KAMPALA- To the bookmakers and his fans, it was no surprise Joshua Cheptegei was crowned as 2017 Athlete of the Year during the Uganda Athletics Federation (UAF) Awards at Imperial Royal Hotel on Friday night.

Even if the event emcee Apollo Musherure needlessly dragged the function past midnight, little could bother Cheptegei.

His stellar year on track and road, highlighted by a 10000m silver at the London World Championships, had already earned him a big edge over the other nominees Victor Kiplangat, Ronald Musagala and Sadiq Bahat.

Also, UAF president Dominic Otuchet and Musherure had consistently reminded the audience that present London Para-Athletics Championship 1500m T46 gold medallist David Emong, whose feat would have matched Cheptegei’s, was only a guest.

Eventually, Cheptegei’s moment came at about 12:20am when he received a standing ovation from the audience.

“I feel amazing to have won this,” said the 21-year-old moments after picking his diadem from chief guest KCCA Director of Education and Health Services Juliet Namuddu. “I have worked for it.” 2017 has been an amazing year full of breakthroughs and pushing for world records. I was not feeling well in the start of the season. But I picked myself up to come and win this,” he said.

Bar the unfortunate instance where he vanished from first to finish 30th at the World Cross-country Championships on March 26 in Kololo, Cheptegei made the top four places in all the other races this year.

After promising performances at the Eugene, Lausanne and Paris Diamond League Meets, Cheptegei’s epic final kick saw him finish behind Mo Farah in the 10000m final at the London Worlds. He would wrap up the year with wins at the Durban 10K in South Africa and Seven Hills 15K Run in Netherlands, missing the world record by three seconds in the latter race. Cheptegei now targets more in 2018.

“In 2018, I am thinking of a doing a half-marathon, possibly the 10000m at the Commonwealth Games and the Diamond League circuit which will give me a perfect build-up for 2019. It is almost the same script like 2017,” he added.

Prior, Cheptegei had picked the accolade for Jacob Kiplimo after he was crowned as the Upcoming Male Athlete of the Year thanks to his junior World cross-country triumph, Uganda’s first-ever gold in the championship.

For her surprise show that landed her javelin gold at the Commonwealth Youth Games, Josephine Lalam was named Upcoming Female Athlete of the Year. Dorcus Ajok was named 2017 best female athlete.

2017 UAF ATHLETICS AWARDS

MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Joshua Cheptegei
FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Dorcus Ajok
UPCOMING MALE ATHLETE
Jacob Kiplimo
UPCOMING FEMALE ATHLETE
Josephine Lalam
Past winners
2017: Joshua Cheptegei
2015: Solomon Mutai
2014: Moses Kipsiro
2013: Stephen Kiprotich
2012: Stephen Kiprotich
2011: Annet Negesa
2010: Moses Kipsiro
2009: Moses Kipsiro
2008: Moses Kipsiro
2007: Moses Kipsiro
2006: Boniface Kiprop