The Safaricom Sports Personality of the Year (SOYA) awards to be held Thursday at the Kenyatta International Convention Center (KICC) will be a re-union of its kind for two of the greatest marathoners to have graced the athletics world.
Ethiopia’s retired long-distance runner Haile Gebrselassie will be the chief guest while his rival during running days Kenyan Paul Tergat is the SOYA patron. “The Emperor” will meet “The Gentleman” and it will coincide well with this year's theme; Inspiring Greatness.
Tergat has said they are honoured to have the great African sportsperson grace the awards. He noted that the presence of Gebrselassie will help to inspire many sports personalities and enthusiasts.
Ahead of their re-union off the track, Tergat has described the Ethiopian as a “friend and long-time rival on the tracks”.
Even in their retirement, the debate on who was the greatest of the two continues to rage on. Tergat vs Gebrselassie rates among the top running rivalries in history alongside the likes of Sebastian Coe vs Steve Ovett, Roger Bannister vs John Landy as well as Grete Waitz vs Joan Benoit.
There will be no rivalry when they meet on Thursday but it will relieve the gone days when they struggled to outwit each other on the track.
Gebrselassie, the current President of the Ethiopian Athletics Federation, adds to the long list of international sports personalities who have graced the annual SOYA awards.
Others who have been invited previously include former Cameroonian football star Patrick Mboma, Uganda’s Olympic marathon winner Stephen Kiprotich and Nigeria’s Taribo West.
There will be 18 categories up for contention at the awards with Coach of the Year Category standing out. It has top performers from 2016 by merit.
Top contenders will be David Ouma (football) who helped Harambee Starlets qualify for their first-ever continental championship, Benjamin Ayimba (rugby) who guided Kenya Sevens to their first-ever main cup win in the World Sevens Series together with Jos Openda (hockey) who among other accolades led Telkom Orange to winning their record ninth continental title over the weekend.
Other nominees in the category are Julius Kirwa (athletics) and Catherine Mabwi (volleyball). Sportsman of the Year Category will also be competitive and is headlined by Kenya Sevens star Collins Injera who reached the milestone of being the top try scorer at the World Series in 2016.
Others nominated are Olympics marathon winner Eliud Kipchoge, fellow athletes David Rudisha and Conseslus Kipruto as well as footballer Michael Olunga.
This year’s gala is sponsored by Safaricom Limited, Lotto Foundation, Supersport and Multichoice, Kenya, Communications Authority of Kenya (CA), Vivienne Taa, National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), Kenya Tourism Board (KTB), National Social Security Fund (NSSF) and Kenya Pipeline Corporation (KPC).