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Africans Are Lead Nominees in the 2016 IAAF World Athlete of the Year Award

Off the track and onto the podium, African athletes are still dominating the athletics world in different aspects. After a successful and record-breaking display at the just concluded Rio Olympics, the continent leads in the number of nominees for the IAAF World Athlete of the year award.

The world athletics governing body (IAAF) released the list of the nominees on Tuesday after a compilation by an international panel of athletics experts, representing all six continental areas. Seven Africans are among the 20-athlete nominees – 10 males and 10 females – from around the world. In addition, most of the nominees, if not all, are world record holders after breaking Olympic records in Rio.

Kenya leads with four athletes, South Africa undoubtedly registered two while Ethiopia deservingly earned one nominee spot.

David Rudisha. The king of 800m, world record holder and defending champion, Rudisha, is no stranger to the IAAF award. Despite season-long injuries prior to the Rio Olympics, he disputed doubts over his performance and went on to win gold at Rio.

His title defense would write his name among the greatest runners in history. Now the two-time 800m gold medalist and world champion, is back for a fourth time as a nominee for an award he won in 2012 following his world record win at the London Olympics.


800m world champion and Olympic gold medallist, David Rudisha (iTelegraph)

Eliud Kipchoge. While many gave into the unbearable conditions of the heat, Kipchoge owned the men’s marathon category without a flinch of doubt or despair.

But before his Rio feat, the 31-year-old was a regular runner for 5,000m, a race in which he won two medals in 2004 and 2008 and has since dominated the marathon world. The Rio gold medalist and world marathon champion in his own right, is dubbed as the finest marathon runner of his time.


Eliud Kichoge is among this year’s nominees (Rio 2016 Olympics)

Conseslus Kipruto. The 3,000m steeplechase Rio gold medalist makes the list of this year’s nominees for the first time. Kipruto, a two-time silver medalist at the world championship, made his mark at the Rio Olympics with a record breaking run, to seal a comfortable win.

Vivian Cheruiyot is the only female Kenyan and second overall, to make the list. Without a doubt, her nomination follows a spectacular display of heart and determination in the women’s 5000m final.

Cheruiyot took home Kenya’s first ever Olympic gold medal in the women’s category. It was also her first gold. However, the 32-year-old who has the most female international accolades in distance running this decade, is also familiar to the award she last won in 2011.


Vivian Cheruiyot (right) will look to win the award a second time (Rio 2016 Olympics)

When it comes to athletics, two South Africans currently rank as the country’s best – Caster Semenya and Wayde van Niekerk.

“Wayde’s record breaking performance and Caster’s thrilling run will be the highlights in sporting history. Both athletes affirmed us as a nation of champions. It is with pride and excitement to learn of their nominations. These prestigious awards present yet another platform to inspire more young athletes to represent our country with excellence,” said Minister Fikile Mbalula, in a congratulatory message to the duo.

Semenya swept controversy and speculation over her gender aside, to mark her spot among the greatest runners. She is also dubbed as South Africa’s golden girl. Following Rio success – 800m gold medal win – the 25-year-old, continued her customarily win and wrapped up the IAAF season as a champion.

Meanwhile, van Niekerk stunned the world when he burst to glory and destroyed former 200m and 400m champion, Michael Johnson’s 17-year-old world record. Instantly, a star was born and South Africa was all praise for the 24-year-old while Jamaican superstar, Usain Bolt who appeared mesmerized, later expressed his delight in van Niekerk’s gold medal win.


Wayde van Niekerk and Caster Semenya are the face of South Africa. (Gallo Images)

Almaz Ayana represents Ethiopia and is the country’s sole nominee. Ayana shattered the world record in the women’s 10,000m final at Rio. The Ethiopian’s achievement was so remarkable considering that it was her second time on the track as she beat a 23-year-old record.


Olympic record holder in the women’s 10,000m category, Almaz Ayana. (Reuters)

Africa’s nominees are up against a list of other world champions and record holders. The finalists will be determined by a three-way voting process.

The IAAF Council and the IAAF Family will vote by email while the fans, will vote online via the IAAF’s social media platforms – a ‘like’ or ‘favorite’ on Facebook and Twitter will count as one vote.

The IAAF Council’s votes will account for 50%, while the IAAF Family and fans will each part with 25% of the vote. The winners of each category, male and female, will be announced on Friday 2 December, 2016, at the IAAF Awards Night to be held in Monaco. Voting closes on November 1.

Below is the list of all the nominees.

Men: Usain Bolt (JAM), Thiago Braz da Silva (BRA), Ashton Eaton (USA), Mo Farah (GBR), Eliud Kipchoge (KEN), Conseslus Kipruto (KEN), Omar McLeod (JAM), David Rudisha (KEN), Christian Taylor (USA), Wayde van Niekerk (RSA)

Women: Almaz Ayana (ETH), Ruth Beitia (ESP), Vivian Cheruiyot (KEN), Kendra Harrison (USA), Caterine Ibarguen (COL), Ruth Jebet (BRN), Sandra Perkovic (CRO), Caster Semenya (RSA), Elaine Thompson (JAM), Anita Wlodarczyk (POL)


Featured Photo: Conseslus Kipruto debuts on this year’s nominee list (GETTY IMAGES)

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