Joel Omotto @OmottoJoel
He keeps winning. On the road, off it, all he does is win and 2018 has been great. It deserved a befitting ending and delivered just that.
Just hours after Croatia’s Luka Modric was feted as world’s best footballer at the Ballon d’Or gala in Paris, Eliud Kipchoge received the athletics equivalent on the same shores when he became only the second Kenyan to bag the coveted IAAF World Athlete of the Year Award in Monaco on Tuesday.
Reserved for only the very best in the sport, the IAAF gong puts Kipchoge in elite company that includes the likes of Usain Bolt, Tyson Gay, Haile Gebrselassie, Kenenisa Bekele and compatriot David Rudisha.
But no one deserved it more than Mr Philosophical. Kipchoge had a memorable 2018 when he set a new marathon world record in Berlin in September, smashing the previous best by an incredible 78 seconds as he clocked 2hr 1min 39sec.
The 34-year-old Olympic champion’s effort was the largest single improvement on the marathon world record since Derek Clayton improved the mark by 2:23 in 1967.
That was after winning the London Marathon in April, making it 10 marathon wins from 11, the only blip being a second place finish in his second attempt in Berlin in 2013. Even that loss was a 2:04:05 time behind compatriot Wilson Kipsang who ran a world record of 2:03:23.
“This award means a lot to me,” said Kipchoge, crediting his children as being his “ignition key”. He added: “It’s a tribute to the hard work that I’ve put in during my career.”
Acclaimed as the greatest marathon runner of the modern era, Kipchoge has dominated since making his debut in Hamburg in 2013 after a successful track career that saw him win world gold and silver (2003, 2007) in the 5,000m and Olympic silver and bronze (2008, 2004) over the same distance.
He came agonisingly close to sporting immortality by nearly running the first sub two-hour marathon last year. He missed the mythical mark by just 25 seconds.
But the race conditions at the Nike-sponsored event were so favourable— Kipchoge ran behind a six-man pacesetting team and was trailed by a time-keeping vehicle on a racing circuit in Monza, Italy—that the time was not recognised by the IAAF. He, however, still habours ambitions of reaching such heights and with what we have seen in 2018, who would bet against it?
Kipchoge becomes only the second winner of the award—which comes with a cash reward of $100,000 (Sh10 million)—after Rudisha in 2010 when he twice broke the world 800m record in a week.
His Berlin heroics had earned him the United Nations Kenya Person of the Year Award in October but this one tops them all.
Kenya’s other hope Beatrice Chepkoech, the 3,000m steeplechase record holder, was not as lucky, losing out to 34-year-old Colombia Caterine Ibarguen who was feted for winning both horizontal jumps at the Central American and Caribbean Games, the IAAF Continental Cup and at the IAAF Diamond League finals.