Kiprotich given hero's welcome on return home
Thu, 16 Aug 2012 1:38p.m.
Hundreds of Ugandans jammed Entebbe airport to welcome home Stephen Kiprotich's after he won his country's first Olympic gold medal for 40 years.
Kiprotich drew inspiration from Uganda's only previous Olympic champion - John Akii-Bua, who set a world record in the 1972 Munich Games 400 metres hurdles final - and capitalised on the benefits of training at altitude in Kenya to win the London Games men's marathon.
On hand to welcome him back to Uganda were senior government officials including President Yoweri Museveni, and Kiprotich urged them to set up proper training facilities to help young and aspiring athletes discover their talents.
"The sports minister spoke about something which touched me so much about the facilities, the training grounds," he says. "I hope that what she has said would be handled quickly, it should be done immediately because we are suffering, a lot of athletes are there but some of them, they have not yet discovered their talents because we had no facilities."
In the marathon, Kenyan Wilson Kipsang took an early lead passing the halfway stage in 63 minutes 15 seconds in a successful attempt to split the field, before he was gradually reeled in by Kiprotich and Abel Kirui.
After running side by side for miles with world champion Abel Kirui and Wilson Kipsang, the 23-year-old put in a powerful kick to shake off the Kenyans and crossed the finish lane draped in the Ugandan national flag, which he knelt to kiss.
Kiprotich crossed the line in two hours eight minutes one second, 26 seconds ahead of Kirui. Kipsang was 1:10 further back.
His time, in his fourth marathon, was the third fastest at the Olympic Games and his gold medal was the first of any kind by a Ugandan distance runner.
Neighbouring Kenya, a country viewed by many as an athletics power house, did not perform as expected in the Olympics winning only two gold medals, a haul considered a failure.
"We have many countries in Africa which participated in the Olympics, but some countries did not achieve anything so Ugandans, we are very happy because our brother got something from there, that is why we are here to celebrate with him," says supporter Kyeyune Bracio.
Another, Kasanga Hillary, adds: "It is not easy, so far it has taken 40 years, since John Akibua took the gold medal, it is 40 years, so am very happy, that is why I am here."
Kiprotich, a prison warden was presented with a cheque for around USD80,000 by president Museveni and was promoted nine ranks to become an assistant superintendent in the prison service. The 23-year-old trains in Eldoret in Kenya with a number of elite Kenyans, including Emmanuel Mutai, the east Africans' third man in Sunday's race.
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