Nairobi, Kenya | AFP |
Olympic champions Vivian Cheruiyot and Eliud Kipchoge were named Kenya’s top athletes at an awards ceremony that rounded off a controversial but successful year for sports in the country.
Cheruiyot, 33, a former world double 5,000m and 10,000m champion, warded off the challenge of Jemima Sumgong — who in Brazil became the first Kenyan woman to win the Olympics marathon.
“I would like to say a big thank you to all my Kenyan fans who have rallied behind me throughout the years,” Cheruiyot, who also won gold in Rio in the 5,000m, said at Wednesday night’s ceremony, where she received the female athlete of the year award.
Cheruiyot, who at the tender age of 15 won a junior silver medal at the 1999 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Belfast, urged Athletics Kenya “to support upcoming athletes who have a hard time breaking into the tough competition.”
Two-time London Marathon winner Kipchoge finally scooped Kenya’s best male athlete award after 13 years, following his gold medal in the Olympic marathon event in Rio.
He beat two-time Olympic 800m winner David Rudisha and Conseslus Kipruto, the 3,000m Steeplechase Olympic champion, for the award.
“I have been awarded the best athlete of the year after the 13th year of trying. My fellow athletes should follow my footsteps and never lose faith,” Kipchoge said.
Cheruiyot and Kipchoge were among the 13 medallists at the Rio Olympics which saw Kenya’s athletes put up their best-ever performance at the summer games.
Their Olympic glory was however overshadowed by corruption scandals and mismanagement that has landed several team officials in the dock.