Kenyan middle distance track star Helen Obiri is unperturbed by her omission from the final 2017 IAAF World Athlete of the Year Awards shortlist, released on Monday.
The 27-year-old Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) runner attained the most plaudits of her running career in 2017 after putting in a trailblazing performance over the 5,000m distance in which she not only dominated the IAAF Diamond League winning the Trophy but also crowned her prowess with a gold medal in London’s World Championships.
IAAF promptly included Obiri in an initial 10-person list of nominees but axed her alongside compatriot Elijah Manang’oi, who had also powered into the men’s top 10 shortlist, for the awards due to his mile heroics.
The conspicuous snub has caused a stir in Kenya’s athletics circle as fellow track star Almaz Ayana from Ethiopia, Greek Pale Vaulter Ekaterini Stefanidi and Belgian jumper Nafissatou Thiam were announced as the women finalists while South Africa’s 400m record holder Wayde van Niekerk, Somali-born Briton Mo Farah and Qatari high jumper Mutaz Essa Barshim got the nod in men’s shortlist.
Newly-crowned Frankfurt Marathon champion Vivian Cheruiyot, who was favourite for the award but overlooked by IAAF in 2011 when she completed an incredible double victory over 5,000m and 10,000m, waded into the 2017 awards debate offering no kind words for the organisers.
Obiri, however, maintained her focus is on the new season. “I don’t want to say anything about it because it was out of my hands. If it was a race that I ran and lost, I could not say what happened but since others voted, it is up to them to chose who they deem to have performed best.
I only want to do my part on the tracks and win,” said Obiri. She added: “There is so much ahead of the season that I cannot take time reflecting on awards. I need to be fit and ready for the challenges ahead and right now that is what I’m doing.
Getting in shape.” A three-pronged voting system involving the public (25 per cent), IAAF Family (25 per cent) and IAAF Council (50 per cent) locked out the Kenyan duo despite Manang’oi toping other male nominees in the public vote with Obiri finishing third in public opinion.
Obiri won three Diamond League meetings in 2017, starting with the Shanghai leg to Rome before powering to an assured finish in Brussels to lift the Diamond Trophy.