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Zarika, ‘Shebesh’ land SOYA nomination

Zarika happy after retaining her WBC title. Photo/RAYMOND MAKHAYA

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 6 – Kenya Lionesses starlet Janet ‘Shebesh’ Okello and World Boxing Commission (WBC) super-bantamweight champion, Fatuma are among the top contenders angling to end the athletics dominance for the Sportswoman of the Year Award in Friday’s Safaricom Sports Personality of the Year Awards (SOYA) in Mombasa.

Okello and Zarika are up against world 5,000m champion Hellen Obiri, world 3,000m steeplechase record holder Beatrice Chepkoech and World Under-20 3,000m steeplechase champion Celliphine Chespol.

The event, to be staged at Fort Jesus, Mombasa, is being co-sponsored by Mombasa County, Communications Authority of Kenya, Multichoice Kenya, National Social Security Fund, Kenya Power, Kenya Ports Authority, Kenya Pipeline Corporation, New KCC and LapFund.

Zarika retained her World Boxing Council (WBC) female world super-bantamweight title for the third time against Mexico’s Yamileth Mercado in September last year at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre after winning on majority points decision.

Okello on the other hand, was Lionesses’ top try scorer in all competitions with 15 tries. In the Africa Sevens, where Kenya were crowned champions, she notched 8 tries and was the star in the women’s World Sevens Series qualifiers in Hong Kong where she scored seven tries as Kenya reached the Cup semis— an improvement from the previous season where they were eliminated in the quarters. At the Commonwealth Games, she scored three tries as Kenya finished sixth overall after losing to Fiji 40-5.

She was named the MVP at 2018 Safari 7s where Kenya defended the title.

Obiri is equally favoured to carry the day having started the year strongly. She won the Commonwealth Games 5,000m title in Gold Coast in 15:13.11 in April and went on to win the National Championships title in 15:09.82 in June to set the stage for her maiden Africa title in 15:47.18 last August. The 28-year-old claimed her first Diamond League Trophy in 3,000m/5,000m after she won the final 5,000m race in Zurich in 14:38.39.

Chepkoech has been phenomenal this season, settling for silver in 1,500m at Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in personal best of 4:03.09 before winning Africa title in a championship record time of 8:59.88 on August 5 in Asaba, Nigeria.

Chepkoech won four of her five Diamond League races this season with her victory in Monaco on July 20 producing a world record time of 8:44.32,hence making her the first woman to run under 8 minute and 50 seconds. She shattered Bahrain Ruth Jebet’s previous record of 8:52.78 by massive nine seconds.

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Chepsol is another bright spot for the award, having won senior women’s 10km race at the Africa Cross Country Championships in Algeria in March. She went on to settle for silver in 3,000m steeplechase at Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in April and further retained her World Under-20 3,000m steeplechase title in a championship record. She wrapped up the year with a silver at the Africa Championships in Asaba, Nigeria.

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