NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 6 – Reigning World Junior Champion Amos Kirui is favourite to win the 2016 Safaricom Sports Personality of the Year most promising athlete after having a splendid season.
However, the category that has attracted star participants is likely to be a close call in both the boys and girls when the black tie gala night will be held January 20 at Nairobi’s Carnivore Grounds.
In the boy’s category, 18 years old Japan-based Kirui who won the 3,000m steeplechase race at the IAAF World U20 Championship in 8:20.43, shocking pre-race favourite Getnet Wale of Ethiopia leads a strong field of five nominees for the award.
Kirui will face stiff competition from lanky footballer Joseph Okumu who is also a potential winner having risen rapidly in his football career, moving from Kakamega High School to Kenyan Premier League side Chemelil Sugar and joining professional ranks at South African Premier League with top side Free State Stars where he has started in eight of their matches so far.
Kirui who will fight for the honours against 800m World Junior Champion Bett Kipyegon, Motorsport’s Jet Tukunen, footballer Okumu and Ryan Randiek of Tennis, ran a World Junior leading time of 13:25.19 in Kanaguri in April and won the 10,000m Konusu Race in Japan where he clocked 28:08.
Kipyegon on the other hand won the IAAF U20 title in Bydgoszcz, Poland beating Willy Tarbei who had beaten him two years ago and in the process finished the season ranked 12th in the 800m race before he graduated to the senior ranks.
Ten years old Tukunen has been outstanding in the Motorcross scene, securing the MX 65 class title before the last round of the competition.
Randiek is the fifth nominee in this category, having been ranked second in the Africa Boys 14 years and under. He helped Kenya win the Regional Confederation of African Tennis (CAT) title in January 2016 and is the only Kenyan boy taking part in the 14 years and below CAT African Masters tournament.
In the girls category, Harambee Starlets youngster Mwanahalima Adamu who played an integral part in the team’s qualification for their maiden Africa Cup of Nations tournament despite missing the continental showpiece to sit for her Form Four exams, is red hot favourite.
She was voted the Airtel Rising Stars’ Most Valuable Player in East Africa after she steered her school St John’s of Mombasa to the Kenya Secondary Schools Sports Association (KSSSA) title and helped them to reach the finals of the East Africa championships.
Other nominees in the category include teenage sprinter Mourine Thomas who had a solid season that saw her claim the fifth spot during the finals of the IAAF World Junior Championships in Bydgoszcz where she ran a personal best of 52.09, golfer Kelly Gachaga who brought Naomi Wafula’s dominance in the sport to a halt as she was crowned the new Kenya Amateur Stroke Play champion and also won the Kenya Amateur Match Play Championship.
Tennis player Sneha Kotecha who won a continental title, the CAT 14 and under Masters Tournament, is also in the race and so is volleyball player Yvonne Wavinya who was named the best overall attacker at the Africa Nations Volleyball under-23 championships where Kenya finished second.