SOYA: Tennis, Football and Athletics nominees face off for the 2023 Sportswoman of the Year award

NAIROBI, Kenya, February 29 – It’s all eyes on the prize with less than 36 hours to the 20th Edition of the Sports Personality of the Year Awards (SOYA).

The gala slated for 1st March 2024 has seen sportsmen and women of various disciplines battle it out for the top positions.

The Sports Woman of the Year category is no exception. The category has seen Tennis sensation Anjela Okutoyi and Harambee Starlets Marjolene Nekesa in a serious face off with four world champions from the athletics arena.

At the 20th Anniversary of the annual event sponsored by the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), Unclaimed Financial Assets Authority (UFAA), Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) Kenya Academy of Sports (KAS), where Safaricom PLC has joined the celebration with a sponsorship of KES 2 Million and Sanlam insurance has boosted the award ceremony with a sponsorship of KES 500,000, the winner of this highly competitive category will be declared during the card only event to be held at the iconic Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC).

Multi track world champion and record holder, Faith Kipyegon, is looking forward to sealing a hat-trick at the awards where world 800m champion, Mary Moraa and world 5km champion and world record holder, Beatrice Chebet are also pitting for the top award.

The history-making three-time world half marathon champion, Peres Jepchirchir, is also vying for the top accolades as she prepares for her Olympic marathon title defence at the Paris Summer Games this year.

Kipyegon, the 2021 and 2022 winner, made history as the first woman to win both the 1,500m and 5,000m titles at a world championship during the global event staged in Budapest, Hungary last year. Before heading to Budapest, Kipyegon, 29, shattered three world records in less than two months in 1,500m, 5,000m.

Perhaps, the most coveted of her world records came at the Florence Diamond League on June 2 when she ran 3:49.11 to break the 1,500m world record. A week later, Kipyegon stepped up to the 5, 000m at the Paris Diamond League on June 9 where she clocked 14:05.20 to erase the previous record of 14:06.62 set by Ethiopia’s Letesenbet Gidey in Valencia on October 7, 2020.

At the Monaco Diamond meet on July 21, 2023, she clocked 4:07.64 to obliterate the previous One Mile record of 4:12.33 set by Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan at the same venue in 2019.

Kipyegon also sealed a hat-trick of wins in 1,500m in Budapest after holding off the pack to win the world 5,000m title in 14: 53.88.

She retained her Diamond League trophy, winning at Prefontaine Classic on September 16 in the United States of America before wrapping up her season with bronze in Road Mile at the World Road Running Championships on October 1 in Riga, Latvia.

Chebet, in her part, hauled four medals from varying world championships last year; three gold and a bronze.

She started the year strongly with a stunning victory in women’s 10km at the 44th World Athletics Cross Country Championships, Bathurst, Australia in February.

That saw her claim her second gold after Kenya reclaimed the women’s team title at the championships.

Chebet then settled for bronze in 5,000m behind Kipyegon and Sifan Hassan at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest in August.

Chebet would seal her third world gold medal this year with the inaugural 5km Road Race victory at the World Road Running Championships in Riga in October.

Moraa was the only other Kenyan to win gold at the world championships in Budapest besides Kipyegon when she claimed victory in 800m, becoming the only other Kenyan to hold the 800m title after Janeth Jepkosgei (2007) and Eunice Sum (2013).

Moraa broke her own 400m national record twice at Botswana Golden Grand Prix in April in 50.43 and during the trials for the Budapest World Championships in 50.38 in July at Nyayo National Stadium.

Moraa also anchored Kenya “A” team to victory in 4x400m mixed relay at the National Athletics Championships in June in a national record time of 3: 14.64 seconds, a time that qualified Kenya for Budapest World Athletics Championships.

Jepchirchir made history as the only other athlete besides Tegla Loroupe of Kenya, Kenyan born Lorna Kiplagat of the Netherlands and Briton Paula Radcliffe to claim a hat-trick of world half marathon titles in Riga.

Football sensation, Nekesa, aided her club Slavia Praha qualify for the UEFA Women’s Champions’ League group stages. Nekesa is the only Kenyan player to feature in Champions’ League group stage and was Czech Women’s First League top scorer with 14 goals.

On the Tennis front, Okutoyi won her maiden singles title in the ITF Women’s World Tennis tour(W15) in Monastir, Tunisia in July where she dispatched Isabella Harvison of USA 6-2,7-6 in the finals.

That saw her become the first Kenyan to lift the singles title on the ITF World tennis tour since Paul Wekesa in 1994.

Okutoyi also paired with Beverley Nyangon of France to win the doubles before representing Kenya in the Billie Jean King Cup Africa Group 111 where she captained Team Kenya to the bronze medal.

She reached the round of 16 in the ITF Women’s World tennis tour (W15, W25) singles in Jackson, Tennesse and Florence, South Carolina respectively in October and paired with Adeline Flach of USA to reach the finals of the doubles(W15) in Tennesse.

She also retained her Kenya Open title in August after overcoming Tanzania’s Sharan Mao at Nairobi Club and teamed up with her sister Roselinda Asumwa to win the doubles title.


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