Nairobi, Jan 11 (IANS) World javelin champion Julius Yego will be the man to beat as Kenya honours its best sportsmen for 2015 here later this month. Yego, who famously honed his early technique from YouTube clips of his heroes, has continued to bring glory to his name even beyond the track as corporate firms’ battle for his endorsement, reports Xinhua. Barely a month after he was named the Kenyan 2015 Athlete of the Year, Yego is also on the cusp of bagging his second title having made the five-man shortlist for the Safaricom Sports Personality of the Year Award (SOYA).
Yego has overturned the natural world order in the physically demanding and technically challenging javelin event. In August 2015, there was a shock at the Beijing’s Bird’s Nest during the Athletics World Championships when Yego won gold with the third longest throw of all time. Yego’s monster third round effort of 92.72 metres was the longest since Jan Zelezny threw 92.80 in 2001. In all world championships since 1983, there has only been one non-European gold medallist, South African Marius Corbett in Athens in 1997. Otherwise, medals have remained largely the preserve of European countries. Yego has reshaped that part of history, which presents him a perfect chance to grab another title at home as the country celebrates its best in the sport from 2015. While it will be hard to deny Yego his inaugural SOYA award, his rivals including World 1,500m champion Asbel Kiprop, footballer and Harambee Stars striker Michael Olunga remain hopeful to turn the tide in their favour in a stellar five-man short-list.
Olunga was named Kenya’s footballer of the year 2015 while the others two are World Half Marathon champion Geoffrey Kamworor and National men’s hockey team goalkeeper Linus Kipkemboi, who is the surprise select of the five athletes. Kipkemboi staged an outstanding performance during the Africa Championships, which saw him scoop the best keeper award in Harare, Zimbabwe. He plays for USIU men’s team and has been Kenyan’s number one goalkeeper for the last three years in a row. For Kamworor, his strength lies in barriers he has tried to break including trying to end Kenya’s jinx in 10,000m, where he lost narrowly to Mo Farah of Britain at the Beijing World Championships. While he left Beijing with silver, in March 2015 he left Chinese city of Guiyang for the World Cross Country Championships with the gold. He later went to New York Marathon and won silver behind compatriot Stanley Biwott. At 22, Kamworor has his future ahead, as he turns his focus to the Olympics in Rio. However, when you’re Asbel Kiprop, you can win just about any way you want like he did in 2015 season. Kiprop proved that he can run from the front, galloping with that impossibly long stride – as he did during his 3:26.69 run in Monaco – missing the world record by 68 microseconds.
You can run from the back – as he did at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in London – and circle the entire field on the last lap, sickening them with your gifted range of gears. But against Yego, Kiprop faces his hardest race. Well that is in track and field, and Olung’a dribbling and free-scoring skills bring on board a new perspective and he might be the surprise winner having netted 19 times for Kenyan Premier League champions Gor. The women’s top five has lady shooter of 2015 Nune Bonaya, marathoners Florence Kipgalat and Gladys Cherono. Others are volleyball player Mercy Moim, who recently signed for a Finnish club Ploki-Orpo and Naomi Wafula, the leading lady golfer. The winner will receive $15,000.