Athletics Athletics

Kiprotich-mania grips Uganda


NAIROBI, Kenya, August 14- Understandably, Uganda has gone bonkers after Stephen Kiprotich mowed his fancied Kenyan neighbours to the Olympics marathon gold on Sunday.

For a nation that has not scaled the heights of welcoming an Olympic champion bank home since 1972 when hurdler John Akii-Obua won in Munich, Kiprotich has become the country’s biggest sensation.

Press reports from Kampala hailing the surprise Olympics marathon champion have continued a pace with the New Vision, one of the leading dailies in country even establishing a funds drive to reward the running star.

“By press time, more USh18m (Sh610,170) had been collected from individuals and companies. Sikander Lalani on behalf of Roofings Limited contributed USh5m, SMS Media gave in USh5m, a benefactor sent in $1,000 and USh500,000 was raised through mobile money,” the publication posted on their website on Tuesday.

Besides that, Kiprotich who will arrive in Kampala on Wednesday after a brief stop over at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport was the subject of a Ugandan cabinet meeting set for the same according to the New Vision.

Keen on capitalising on the buzz surrounding 23-year-old champion who trains in Iten alongside the Beijing Olympics 5000m silver winner, Eliud Kipchoge, his parents, James Kiptui 80, and Kopkop Cheptum, 60 have already petitioned their government to provide them a house and add a car for good measure!

“We are peasant farmers. We do solely rely on earnings from subsistence farming and handouts from our children to survive. We no longer have energy to run errands. Look at this house. It’s not befitting of parents of a national hero,” the mother told New Vision from their rural home in Kapchorwa.

The last time Uganda went gaga over an athlete was in 2010 when Moses Kipsiro won the double at the Delhi Commonwealth Games, again over fancied Kenyans.

Speaking to Capital Sport in Chepkoilel, Eldoret in May where he was training for London 2012, Kipsiro, who finished among the tail-enders in the men 5000m, told of the pressure placed upon a successful athlete in the glory-starved nation.

“After Delhi, there were a lot of parties for me in Uganda so it took my time and I did not train and the time I got back to training, I pushed myself hard so I got injured. After the recovering from the injury, I got typhoid and that took most of my year.

“In Uganda, as the only athlete on the top people expect much and look forward from you but when I compare to Kenya, today it is someone, tomorrow it is someone else. They do not look only at one person; they look up to a bunch of athletes unlike home where it is only one person.”
Kiprotich, who ran 2:08:01 to eclipse two time world champion, Abel Kirui (2:08:27) and London Marathon champion and namesake Wilson Kipsang (2:09:37) can therefore, expect much of the same when he touches down in Kampala.