Four years ago Moses Kipsiro won a Commonwealth Games double (5,000/10,000m) in New Delhi. He was the first to do that in 72 years. It was a sweet triumph.
On Friday night, he defended the 10,000m at Hampden Park. He called it ‘my sweetest career victory’. “I have never felt like this before,” said Kipsiro, the first athlete to defend the 10,000m title.
“My heart is filled with great joy. I feel so relieved,” he added after powering from third place with about 100m left to pip Kenyan Bett Kipkoech in a rare photo finish by 0.03 seconds to the finish line. The 28-year-old runner had quite a rough time coming here.
Poor form coupled with a troublesome knee threatened to deny him a ticket to Glasgow.
But he was determined to make it. He divided his time between training in Bukwo and treatment in Nairobi for months.
Nobody helped him with the medical bills even though many will want to take credit for his victory. In June he moved to London for further treatment and training. When he felt he was getting into shape and ready to run, Uganda Athletics Federation (UAF), unhappy with him that he had criticised coach Peter Wemali for sexually abusing female junior runners, dropped him from the team.
UAF cancelled his ticket to the World Half Marathon Championships in Denmark in March at the 11th hour. As a double reigning champion, Kipsiro should have been guaranteed a wild card to defend his titles. UAF felt otherwise.
He was only included on the Glasgow contingent as a substitute. He was bound to miss the Games. Aware of what he is capable of, Uganda Olympic Committee (UOC) president William Blick intervened and forced UAF to field Kipsiro.
“I put my foot down and said Kipsiro must run,” Blick revealed. Blick will live to celebrate his decision. He was among a couple of Ugandans in the stadium as Kipsiro, running with a strapped knee, pulled off one of the greatest performances in the 25-lap race.
For about 9,000m, Kipsiro was never in contention. Supported by teammates Timothy Toroitich and Moses Kibet, Kipsiro was the third last at some stage. As the leading pack, commanded by Kenyan Peter Kirui jostled for positions in the front pack, Kipsiro waited patiently. As the race grew, Kibet and Toroitich mixed up with the Kenyans and New Zealander Jake Robertson.
On the bell Kipsiro still looked out of contention but produced a thrilling powerful finish that got everyone in the stadium on their feet. Kipkoech thought he had done enough to take the gold and even stretched his arms out in celebration after crossing the line. Kipsiro stole it with a perfect torso.
“When I stepped on the track, I reminded God of all the troubles I have faced. I asked Him to at least have mercy on me for just that moment and give me victory. I am glad my prayer was answered,” said Kipsiro, who crossed the line in 26:56.11. “My knee was hurting at the start but it stabilised after three laps. Thereafter everything worked according to plan.”