5 Memorable sporting highlights of 2018
The year 2018 offered Kenyans several sporting events and highlights, some of which will probably be etched in their minds for a lifetime.
Here is to a few of them that stood out:
1. France crowned world champions
Football world’s governing body Fifa reported in December a record 3.5 billion people – including millions of Kenyans – watched the 2018 Fifa World Cup which was held between June and July in Russia. France lifted the coveted trophy with a 4-2 win over a stubborn Croatia in the final. In total, 32 nations, including five from Africa, participated in the competition. Croatia’s inspirational captain Luka Modric was named the best player. Kenya’s Harambee Stars are hoping to qualify for the next edition of the tournament in Qatar, in 2022.
2. Kenya qualifies for 2019 Afcon – Harambee Stars ended its long awaited return to Africa’s ultimate football tournament after 15 years in the fringes. A 1-0 victory over the highly rated Ghana in Nairobi on September 8 paved way for Kenya’s return to the biennial tournament. Kenya, under the tutelage of Frenchman Sebastian Migne, followed it up with an emphatic 3-0 thrashing of Ethiopia in Nairobi but also hugely benefited from the suspension of Sierra Leone to confirm qualification with a game to spare.
3. Olunga La Liga hat-trick – On January 13, 2018, Kenyan striker Michael Olunga became the first ever Kenyan to score a hat trick in the Spanish top tier. The 24-year-old struck thrice as Girona thrashed Las Palmas on that memorable match. His goals in the 57th, 70th and 79th minutes at the 13,500 capacity stadium, sent Kenyan football fans home and abroad into delirium.
4. Eliud Kipchoge smashes marathon world record – On September 16, 2018 Eliud Kipchoge stunned the world by obliterating the marathon world record with an astonishing time of 2:01.39 in Berlin, Germany. Kipchoge didn’t merely break the record, he sliced a massive 78 seconds off the old mark set by compatriot Dennis Kimetto on the same fast course in 2014. That stunning victory was the 10th win in 11 marathons for the 33-year-old, who is also a three-time London marathon champion and the reigning Olympics marathon champion.
5. Gor Mahia’s continental romp – Kenyan champions Gor Mahia dared to dream and achieved the same, with victories over Equatorial Guinea side Vegetarinos and South Africa’s SuperSport United to became the first Kenyan club to progress to the money-spinning group stage of the Caf Confederation Cup. The team’s impressive run also ensured it retained the Kenyan Premier League title and finished third at the Cecafa Kagame Cup in Tanzania.