All systems go ahead of SOYA Gala in Mombasa

The 16th edition of 2019 Safaricom Sports Personality of the Year Awards (SOYA) Gala goes down on Friday night at the Mombasa Sports Club.

Themed “A Night Under the Stars, with the Stars”, the 2019 SOYA is being held at the Coastal City for the second year in a row.

The County Government of Mombasa partnered with Safaricom Limited to sponsor the event among other facilitators.

No sportsman or woman from outside athletics has won the overall title since the introduction of the category in 2011 and only long-distance runner Vivian Cheruiyot has managed to win the overall title twice in 2011 and 2016.

However, only two athletes from outside athletics have won the Sportsman of the Year Award- swimmer Jason Dunford in 2007 and sevens superstar Collin Injera in 2009.

Two Paralypians have won the Sportsman of the Year category twice since inception- the inaugural 2004 winner Henry Wanyoike and 2018 winner Samuel Mushai, who went on to clinch the overall title the same year.

Can the Sportsmen and women living with a Disability outwit the Sportsmen and women to the coveted overall title especially with protagonists in all the categories having left some of the memorable performances in 2019?

Well, things also look interesting in the Sportsmen and women categories and the Persons Living with a Disability too.

Musclewoman Evelyne OkinyiOwala is eying to upset formbooks as she flexes against three world champions and a World Marathon record holder from athletics for Sports Woman of the Year during the 2019 Safaricom Sports Personality of the Year Awards (Soya).

Owala has her fingers crossed after making to the final five alongside World champions Hellen Obiri (5,000m), Ruth Chepng’etich (Marathon) and Beatrice Chepkoech (3,000m steeplechase).

There is also the World Marathon record holder Brigid Kosgei, who is also the London and Chicago Marathon champion.

No footballer has ever won the Sportsman of the Year Award but the focus will be on Harambee Stars striker Michael Olunga, who faces an a horde of athletics heavyweights including World 1,500m champion Timothy Cheruiyot, Olympic and World champion ConseslusKipruto, World Half Marathon record holder Geoffrey Kamworor and World Marathon record holder Eliud Kipchoge.

Owala entered her name in the annals of history when she won the 2019 African title in the Wellness Division held in Angola. She also clinched the Arnold Classic during the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB) Championships in South Africa.

Owala finished third in the 2019 IFBB World Cup after finishing 10th at the Arnold Classic event in Europe. She qualified for elite pro league where she will compete this year, making history as the first Kenyan female.

Chepng’etich opened Kenya’s medal account at the 2019 World Championships in Doha with victory in women’s marathon besides posting 2:17:08 to win Dubai Marathon by the third fastest time in history by them. Brigid, 25, won  London Marathon to set the stage for her exploits at Chicago Marathon where broke the women’s world record that stood for 16 years, clocking 2:14:04. She erased Paula Radcliffe’s record by 1 minute 24 seconds.

Obiri won the World Cross Country title in Aarhus, Denmark before retaining her World 5000m title in Doha, setting a new Championship Record time of 14:26.72. She had finished fourth in 10,000m race.

Chepkoech won her first ever world title in 3,000m steeplechase in Doha and also retained her Diamond League trophy title.

Olunga became the first Kenyan to score a brace at the Africa Cup of Nations as he spurred Kenya to a 3-2 victory against Tanzania in the group stage in Egypt June last year.

Olunga was voted man of the match for his efforts in the Tanzania match.

At club level, Olunga – who plays for Kashiwa Reysol in Japan helped the side gain promotion to the Japanese Premier League.

Kipchoge started the year with victory in London Marathon in a course record time 2:02:37. Then in October 12, he became the first man to run the marathon in under two hours when he clocked 1:59:40 in “Ineos 1:59 Challenge” in Vienna, Austria.

Cheruiyot claimed his maiden World 1,500m title in Doha a few weeks after retaining his Diamond League trophy.

Kipruto battled to retain his World 3,000m Steeplechase title while Kamworor took 17 seconds off the World Half Marathon record at the Copenhagen Half Marathon, winning the race in 58:01 in September. Kamworor had in Match won bronze at the World Cross Country Championships besides claiming his second New York City Marathon in November.

Vincent Mutai, who won an unprecedented three gold medals at the International Para Athletics Championships last year, and the 2018 Sports Personality of the Year Samuel Mushai are among the nominees for the Sportsman Living with a Disability Award.

Multi-talented AsiyaSururu, who is set for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in rowing and World Para Athletics bronze medallist Nancy Chelagat highlight the Sportswoman Living with a Disability category.

This year’s gala has been sponsored by Safaricom with co-sponsorship from Government of Kenya – Ministry of Sports and Heritage; Mombasa County; Communications Authority of Kenya; Multichoice Kenya – Gotv&Dstv; Sports Kenya; Sports Station; United Bank of Africa; Kenya Dairy Board; Betika; New KCC; Kenya Airports Authority and KBC as the media partner.