KAMPALA, Uganda, Mar 4 – Five-time world cross country champion Paul Tergat arrived in the Ugandan capital Kampala to help launch and promote a series of projects ahead of the IAAF World Cross Country Championships Kampala 2017.
On Wednesday, the first full day of a busy two-day visit to Kampala, Tergat, an IAAF Ambassador for the championships, toured the course and facilities of the Kololo Independence Grounds, the venue for the 26 March event, launched an environmental legacy initiative, and also spent the afternoon with students at a regional community school.
Tergat’s visit began with a tour of the host venue, an inspection that impressed the Kenyan distance running legend.
“This is very fine,” Tergat said after a tour of the course with local organisers and dignitaries. “It is a good challenging course with so many obstacles that will give a great scene to the spectators and a great run to the athletes.”
Tergat said the was also impressed with the level of preparations 25 days before the gun will sound the start of the first race.
“What is remaining is the few general things that are always completed in the last days. I am impressed with it. We are ready to go,” he said.
While at the Kololo Independence Grounds, Tergat also helped launch the Kampala 2017 Greening project, one of the championships’ legacy initiatives whose aim is to promote environmental sustainability both in the host country and elsewhere around the world.
“We are in a world that is fast developing and thus more forests and trees are being depleted,” Tergat said, speaking to students from 15 local schools who attended the project launch.
“What we would like to tell you is that planting a tree will help you keep the world greener and healthier.”
Tergat then helped distribute tree seedlings to the students, asking them to plant and nurture them.
“This is not a one-off,” he told the students. “I will be coming back to Uganda to see how far this project is going during the World Cross Country championships. Its success depends on how we cater for the trees we have just got.”
Juliet Namuddu, the Director of Kampala’s Education and Social Services Directorate, said her office, in conjunction with other educational institutions, is hoping that local schools will plant more than 100,000 trees through the initiative to commemorate Uganda’s hosting of the World Championships.
“We want a green Uganda that will be able to sustain our children in the future,” said Namuddu.
Tergat also visited with students at the Nampunge Community School in Wakiso, a district about 40km west of Kampala, to share his experiences as an aspiring athlete, a champion and now, as an Ambassador for the sport.
“I was from Baringo and I used to run to school every day,” Tergat said. “We did not have the luxuries you have these days but I used those conditions later to help me become a world champion.
“During my first win in Kenya, many did not believe in me because they did not know me when I beat some of the best in the world. I went on to conquer the world and it was this consistency that earned me respect.”
Tergat emphasised that success in any undertaking shouldn’t in exchange for losing one’s humility.
“It costs nothing to keep your humility but it will define you,” he said.
“Always be humble and truthful and if you have the powers, look back and give a hand to the people who helped you grow up and those in need.”