In its seven-year history, the Safaricom Sports Personality of the Year Award (Soya) has lived to its reputation and selected a new winner each year.
And on Friday night, Soya’s panel of judges - chaired by Chris Mbaisi of The Star daily, had reason to change the names of the new champions with that honour going to Nancy Jebet Lagat, the Africa, Commonwealth and Olympic 1,500m champion while David Lekuta Rudisha, the new world 800m record holder and Africa champion claimed the male silverware.
Yet, two years ago, Lagat did not how to celebrate when she won in Beijing to pick Kenya’s second ever women’s gold medal in the Olympic Games history.
However, she posed with confidence and a grin as she held aloft her crown having edged out Vivian Cheruiyot and Milcah Chemos for the Safaricom Sports Personality of the Year (Soya) sportswoman’s title.
It is her sixth jewel in an illustrious season that also saw her become the world number one over the 1,500m distance in the Diamond league.
“What can I say, it feels nice to hold this trophy. It is something I have eyed all along and today, I got it. Now it makes me seek to train harder and see that I retain it maybe next year,” said Lagat.
800m world record
But if her sudden turn of event is anything to talk about, Lagat’s male colleague Rudisha has left the world with new imagination.
Breaking the record 800m record twice in a span eight days has seen him pick up the IAAF World Athlete of the Year title and now he can add on his already huge collection the Soya crown.
“I thank my family, coach and friends who have all contributed immensely to me getting to where I am. Winning here at home is not easy, because we have several top stars.
“But this makes me want to work harder and see that I return here next year to pick this crown again,” said Rudisha.
Of course, his coach Brother Colm O’Connell is the pillar on which athletics in Kenya has been built.
He has produced top stars including Rudisha’s predecessor as world 800m record holder, Kenya-born Dane Wilson Kipketer, Isaac Songok, Augustine Choge among others.
Based in Iten, O’Connell was at hand to pick his own award as the community hero recognising his effort and work in developing and nurturing Kenyan athletes.
It was the best moment for him, as he saw his polished work in Rudiha bear fruit, first in Monaco where he was declared the world athlete of the year last month and at home as the Soya winner.