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Athletics stars head nominees of this year’s best sports performers

James Magayi @magayijim

Athletics Kenya stars Helen Obiri and Elijah Manangoi headline star-studded cast shortlists for 2017 Sports Personality of the Year Awards (SOYA) slated for next Wednesday in Nairobi.

Obiri and Manangoi have already bagged the best female and male athletes of the year gongs from Athletics Kenya (AK) gala held last month and seem destined for greater fetes when SOYA is held.

The duo was also nominated for IAAF World Athlete of the Year Awards but failed to garner sufficient votes thereby falling out. In the SOYA Sportsman of the Year category 2016 winner Eliud Kipchoge is among the five athletes shortlisted, with all but rugby player Darwin Mukidza being runners.

Kipchoge won Berlin Marathon but is still deemed to have had a subdued season, going by the standards he set in the previous year. IAAF World Championships marathon surprise winner Geoffrey Kiprui is also a contender alongside track stars Manangoi and Conseslus Kipruto.

Having sparkled in 2016 Diamond League, Manangoi crowned the year by winning gold in World Championships 1,500m while Kipruto, the Olympic 3,000m steeplechase record holder added the world championship title to his fast piling medal collection. Sportswoman of the Year category will be contested by three runners, a volleyball and rugby player.

Olympic and world 1,500m champion Faith Chepng’etich, sensational 5,000m world champion Helen Obiri and evergreen marathoner Edna Kiplagat are in contest alongside exciting and highly rated volleyball player Edith Wisa and marauding national rugby player Sinaida Aura.

Aura and Wisa have been exceptional in 2016 but are bogged by the weight of team sports in a contest where Obiri, Chepngetich and Kiplagat’s individual brilliance don’t share their glows.

Obiri was a revelation in the Diamond League and raced to her first career gold medal by trouncing Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana in world championships 5,000m.

Chepngetich also fell another Ethiopian great Genzebe Dibaba to win the 1,500m World Champion while Kiplagat settled for silver in world championships marathon but the veteran won 2017 Boston Marathon.

Record Kenya Premier League (KPL) champions Gor Mahia are contesting for the men’s sports team of the year category alongside rugby Kenya Cup champions KCB and Kenya Police hockey team.

Also shortlisted for the male sports team of the year award are Under 19 Cricket National Team and National Under 20 Football Team. A tight race for Women Sports Team of the year pits three national teams and three club teams.

The national women volleyball team, National women cricket team and national women rugby team – Lionesses – are propped alongside all conquering Telkom Hockey team, Pipeline and Prisons Volleyball teams for the gong.

Waning Athletics Kenya (AK) is shortlisted for federation of the year gong alongside Football Kenya Federation (FKF), Boxing Association of Kenya (BAK), Cricket Kenya and Kenya Secondary Schools Sports Association (KSSSA).

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