Olympic women’s 5,000m champion Vivian Cheruiyot is confident of making a strong showing in the marathon starting in London this April after being crowned Kenya’s Overall Sports Personality of 2016.
Cheruiyot won the top award for the second time in her glittering career on Thursday night having moments before been named the Sportswoman of the Year at the annual Safaricom Sports Personality of the Year (Soya) Awards that celebrated their 13th edition in Nairobi.
Fellow Rio 2016 gold medalist in the marathon, Eliud Kipchoge was named the Sportsman of the Year for the first time after a resounding season where he won the London and Olympics titles.
“This award will motivate me to go for it in the marathon after 16 years on the track. I was not sure who between Eliud and I would win the overall title since we were both strong but at the end, I’m so happy to have won this,” the beaming 33 year-old said.
She was speaking on Thursday night after picking the set of top prizes for the second time since 2011 when she won the 5,000m/10,000m distance double at the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea.
“I know marathon running is different from track and I have adjusted my training. Winning here is the best way to crown my track career and I hope to return here for the marathon,” Cheruiyot added.
In Rio, Cheruiyot posted the third fastest time in history for Olympics silver in the 10000m final of 29:32.53 that is also a national record to lose out on the gold to the barnstorming world record run by Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana, whose country was well represented at the gala by retired legend and chief international guest, Haile Gebrsellasie.
She then went on to set an Olympics record of 14:26.17 in the women’s 5,000m to win the only top medal missing from her storied collection.
Cheruiyot will take on the might of Olympics winner and defending London winner, Jemimah Sumgong who came third in the vote for the Sportswoman of the Year at the Soyas, two-time London winner, Mary Keitany who is the New York titleholder and Florence Kiplagat who took the honours in Chicago last fall among others.
“I’m not afraid to take on them because you become the best by running against the best. I will have the same mentality I had on the track but ensure I have trained well,” added Cheruiyot who won on her Half Marathon debut in Britain last September when she ran 67:54 in South Shields in Britain.
“Standing here next to Vivian is so uplifting seeing what she has done to uplift women sport and I’m so glad Harambee Starlets won the Team of the Year for women because it is such women like Vivian who the girls look up to,” David Ouma who is the coach of Kenya’s women football team Starlets gushed when he posed next to the decorate athlete.
Soya Awards founder and retired distance running legend Paul Tergat who is a two-time Olympics silver medalist and five-time World Cross Country champion said 2016 was one of the most challenging year in local sports.
“There’s still much ground to be covered to take sports to the level witnessed in past years where Kenya used to top Africa standings in terms of gold medals,” Tergat said.
“I remember those days when we used to compete. That time when sport was sport with everything being fair and square,” he added in paying homage for his archrival on the track who is a best friend off it.
Then Haile Gebrsellasiewho was resplendent in a blue suit, white shirt and red tie took to the stage to thunderous acclaim and displaying the charm that won millions over in a glittering career that produced 27 world records, The Emperor took little time to get the hands warm in clapping.
“I’d like to applaud the country and Tergat for having such an event that honours athletes and their accomplishments.
“I think that the stiff competition arising whenever we compete, Ethiopia and Kenya is wealthy and the reasons we are all always on our toes,” he said as he called on the government to protect clean athletes. Enditem