World marathon record-breaking Eliud Kipchoge and Commonwealth and Africa champions Elijah Manangoi (1,500m) and Conseslus Kipruto (3,000m steeplechase) will battle for the Sportsman of the Year Award during the 2018 Safaricom Sports Personality of the Year (SOYA) gala at Fort Jesus, Mombasa on Friday.
The January 11 event will see the three athletes joined in the battle by Kenya Sevens star William Ambaka and Harambee Stars goalkeeper Patrick Matasi as the two seek to join a list of few men from other disciplines other than athletics to win the coveted award.
Some of the other sportsmen to have won the gong away from athletics are swimmer Jason Dunford (2007) and Kenya Sevens rugby star Collins Injera (2009).
Kipchoge, who is the Olympic Marathon champion, started 2018 strongly with victory at the London Marathon held in April, clocking 2:04:17 which was the 15th fastest time over the distance. Kipchoge had won at the same course in 2015 in 2:04:42 and 2016 in 2:03:05, missing the world record by eight seconds.
The 2018 IAAF Male Athlete of The Year then won the Berlin Marathon in a world record time of 2:01:39 on September 16. He slashed the previous record by one minute and 18 seconds. On his way to the record, Kipchoge also broke the 30km World Record setting new times of 1:26:45.
Ambaka was Kenya’s top try scorer last season with 31 tries in 54 matches, a feat that guided Shujaa to break the century mark for the first time for 104 points. The team finished eighth in the 2017/18 World Rugby Sevens Series.
Meanwhile, Matasi made the list having kept a clean sheet against Ethiopia in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier which helped Kenya book their ticket to this year’s competition for the first time in 15 years.
In the Kenyan Premier League, playing for Posta Rangers before moving to Tusker in mid-season, he kept a clean sheet in 29 matches and saved three penalties. Matasi’s performance attracted the eyes of scouts and he subsequently signed a three-year deal with Ethiopian top tier side St Georges.
Manangoi, won his maiden Commonwealth Games title clocking 3:34.78 in April and followed it up with his first African title in a record 3:35.20. He ended his season in style, winning his maiden IAAF Continental Cup in Ostrava.
The final contender, 23-year-old Kipruto, won the Commonwealth Games gold before going for the Africa title in Asaba, Nigeria. He retained his Diamond League Trophy for his third trophy, clocking 8:10.15 while running in one shoe.