Perhaps, it is only a matter of a little more time before long-distance Joshua Cheptegei scoops the Athlete of the Year crown.
That wait for Uganda’s finest runner to touch that prize was made longer on Saturday night after Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge beat him and three others via a three-way voting process to retain the big crown at the World Athletics Awards in Monaco, France.
Rated as the greatest marathoner ever, Kipchoge became the third African to win the honour back-to-back highlighted by his fourth victory at London Marathon with a course record time of 2:02:37 in April and later breaking the two-hour barrier over a 42.195km distance at the Ineos Challenge in Vienna, Austria last month.
“I hope I inspired the human race,” a smiling Kipchoge said in a video broadcast to the audience at Méridien Beach Plaza Hotel.
“I am just really happy for making history. I hope it was a big inspiration to the next generation,” added the 35-year-old.
Kipchoge beat Cheptegei, American pair of 200m world champion Noah Lyles and pole vault world champion Sam Kendricks. 400m hurdles world champion Norwegian Karsten Warholm, who attended the Awards, was the other nominee.
Not all is lost for Cheptegei. At 23, he had arguably his career best season this year with the World Cross-country title in Aarhus, Denmark on March 30, the 5000m trophy on the Diamond League in Zurich, Switzerland on August 29 and the 10000m title at the Doha World Championships in Qatar on October 6.
“Not yet at his top,” Cheptegei’s coach Addy Ruiter says. “These experiences will help him to be a better athlete next year,” he adds.
Cheptegei’s immediate focus is on shattering the 10km world record when he runs at the Valencia Trinidad Alfonso in Spain on December 1 before embarking on a chase for an Olympic double in Tokyo next July.
Back in Monaco where American Dalilah Muhammad scooped the Female Athlete of the Year after breaking the 400m hurdles world record twice, the night largely belonged to Africa. The continent picked four of the nine awards on offer, Ethiopia taking two.
Teenager Selemon Barega elevated from nominee last year to winning the Male Rising Star Award after scooping the 5000m silver in Doha.
Acting Ethiopian Athletics Federation president Derartu Tulu, who won the 1992 and 2000 Olympic 10000m titles, took the Woman of the Year Award. Then, Braima Dabo from Guinea-Bissau was rewarded with the Fair Play Award for helping Aruba Islands’ Jonathan Busby who had nearly collapsed to the finish line in the 5000m Heat 1 in Doha.
“When I saw that Jonathan wasn’t feeling well, I immediately felt that I needed to help him,” Dabo said in company of Busby at the podium. “I feel very proud and I thank you for the appreciation of this act,” he added.
WORLD ATHLETICS AWARDS
Male Athlete of the Year: Eliud Kipchoge (Kenya)
Female Athlete of the Year: Dalilah Muhammad (USA)
President’s Award: The late Vikki Orvice (Journalist-Britain)
Fair Play Award: Braima Suncar Dabo (Guinea-Bissau)
Photographer of the Year: Felix Sanchez Arrazola (Spain)
Coaching Achievement: Colm O’Connell (Ireland/Kenya)
Woman of the Year: Derartu Tulu (Ethiopia)
Male Rising Star: Selemon Barega (Ethiopia)
Female Rising Star Award: Yaroslava Mahuchikh (Ukraine)