Star-studded shortlist for SOYA sportswoman of the year award

It will be a battle of titans at this year’s Safaricom Sports of the Year Awards (SOYA) as top guns are set to battle it out for the 2019 Female Sportsperson of the Year award at the gala slated for January 24 in Fort Jesus, Mombasa.

In the athletics-dominated line-up, World 3000m Steeplechase champion Beatrice Chepkoech will be looking to retain her title but faces stiff competition from her peers including world 5000m champion Hellen Obiri, world marathon champion Ruth Chepngetich and world marathon record holder Brigid Kosgei.

However, for the first time in history of the Awards, a body builder Evelyne Okinyi Owala has also made the five-woman shortlist.

Owala entered her name in the annals of sports history by emerging the 2019 African champion in the Wellness division as well as the Arnold Classic, winning both titles during the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB) Championships held in Angola and South Africa respectively.

Competing as an amateur, she also finished third in the 2019 IFBB World Cup amateur competition over and above finishing tenth at the Arnold Classic event in Europe.

She is one of the top exponents in her category worldwide to qualify for the elite pro league where she will compete next year, thus becoming the first Kenyan female and the third in Africa to achieve that feat.

For Chepkoech- the world 3000m Steeplechase record holder- she will be hoping to bag back to back titles after an impressive season that saw her win her first ever world title in Doha alongside clinching the overall title at the 2018 Diamond League series.

Another contender for the award is the 25-year-old Chepngetich who incidentally opened Kenya’s medal account at the 2019 World Championships in Doha as she raced to gold in extremely punishing Middle East conditions which saw many runners drop out of the race.

Chepngetich headed to the World Championships with a world leading time, something that stood until Brigid Kosgei broke the world record at the Chicago Marathon in October.

Before Brigid broke the World record, Chepngetich’s time of 2:17:08 which she clocked while winning the Dubai Marathon in January was the third all-time best behind Paula Radcliffe and Mary Keitany.

Apart from winning Dubai Marathon, she also won the Bogota Half Marathon in Colombia in July and Seiryu Half marathon in Japan in April.

On her part, Kosgei, 25, started the year in style as she raced to victory at the London Marathon in April, destroying a strong field that included the then defending champion Vivian Cheruiyot.

Later in October, Chicago marathon became the epitome of her running this season as she obliterated the women’s world record that stood for 16 years, clocking 2:14:04 to shave legendary Paula Radcliffe’s record by 1 minute 24 seconds en route to successfully defending her title.

Also in contention for the coveted award is the evergreen Obiri who started the season with a bang, winning the elusive World Cross Country title in Aarhus, Denmark and also helping Kenya to bag silver in the team competition.

The 2016 Olympic silver medallist closed the season with a gold medal after retaining her 5000m at the 2019 World Championships in Doha, setting a new Championship Record time of 14:26.72 to lead compatriot Margaret Chelimo to a 1-2 finish.