.
London and Berlin marathon champion, Eliud Kipchoge edged out Kipsang and Chicago winner, Stanley Biwott to collect the Road Running Award with Gladys Cherono who won in Berlin in a world leading time taking the women’s ahead of Worlds silver winner, Helah Kiprop and Amsterdam winner; Joyce Chepkirui.
Women steeplechase revelation, Virginia Nyambura who rose from a rabbit to win the Diamond League title took home the Outstanding Performance for women.
After injury forced him out of a title defence at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, Rudisha, the men 800m record holder was garlanded for returning to China and reclaiming his crown by bagging the Comeback Performance of the Year.
AK inducted 12 to the Hall of Fame during the gala.
2015 AK GALA WINNERS’ LIST
Athlete of the Year
1. JuliusYego (Javelin)
2. Asbel Kiprop (1,500m)
3. Ezekiel Kemboi (3,000m steeplechase)
1. Vivian Cheruiyot (10,000m)
2. Hyvin Kiyeng (3,000m steeplechase)
3. Agnes Jebet (Cross Country)
Young Athlete of the Year
1. KumariTaki (1,500m)
2. Vincent Kipyegon (2,000m steeplechase)
3.Vincent Kilel (Triple jump)
1. Celliphine Chespol (2,000m steeplechase)
2. Sandra Chebet (2,000m steeplechase)
Sprinter of the Year
1. Nicholas Bett (400m hurdles)
2. Carvin Nkanata (200m)
3. Boniface Mucheru
Middle Distance of the Year
1. Asbel Kiprop (1,500m)
2. David Rudisha (800m)
3. Elijah Manangoi (1500m)
1. Faith Chepng’etich (1,500m)
2. Eunice Sum (800m)
3. Nancy Jepkemoi (1,500m)
Long Distance of the Year
1.Ezekiel Kemboi (3,000m steeplechase)
2. Geoffrey Kamworor (10,000m)
3. Jairus Birech (3,000m steeplechase)
1.Vivian Cheruiyot (10,000m)
2. Hyvin Kiyeng (3,000m steeplechase)
3.Alice Aprot (5,000m; 10,000m)
Field Athlete of the Year
1. Julius Yego (Javelin)
2.Matthew Kiplagat Sawe (high jump)
3. Alex Kiprotich (Javelin)
Road Running Award
1. Eliud Kipchoge (Marathon)
2. Geoffrey Kamworor (Cross Country, Marathon)
3. Stanley Biwott (Marathon)
1. Gladys Cherono (Marathon)
2. Helah Kiprop (Marathon)
3. Joyce Chepkirui (Marathon)
Cross Country Award
3. Justus Kagongo
2. Daisy Jepkemei,
Outstanding Performance of the Year
1. Nicholas Bett
1. Virginia Nyambura
Comeback Performance of the Year