As we look forward to the coming year which will serve as breeding grounds and hard work for all sporting disciplines (since there are not as many major sports events), I have looked at those who made a major impact in the sports scene in 2008;
They are as follows;
1. Pamela Jelimo- Athletics 800m- from obscurity to golden moments- she literally scorched the tracks last year. Starting with the Kenyan championships(cum trials), she went on to register a gold medal in the African Athletics Meet in Ethiopia, won gold in Beijing Olympics and crowned the season by taking the Golden Jackpot by winning 6-out-6 races in the Golden League Athletics Grand Prix. She was accorded State honours having audience the powers-that-be. She’s easily the most talked about sports personality for the year 2008.
2.Francis Kimanzi- Coach/Team Manager (Mathare United & Kenyan football national team)– juggling two demanding jobs is not mean achievement. But he did just that and managed to win the Kenyan Premier last year and also managed to guide Kenya into the 2nd round of 2010 World Cup / Cup of Nations qualifiers. Under him, Kenya is currently ranked 65th in the FIFA world rankings –the highest ever and best for the East & Central African teams. All this at the tender age of 30 years.
3.Jason Dunford- Swimming- he started the year by being crowned SOYA for 2007 after a sterling performance in the All-Africa Games. He put Kenya in the Olympic record books temporarily holding the record for the 100m butterfly stroke for a few minutes. He managed a 5th place finish in the Finals won by swimming phenomenon Michael Phelps. He crowned the year by winning 3 gold medals & 2 silvers in African championships held in South Africa in November.
4.Collins Injera-Rugby- The national 7s team has become any sports enthusiasts’ talking point for the last 2 years. They won the Team of the Year award –SOYA 2007. One emerging player from the season was Collins Injera who had the big teams the likes of England, Fiji shaking in their boots last season. He has been a decisive factor in Kenya’s 7s game and is likely to be a player to watch this season.
5.Samuel Wanjiru- Athletics Marathon- he was the 3rd best marathoner going into the Olympics and his place was confirmed after finishing 2nd to Martin Lel in the London Marathon, as well as a nagging injury to Robert ‘Mwafrika’ Cheruiyot who had been tipped as the favourite. But come the last event of the Beijing Olympics Games, we woke up to watch a lean man tear the rest of the pack apart and win Kenya her first Olympic marathon gold.
6.Francis Ouma- Football-seeing as it is, the Kenyan Premier League last season got off into a good start. With DSTv/SuperSport screening select Kenyan games, our footballer had something to show to the rest of the world. Ochieng found the net 15 times most for his team leading them to a 1st place finish. He has found a place in the national team and is currently leading Kenya’s onslaught in the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup in Uganda.
7.Humphrey Khayange- rugby 7s- he captained the team to the IRB Sevens Series and one of the most influential players in the team. He managed to guide the team to a season high 6th place in the Series before they lost steam and slipped to finish within the top 10 positions. They won the Tusker Safari Sevens in July, giving local fans something to smile at. He is still captain and was instrumental in the team’s season 2nd round of the Series outstanding performance at the Dubai Sevens in December. We’ll how he guides the team for the rest of the season.
8.Ben Ayimba –coach rugby 7s team- he was one of the best players of his days and led Kenya’s 7s team to many an upset. He took up the managerial role of team in 2007 and has since seen the team grow to be one of the best emerging teams in the IRB 7s Series. He takes responsibility for any poor performances a thing that has endeared him to both fans and players. He is also one of the youngest coaches in the Series at 31 years. He is bound to continue this streak in the year.
9.Wilfred Bungei- Athletics 800m- he has been a major feature in Kenya’s international performances and is easily one of the most recognizable athletes on the track. He was a perennial underachiever failing to make the final sprint count and missing on medals. He led Kenya’s contingent as the captain of the Kenya team to the Olympics. Last year he proved us wrong and won his race earning Kenya one of the 5 gold medals in the Beijing Olympics. His trademark eye-glasses he says are not a fashion statement but simply to save his eyes from the gashing winds in the races.
10.Julius Kirwa- he took the unenviable job of head coach athletics at a time when Kenya’s international performances were taking a beating from bitter rivals such as Ethiopia, Eritrea and the North Africans. He almost lost it when Kenya didn’t win any individual race at the World Cross Country championships in ……earlier in 2008. But he managed to recover and come back with a bang helping Kenya secure 5 gold medals at the Olympics courtesy of the athletics team.
11.Nancy Lagat- 1500m –she was the surprise gold medalist for Kenya at the Olympics. She had kept her trend of winning, nondescriptly and she repeated that feat at the 1500m race earning Kenya’s women their 2nd ever gold medal at Olympics Games. Her demeanour hides her ambition to excel and she surely had us fooled!
Richard Omwela -Kenya Rugby Football Union- sustained support and professionalism into rugby
Mutwiri Mutuota- CNN/MultiChoice African Journalism of the Year Award nominee and winner in Sports Award section
Hellen Sambili-Minister for Youth and Sports- ensuring sustained Government support to Kenyan sports
www.mafans.com - interactive site with interesting sports news and arguments
EABL, KCB, KCC, Safaricom, Standard Chartered Kenya,Coca-Cola -the top companies supporting sports in Kenya for the season (Virgin Atlantic also deserves a mention albeit a hurried one).
Please add any which I may have forgotten !