NAIVASHA, Kenya, Feb 20 – Harambee Stars forward Michael Olunga and World Half Marathon Record holder Peres Jepchirchir were named the most outstanding men and women Sports Personalities during the 2020 SOYA Awards that was marked differently on Saturday in Naivasha.
Olunga came out top to beat boxer Nick Okoth and World Half marathon record holder Kandie Kibiwott to the award.
To win the accolade, Olunga enjoyed a stellar season in the Japan J League in 2020 where he scored goals for fun warming his way into the country’s football mad public.
Having been promoted to the top flight with his Kashiwa Reysol side, Olunga had an incredible season winning the Golden boot in the Japanese top flight after scoring 28 goals.
The feat saw him make his history as he became the first African ever to be named J League’s Most Valuable Player.
For Jepchirchir, she won the award ahead of Tokyo Olympics bound boxer Christine Ongare and Taekwondo’s Faith Ogallo.
Jepchirchir was in glorious form in 2020 as she dominated road running. She recaptured the world half marathon title in style in Gdynia, Poland on October 17 breaking her own world record along the way.
Her time of one hour, 05 minutes and 16 seconds was enough to see Jepchirchir better her own women’s only half marathon world record by 18 seconds. It was the second time in six weeks that she had shattered the mark with a new time of 1:05:34 in Prague.
She wrapped up the year with an incredible victory in Valencia marathon in December clocking 2:17:06.
In the category of people living with a disability, special Olympics athlete Onesmus Munyao was named as the most outstanding while para-athlete Nancy Chelang’at was rewarded in the corresponding women’s category.
Munyao continued with impressive performances in 2020 completing an incredible double at inaugural Pan African Games held in Egypt.
Munyao started his quest for glory by winning the 5000 metres race in 15 minutes 45.57 seconds before he romped home first in the 10,000 in 32 minutes 15.55 seconds.
His performances were a continuation of the fine form he had shown the previous when he won three gold medals at the Special Olympic World Games.
On the other hand, Chelang’at, the visually impaired athlete was the standout female athlete living with a disability after winning two gold medals during the 5th international para-athletics meeting in Morocco.
She romped home first in the T11 1500m in 4 minutes 56.15 seconds and then completed her impeccable double by winning the 400m in 65.05 seconds.
Boxer cum lawyer Shadrack Wambui took the Community Hero Award for his work in empowering upcoming boxers from various slum areas in Kayole, Mathare, Kibra and Kawangware among other areas.
Having grown up in the slums of Mathare, 29-year-old lawyer Shadrack Wambui uses the sport of boxing to not only give hope but also provide pro-bono legal services to people in the slums.
Though his foundation- ‘Sheria Mtaani na Shadrack Wambui’, he successfully represented families of fallen boxing coaches Mike Mucine of Mombasa and Muchoki Mwangi of Nairobi compelling the hospitals to release their remains after the deceased had left behind hefty bills.
Wambui formed Kayole Wings- a boxing club that draws its membership from various slums in the city. He brings along professionals in various fields to come and help with mentorship of boxers in the slums and encourage them to chase their dreams.
It is through such partnerships that 15 boxers have benefited from getting jobs and earn a living.
-Hall of Fame-
The late athletics legendary Ben Jipcho and golf pioneer Rose Naliaka were inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Jipcho was among the forefathers of Kenyan athletics and was among the first Kenyans to leave a mark on the international scene.
Having made his debut at the Olympics in 1968, Jipcho won silver four years later in the 3,000 metres steeplechase in Munich during the 1972 Olympic Games.
Jipcho went on to win two gold medals in the 5000m and 3000m steeplechase at the 1973 All Africa Games.
A year later he shone at the Commonwealth Games in New Zealand winning two gold medals won two gold medals and a bronze in the 5000m, 3000m steeplechase and 1500m respectively.
Jipcho passed on in 2020 after a long battle with cancer.
For Naliaka, she is a pioneer and legend of golf in the country as she is the first Kenyan lady golfer to have played off of handicap plus two before turning pro in 2005 and remains the only Kenyan professional lady golfer.
The legendary golfer won the Kenya Lady Golfer of The Year Series a record 15 times from 1990 to 2004 before turning professional in 2005.
She also won the Kenya Amateur Matchplay Championship a record seven times as well as the Kenya Strokeplay Championship a record seven times. While still an amateur, Naliaka made history as the first female golfer to win All Africa Challenge Trophy played in Abidjan in 2002.
Naliaka has also given back to the community by starting a Girls Only Academy in Kenya that has produced several players including the current top player Naomi Wafula.
This year, some sports personalities were appreciated in specific categories that the panel of judges came up with due to the COVID-19 pandemic that saw most sports events either postponed or cancelled in 2020.
Walker Dominic Ndigiti was rewarded as the most innovative athlete, after fully venturing into jiko making business in his rural home in Kisii. He has so far constructed over 200 jikos for clients from Kisii, Nyamira, Machakos, Nairobi, Mombasa, Mai Mahiu, Laikipia, Turkana and Nakuru.
The cost of a jiko varies from Sh 3,000 to Sh 6,000 depending on the area and someone’s capability to pay for workmanship. As a bonus, Elgeyo Marakwet County Government has approached him to construct 50 jikos for some women’s project.
Multiple Paralympic medalist Henry Wanyoike took the resilience award for people living with a disability since he holds three world records and is considered one of the best paralympians of all time.
Wanyoike set the 5000metres T11 world record time of 15:11.07 set at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. He also set the men’s 10,000m T11 mark of 31:37.25 also in Athens where he finished with two gold medals. It was this feats that saw him crowned the 2004 Soya Sportsman of the year.
Wanyoike’s time of 2:31:31 at the Hamburg Marathon in 2005 still stands as the world record for blind runners.
Over the last five years, he has won gold or silver medals in the marathon, half-marathon, 10 km road race, the 10,000 meters, 5,000 meters and the 1,500 meters.
For the able bodied, Daniel Komen clinched the resilience men award for owning the three longest standing world records held by a Kenyan.
Komen ran an incredible 7:20.67 to set a new world mark in the men’s 3,000metres distance September, 1996 in Rieti Italy breaking Noureddine Morceli’s record by 4.44 seconds.
The following year, Komen became the first and so far only man to run two miles in under eight minutes, clocking a world record 7:58.61.
In 1998, Komen set the only indoor record still held by a Kenyan when he timed an incredible 7:24.98 in Budapest Hungary.
This mark is referred to as “Mount Everest” in athletics circles and has been bettered only twice outdoors, one of them being Komen’s own world record.
Deaf tennis player, Videlis Njoki benefited from SOYA’s Corporate Social Responsibility.
She played more her part during the pandemic last season. Operating from her Kibera base, Videliz created awareness on COVID-19 and sexual reproductive health.
She focused on young girls, especially the ones living with a disability who are the most vulnerable ensuring that they were informed and educated on the main issues affecting them during the pandemic.
Videliz has put everything she has, her time, resources and energies to protecting young girls and for that? We recognize her efforts tonight.
Away from its tradition, this year’s edition was anchored on a day-long symposium that was attended by top athletes including boxers Nick Okoth and Christine Ongare as well as Faith Ogallo who have all qualified for Tokyo Olympic Games.
The athletes were taken through various topics by experts like Sports Psychologist Kanyali Ilako who gave them tips on mental health, 2008 Olympic Champion Wilfred Bungei who tackled on how athletes can handle fame and failure, Kenya Rugby Union Director Wangui Kibe who did a presentation on how athletes can handle success, Sarah Shibutse on effects of doping, Charles Gacheru on branding and Elias Makori on media.
The symposium that was graced by SOYA founder Paul Tergat, was attended by legendries among them retired Paralympian Henry Wanyoike, 3000m world record holder Daniel Komen and former World Half Marathon Record Holder, Lornah Kiplagat.
2020 SOYA AWARDS WINNERS
HALL OF FAME; Ben Jipcho (Athletics), Rose Naliaka (Golf)
COMMUNITY HERO; Shadrack Wambui (Boxing)
INNOVATION; Dominic Ndigiti (Athletics)
RESILIENCE- SPORTSMAN LIVING WITH A DISABILITY; Henry Wanyoike (Paralympian)
RESILIENCE- SPORTSMAN; Daniel Komen (Athletics)
OUTSTANDING SPORTSWOMAN; Peres Jepchirchir (Athletics)
OUTSTANDING SPORTSMAN; Michael Olunga
OUTSTANDING SPORTSWOMAN LIVING WITH A DISABILITY; Nancy Chelang’at (Para-athlete)
OUTSTANDING SPORTSMAN LIVING WITH A DISABILITY; Onesmus (Special Olympics)
CSR AWARD – Videliz Njoki – Deaf Tennis player