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Jelimo and Wanjiru crowned

Olympic 800m champion Pamela Jelimo, has added another crown to her glittering career.

The youngster was named the 2008 Sports Personality of the Year (Soya) after a splendid 2008 that saw her become the first Kenyan woman to win an Olympic gold medal.

The youngster from Kiptamok Village, Nandi District had little challenge in winning the Soya prize with her close challengers being 1,500m Olympic champion Nancy Jebet Lagat and 3,000m steeplechase bronze medallist Eunice Jepkorir.

Lagat managed second position while Jepkorir was contended with third position.

While Jelimo was a clear winner in the women category, there was stiff competition in the male award what with Olympic champions Samuel Wanjiru, Wilfred Bungei and Brimin Kipruto all in contention.

As if that was not enough, the 2007 Soya winner Jason Dunford was also in contention after an impressive run at the Olympic Games in Beijing last year where he set an Olympic record that stood for less than ten minutes.

After voting it was, however, Wanjiru who got the nod from the Soya panellists to join Jelimo in the role of honour the 2008 Soya male winner.

Bungei, who was also the Beijing Games overall team captain, was voted the runner-up while Dunford was the second runner-up.

Apart from being a Soya winner Jelimo was also shortlisted for the 2008 IAAF Athlete of the Year women’s category award alongside Russian multiple world record holder Yelena Isinbayeva.

She, however, did not win the award but didn’t come back home empty handed from Monaco as she was awarded the Revelation of the Year Award.

Apart from winning the Olympic gold in Beijing last year, Jelimo had announced her arrival to the scene with victory at the Africa Athletics Championships in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Then aged, 18, she ran one minute 58.70 seconds, a new national record beating former world and Olympic champions Maria Mutola of Mozambique in the process.

On 25 May she won 800m at the Hengelo Grand Prix event and set a new world junior record of 1:55.76.

The previous record (1:57.18) was set by Yuan Wang of China in 1993.

Jelimo’s time in Hengelo was also a new Kenyan record, previously held by Janeth Jepkosgei (1:56.04 in 2007).

golden league

On June 1 Jelimo ran an impressive 800m race in Berlin and won the ISTAF Golden League in 1:54.99, a new African record.

The previous African record (1:55.19) was set by Mutola in 1994.

On July 18 she bettered the record slightly to 1:54.97 in Paris. It was also her fourth consecutive win in _F Golden League, where she was one of only two remaining jackpot contenders, the other being high jumper Blanka Vlaši of Croatia.

On August 18 she won gold at the Beijing Olympics in 1:54.87 to also become the first Kenyan women to win an Olympic title.

She continued her unbeaten streak by winning the Weltklasse Golden League meeting in Zurich on August 29 improving her personal best to 1:54.01.

World record

This was the third fastest performance ever, behind Nadezhda Olizarenko and the world record of Jarmila KratochvÌlov•.

At the Memorial van Damme competition in Brussels, the IAAF Golden League final, Jelimo won with a time of 1:55.16.

As the only athlete to win the same event at all six Golden League meetings, she won the competition’s jackpot of $1,000,000. (then about Sh70m).

She crowned her unbeaten season by winning her race at the 2008 IAAF World Athletics Final. After the event she returned to Kenya for the first time since the Olympic trials and was welcomed by major festivities. On 18 September 2008 in Kapsabet Town, a street — Pamela Jelimo Street— was named in her honour after a homecoming party attended by the who is who in the society.

On his part Wanjiru managed to beat Bungei and Dunford for the male prize after not only winning the Olympic gold but also breaking the games record that had stood for over 20 years after clocking 2:06.32 smashing the previous record of 2:09:21 set by Carlos Lopes of Portugal in the 1984 Olympics.

Apart from the glory at the Olympics, Wanjiru had also finished second at the London marathon in April behind countryman Martin Lel and also broke the 2:06 barrier.

The Soya ceremony, the third in a row was attended by a star guest list that included vice president Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka, Sports Minister Hellen Sambili, former vice president Moody Awori and Soya founder, Paul Tergat.

Bismack Mutai (Standard)

Jelimo and Wanjiru crowned
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