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Ambaka, Matasi lead chase for top SOYA gong

Harambee Stars goalkeeper Patrick Matasi celebrates the win against Ethiopia during the 2019 African Cup of Nations qualifier against Ethiopia at the Moi Sports Centre Kasarani on October 14, 2018. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 7 – Kenya Sevens star William Ambaka and Harambee Stars keeper Peter Matasi will battle three athletics celebrities for the Sportsmen of the Year accolades during the 2018 Safaricom Sports Personality of the Year Award (SOYA) gala in Mombasa on Friday.

Ambaka and Matasi will be eying to become among the few sportsmen from other disciplines other than athletics to win the coveted during the Soya Gala planned for the iconic Fort Jesus in Mombasa.

Some of the other the sportsmen to have won the gong away from athletics are swimmer Jason Dunford (2007) and another Kenya Sevens rugby star Collins Injera (2009).

But whether the duo will floor World marathon record –breaking Eliud Kipchoge and compatriots Commonwealth and Africa champions Elijah Manangoi (1,500m) and Conseslus Kipruto (3,000m steeplechase) is left to be known.

Kenya’s William Ambaka races away for a try against Spain on day two of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in London on 3rd June, 2018. Photo credit: Mike Lee – KLC fotos for World Rugby

Ambaka was Kenya’s top try scorer this season with 31 tries from 155 points in 54 matches, feat that guided Shujaa to break the half-a-century-mark for the first time for 104 points. That saw Shujaa finish eighth in the 2017/2018 World Rugby Sevens Series.

Ambaka made his first Cap for the Kenya 15 rugby team, the Simbas this season, when he was named in Africa Gold Cup/ World Cup Qualifier squad to face Tunisia and he scored a brace as the Simbas mauled Tunisia 67-0 at RFUEA Grounds.

Ambaka also scored two tries despite Kenya Simbas going down 53-28 loss in the Africa Gold Cup decider. He also feature for Kenya Simbas at the other World Cup qualifier at Repechage in France.

Matasi kept a clean sheet against Ethiopia in Africa Cup of Nations qualifier which helped Kenya book their ticket to this year’s Africa Cup of Nations for the first time in 15 years.

In the Kenyan Premier League, playing for Posta Rangers before moving to Tusker in mid-season, he kept clean run in 29 matches and saved three penalties.

Matasi’s performance attracted the eyes of scouts, signing a three-year deal with Ethiopian top tier side St. Georges.

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Eliud Kipchoge receives his 2018 IAAF Male Athlete of the Year Award from president Seb Coe. PHOTO/NN Running

Kipchoge, who is the Olympic Marathon champion, started the year strongly with victory at London Marathon in 2 hours, 04 minutes and 17 seconds on April 22, which was the 15th fastest time over the distance, having won at the same course in 2015 in 2:04:42 and 2016 in 2:03:05, missing the world record by eight seconds.

Then Kipchoge went for Berlin Marathon victory with a World Record feat of 2:01:39 in September 16 the Germany Capital City. He downed the previous record by one minute and 18 seconds, setting news time

On his way to the WR and his third Berlin Marathon title, Kipchoge also broke the 30km World Record setting new times of 1:26:45.

Despite finishing second at the Kent an trials, Manangoi, the World 1,500m champion, went on to win his maiden Commonwealth Games title in Gold Coast, Australia, clocking 3:34.78 on April 14.

Manangoi followed it up with his first African title clocking a Championship Record time of 3:35.20 in Asaba, Nigeria on August 5. Manangoi would end his season in style, winning his maiden World Cup also known as the IAAF Continental Cup in Ostrava, Czech on September 9.

The 23-year-old Kipruto has been on a roller-coaster since winning the Olympic 3,000m steeplechase title in Rio in 2016 and World title in 2017 London. Kiprutp won Commonwealth Games gold in Gold Coast before going for the Africa title in Asaba, Nigeria.

Kipruto then retained his Diamond League for his third trophy in style, clocking 8:10.15 while running with one shoe in Zurich on August 30. Kipruto has also won in Rome and Birmingham.

Kipruto would finish the season in style, winning his first World Cup (IAAF Continental Cup) in Czech in 8:22.55 on September 8.

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