NAIROBI, Kenya, August 15 – Freshly minted London Olympics marathon titleholder Stephen Kiprotich will smile all the way to the back after he received $80,000 (Sh6.696m) from Ugandan Head of State, Yoweri Museveni on Wednesday.
At the same time, his beaten Kenyan rivals, world champion, Abel Mutai and bronze winner, Wilson Kipsang, arrived back home on the same day to a warm but muted reception still stung from losing the top medal.
Ugandasports.org reported from Kampala that Museveni ordered State House to write cash cheque of Ush200m to avoid the delays his pledges take to reach their recipients with instructions the cash should be awarded to him before he left the special welcome at State House.
Kiprotich who forced Kirui and London Marathon titleholder, Kipsang to the minor places in the podium on Sunday is also due to receive $60,000 (Sh5.022m) from his sponsor Nike as a winning bonus.
That translates to Sh11.718m and counting for the 2 hours, 8 minutes and 1 second he took to stun his more illustrious neighbours with companies including the daily New Vision publication that launched a funds drive to reward the star rolling over to be aligned to the second Ugandan gold winner.
To commensurate with his new financial status, President Museveni also elevated the 23-year-old Prisons warden to the rank of Assistant Superintendent! How his beaten rivals wished they would cross over to Uganda!
Kirui and Kipsang who returned from London on Wednesday admitted Kiprotich had mugged them for the gold medal but revelled in making history as the first Kenyan pair to scale the Olympics podium at the same time in the marathon.
“I came in as the favourite and I had to push the pace high so that the field could get narrow since if we stayed as a group by the end, my chances of getting a medal would have been thin.
“When we were the three of us, I noticed he (Kiprotich) was strong and I motioned to him to help in the pace setting but he refused. By the time he went past, the heat was too much and I slowed down since I did not want to risk the possibility of not finishing the race,” Kipsang, who won bronze in 2:09:37 offered.
“Winning bronze at the Olympics has given me more fire to compete for my country and to aim at returning with the gold since it was my first time at this level,” the two-time Frankfurt Marathon winner who came four seconds short of matching Patrick Makau’s World record of 2:03:38 at last year’s race intimated.
Kirui, who carried the world titles in Berlin and Daegu last year came clean that Kiprotich’s burst with four kilometres to run skinned them.
“I was very surprised by the move and at that stage, it was difficult to respond but having won two world titles and an Olympics silver, I can say I love running for my country and I will make sure I’m ready for Moscow next year.
“We knew him since he trains in Iten but it was his day and I want to wish him all the best but I know the title will come back home in future,” the silver winner added.
Kiprotich was also feted by the Ugandan community in London having won his nation only her second Olympics gold since John Akii-Obua 400m Hurdles triumph at the 1972 Munich Games.
Entebbe Airport was a sea of humanity as his compatriots led by his wife, children and government officials ushered in their hero. He inspected a guard of honour mounted by his Prison Services force before being taken to meet the Head of State.
In Nairobi, a handful Administration and regular police officers were on hand to welcome Kirui who is a sergeant in the former and corporal Kipsang of the latter as well as their family members where Kenya’s vice-president, Kalonzo Musyoka led the dignitaries.
I contrast to the Ugandan gold medal windfall, Kenya’s equivalents, world record holder David Rudisha and Ezekiel Kemboi are guaranteed Sh1m ($11,123) each communication service providers Safaricom and Sh750,000 ($8,3463) from the Government.
Silver winners will get Sh600,000 from Safaricom and Sh500,000 from Safaricom with bronze medallists being awarded Sh300,000 and Sh250,000 respectively.
Other companies have made pledges they are yet to confirm and for now, being Ugandan is not bad for a champion runner!