The World Athletics body last week’s announcement that Joshua Cheptegei is nominated for its Male World Athlete of the Year 2021 award alongside nine others on the list of ten, proved to many of his fans that Cheptegei no longer needs to prove himself more.
Both here in Uganda and on the globe, Cheptegei has stamped his mark onto the long-distance running grid after scooping nearly everything on offer since 2018. The 25-year-old engraved his name in Uganda’s history books as the country’s greatest athlete ever after winning the 10000m silver medal and 5000m gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in Japan.
And whereas he was nominated with nine others for the Male Athlete of the Year Award by World Athletics, he’s left his 2021 achievements to the panel to plump if he can make the five-man shortlist whose winner will be crowned in December 2021.
This is the third year in a row that Cheptegei has been nominated for the same accolade, with the past two in vain. In 2019, he stood the chance after claiming the World Cross-country title in Aarhus, Denmark, winning the world 10000m title in the Qatari capital Doha and the 5000m Diamond League (DL) trophy.
By the time he set the 10km world record (WR) in Valencia, Spain, he had already been nominated. However, his mentor Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge, arguably the greatest marathoner ever, won the top prize.
Last year, in a spell where the world masked up in bow to the coronavirus pandemic, Cheptegei broke the WRs over the 5km and 5000m in Monaco, France before taking the 10000m WR as well from Ethiopian great Kenenisa Bekele in Valencia.
He ended fourth place and winning a team bronze medal at the World Half-Marathon Championships in Gdynia, Poland. Somehow, it is pole vaulter Swede Armand Duplantis who won the coveted prize.
The nomination and opposition
This time, Cheptegei has a ‘Golden chance’ as he is the only nominee who stepped onto the podium twice in Tokyo. But his opposition for the top prize this time has Duplantis again who, besides expectedly winning the Olympic gold, added the DL and European indoor pole vault titles.
Then American Ryan Crouser was undefeated all year in shot put, taking the Olympic and DL titles and the icing on the cake were WRs both indoor and outdoor. Cheptegei’s mountain could be steeper as well because of 400m hurdler Karsten Warholm who did a world 300m hurdles best before obliterating the WR and later taking the Olympic and DL titles.
Warholm’s country mate Jakob Ingebrigtsen can’t be overlooked either. He stunned Kenyan Timothy Cheruyiot to the 1500m title and he scooped European records over that distance and the 5000m. By ably defending the Olympic marathon crown with the largest winning margin of time since 1972, Kipchoge makes the list too.
There will be a three-way voting process with World Athletics Council members taking 50 percent of the vote. World Athletics Family will as well vote via email but their contribution is 25 percent to the vote while fans who will vote online via World Athletics’ social media platforms have their composition at 25 percent. The final five will be announced after November 6th before the Awards the following month.
Male Athletes of the Year Award nominees
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