The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: Hot Jelimo Favourite for Award

Former Olympics 800m gold medallist and reigning world indoor champion over the distance, Pamela Jelimo, could be heading back to the limelight.

Panellists of the Safaricom Sports Personality of the Year Awards (SOYA) have lined the athlete who rose to fame five years ago as a candidate for a prestigious award when the Gala night is held next Thursday.

Jelimo, fondly known as Kapsabet Express after rising to stardom four years ago in Beijing Olympics, is a hot favourite for the Comeback Award, which is given to athletes who defy debilitating circumstances to return to the top of their sport.

Jelimo was bogged down by a string of injuries after her Olympic triumph in Beijing and spent the following three years fighting to make a comeback with little success.

However, early this year, she won the world Indoors title and qualified for the Olympics, where she reached the final, finishing fourth behind the winner Mariya Savinova of Russia, Caster Semenya of South Africa and Ekaterina Poistogova (Russia).

But it may not be Jelimo's for the taking as rally driver Ben Muchemi and athlete Phillip Mosima could just pose the strongest competition.

Muchemi has twice defied cancer to make a comeback and has taken part in seven out of eight rallies this season. In 2010, he was declared Motorsportsman of the Year after returning from India where he underwent treatment for the terminal disease.

Mosima, a former world junior cross country champion, was virtually a retired athlete after his long stay in Japan and was almost being forgotten. But he emerged from self-imposed semi-retirement to dominate this season's cross-country circuit, especially the Gusii Golden Series from where he was selected for the Chiba Ekiden only a few days ago.

The SOYA panel have also short-listed candidates for the Most Promising category. In the men's category, Timothy Kitum, who won 800m silver medal at world junior championships in Barcelona and a bronze medal in London Olympics, is the favourite.

But Upper Hill High School's Mike Olunga's dribbling skills and goal-scoring ability could just prove to be Kitum's Achilles heel. The third athlete in this category in Conseslus Kiruto, who won 3,000m steeplechase at the World Junior Championships in a record time of 8:06.10.

On the women's side, Neddy Atieno, the highly-talented Tartar Girls High School football captain, who also captained the national Under-20 team in the World Cup qualifiers and led her school team to third place in the East African Games in Burundi is hoping to spoil the party for athletes Faith Chepngetich Kipyegon, the world junior 1,500m champion and Mercy Chebwogen, who won 3,000m gold at the World Juniors in a personal best of 9:08.88.

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