UGANDA, Kampala, Mar 27 – The triumphant team Kenya for the 42nd IAAF World Cross Country Championships have paid tribute to the Kenyan fans who travelled to Kampala to cheer the team on Sunday.
“I knew I was coming near him (Ugandan Joshua Kiprui) when I heard people cheering up and I knew they were Kenyans. I didn’t want to let them down because they came overnight all the way from Kenya to give us support so I wanted to show them that we are together and also give them morale to continue supporting us in upcoming events,” Geoffrey Kamworor, who retained the senior men’s 10km title said.
“I am so grateful to the Kenyan fans they cheered me a lot and if it was not for them, I could not have won this gold,” Senior women’s 10km champion Irene Cheptai said.
The Kololo Independence Ground was full to capacity with over 1000 Kenyans supporters occupying half the venue that was attended by the Uganda President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and his wife Janet who is also the Minister for Education and Sports.
The Kenyans stormed Kampala, the capital city of Uganda at 9am on Saturday morning after over 10 buses ferrying them arrived from Nairobi.
They made their way in big numbers to the venue on Sunday, occupying the left side and they could be later be joined by Cherengany MP and 2012 Boston Marathon champion Wesley Korir as well as Athletics Kenya president Lt-Gen (Rtd) Jackson Tuwei.
At 2pm you could evidently see the Kenyan flags all over waiting for the opening race; the Mixed Relays and to their expectation the Team Kenya quartet of 1500m three-time World Champion Asbel Kiprop, Winfred Mbithe Nzisa, Bernard Koros and Beatrice Chepkoech did not disappointed.
Hoyeeee! Hoyeee! Hoyeeee! Hoyeee! Hoyeee!….. Kenya eeeeeee! Kenya aaaaaa! Were the encouraging chants to Team Kenya when Kiprop started off the race leading all the way and when he passed where the Kenya fans were, the chants could only get louder.
This motivated the lanky 2008 Olympic Champion to overtake Ethiopian Tufa who at some point had gone ahead but Kiprop made good use of his big strides to open a 100m gap, passing the baton to Mbithe who maintained the lead same as Koros and Chepkoech to cut the tape in 22:22 on its inaugural edition.
With the sun scorching in the unpredictable Ugandan weather, up next was the Under-20 women race.
When Kenyans thought they could reclaim the title they lost to their rivals Ethiopia four years ago when Faith Kipyegon won it, they were heartbroken as their rivals stretched dominance to two years thanks to Letesenbet Gidey who led compatriot Hawi Feysa to a 1-2 finish while 3000m steeplechase world junior champion Celliphine Chespol gave Kenya the only medal after settling for bronze.
Up next was the Under-20 men where the Ugandan fans were brought to live after little known Jacob Kiplimo upset Kenyans and Ethiopians to shockingly win Uganda’s first ever gold in World Cross Country.
On the third lap, Kiplimo was comfortably leading to send the 2,500 capacity Kololo Ground into jubilation, of cause except the Kenyan fans who could only watch helplessly as Richard Yator Komunyan crossed the line third, once again missing the title that was last won by the cross country star Geoffrey Kamworor.
Kiplimo was congratulated by Museveni and even had the the rare opportunity of taking a photo with the President and his wife.
It was the turn of the Ugandans to remain silent at their home ground as they watched Kenya dominate the senior women’s race that re-energized the Kenyan fans who cheered the fantastic six women who grabbed the top six positions and reclaim the team title.
However, drama unfolded on the final race of the day; the men’s senior race. With only one lap to go, the Ugandan fans were into jubilation as Joshua Kiprui was destined to write history for his country by winning the men’s title.
“This one is gone. We have taken it my friend today you Kenyans will have nothing to say,” Ugandan journalist Innocent Naula told his Kenyan compatriot.
All this time the Kenyan fans could not believe their eyes, but Kamworor relieved them by taking charge of the race as the Kenyan supporters turned tables to their rival fans who were left wondering how it went after Kiprui faded to a disappointing 30th position.
Capital Sport caught up with some of the fans in Kampala and there is what they had to say;
“I feel awesome, I have never been happy in my life like today tell you especially when Kamworor won it was the best,” Anastacia Kibui said.
“They performed well, we had a lot of hopes in them because they had planned well and we knew we would get good results. What made my day was the Mixed Relays and the senior women’s race,” Kiplimo Tirop stated.
The team was treated a luncheon in Kampala at 2pm by Kenya High Commissioner to Uganda at a Kenyan joint known as Makutano where they ate Nyama Choma before heading to the Entebbe International Airport for Nairobi, touching down at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at 6:30pm to a warm reception.