He’s now 41-years-old, and Paul Tergat’s athletic prime is behind him, but the honors keep coming.  On 6 November, one day before the New York City Marathon, the Kenyan star will receive the 2010 Abebe Bikila Award, named after Ethiopia’s late, great, two-time Olympic marathon champion.

The award has been presented annually since 1978 to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the sport of distance running.  And, Paul Tergat has certainly made some outstanding contributions.  A two-time Olympic silver medalist at 10,000 meters, Tergat won five consecutive IAAF World Cross Country Championship titles, from 1995 to 1999.

Paul Tergat in VOA Studios

When Tergat decided to move up in distance, he continued to make his mark.  He held the marathon world record (of 2:04:55) from 2003 to 2007, when it was broken by his friend and longtime rival Haile Gebrselassie, the Ethiopian star who defeated Tergat at both the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and the 2000 Sydney Olympics in the men’s 10,000m final.

Tergat visited our VOA headquarters in Washington in 2005, just a few days after winning the New York City Marathon.  He came to Washington in his role as a U.N. World Food Program (WFP) “Ambassador Against Hunger.”  Tergat talked about the WFP lunches he ate as a young schoolboy in Kenya, and how important the food was in his overall development.

As the latest recipient of the Abebe Bikila Award, Paul Tergat has also proven to be one of Africa’s greatest athletic ambassadors.