Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Uganda: Kiprotich's bumpy journey to fame

Uganda's second ever Olympic gold medalist Stephen Kiprotich has arrived in the country from London to a thunderous heroic welcome. As early as 6 o'clock this morning thousands of ecstatic  Ugandans drove to Entebbe International Airport to welcome Kiprotich, the World 42-km marathon champion in the recently concluded London 2012 Olympic games.

Kiprotich, 23, and father of two kids was received by three Uganda ministers including the one of Education and Sports  and several Ugandans and his family members and friends.The Uganda prisons service where Kiprotich serves as a warder had its commissioner general Dr Johnson Byabashaija brave the early morning breeze to welcome his officer, who made Uganda proud having its national anthem played at the Olympics closing ceremony.

Golden boy Stephen Kiprotich holding Uganda flag and tree branch being received at Entebbe airport
Byabashaija revealed that he had recommended that Kiprotich be promoted from a mere prisons warder with no rank to an Assistant Superintendent of Prisons, skipping 9 ranks because he is not just a world champion but Uganda's second Olympic gold medalist.

Uganda first participated in the Olympics in 1956 but has won not more than 10 medals since. Kiprotich's medal was the second gold in 40 years and it comes at a time when  the country is set to celebrate its independence golden jubilee. This partly explains the happy mood Kiprotich's win has brought to Ugandans, just 2 months before we celebrate the 50th independence anniversary from Britain where the gold medalist was declared champion.

The president of the Republic of Uganda Yoweri Museveni invited Kiprotich for a state breakfast in honour of his heroic performance that saw him defeat Kenyans in the August 12, 2012 maranthon. Museveni has promised Shs 200 million (about US $80,000) to Kiprotich.

Winning the gold medal has not come easily for Kiprotich. After he had joined the Uganda Prisons Service in 2008, earning a meagre salary of Shs 170,000 (approximately US $70) per month, Kiprotich felt his call was in athletics. He left for Kenyan mountains to train more. At one time the personnel (human resource) manager in Uganda Prisons Service struck Kiprotich's name off the pay roll accusing him of absconding.

But as luck would have it, Kiprotich was not demoralized by the personnel manager's action. He kept his hope alive and he has won. Kiprotich is now not just a golden boy but a Ugandan millionaire from rags to riches. The Vision Group, one of Uganda's publishing firms, launched a US $500,000  cash praise drive for Kiprotich from Ugandans and local corporations. The drive will last for 7 days and on the first day it had collected $100,000.

Apart from the cash Kiprotich says his community and Uganda at large has huge talent which must be tapped into. "My community helped me identify this talent," Kiprotich told journalists, "more facilities to support sport should be in place."

1 comment:

  1. Kiprotich's victory should teach Uganda government to put more effort in sports since they are among the cheapest ways of marketing the country. The 2 hours that Kiprotich spent running the marathon put all world attention on Uganda for days.