Thursday November 7 2013

Time for Kiprop to become his own man

Uganda Prisons runner Kiprop (39) strides before finishing second

Uganda Prisons runner Kiprop (39) strides before finishing second at last year’s National Half Marathon Championships in Kampala. PHOTO BY ISMAIL KEZAALA  

By Andrew Mwanguhya

Make no mistake. Stephen Kiprotich is by no means a spent force. The Olympic and World marathon champion’s shortfalls at World Marathon Majors should not blind anyone into believing the middle aged star is gone.

I have already read some postmortems wrapping him up, albeit some correctly pointing to deficits at the London and New York Marathons as a sign that he still has work to do before he can beat Kenyan and Ethiopian stars, who seem to put all their energies on such events than say, Olympics and Worlds.

We can look to his most recent performances in London and New York and point where it all went wrong. For any marathoner, two events in a year should be reasonable enough, while three is the most you should do in 365 days.

After ending Uganda’s 40-year wait for a gold medal at the London Olympics last year, Kiprotich, for example, rested for just five months before returning to the road to claim a half marathon victory in Spain.

He was back in the UK for the London Marathon, where he finished sixth, just two months after Spain.

Kiprotich then had a four-month rest before returning to win gold at the World Championships in Moscow, where he surprisingly looked fresher, leaner and sharper as he broke away from a cast of chasing Kenyans and Ethiopians.

While the victory in Moscow ensured Kiprotich entrenched his name in the annals of sporting history, it masked the duress his body was being subjected to.
From then it was always going to be difficult for the athlete to live up with the likes of eventual New York winners Geoffrey Mutai (Kenya), who did not run at the Olympics, London and the Worlds, plus Ethiopian Tsegaye Kebede, who won the London Marathon and finished fourth in Moscow before last Sunday’s race.

So Kiprotich, who should surely miss the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next year as he recovers, is hardly a spent force at 25. He should forfeit the Games in Glasgow and save the best for last – for at least two major city marathons in 2014.

And that is not to mention defence of his world title and the Olympic gold in 2015 and 2016. But what is clear is he may not be having Jackson Kiprop, who finished seventh in New York – five places ahead of Kiprotich, for an ‘escort.’

Escort role
Time is now for Kiprop, who had a considerable rest having won the Mumbai Marathon, plus the Worlds, heading into last Sunday, to become his own man.

The 28-year-old has for some time now served well the ‘escort’ role to Kiprotich. He did so to devastating effect in Moscow when he ran the Kenyans and Ethiopians ragged before letting the Olympic king break away to his World title.

Kiprop, after a rather frustrating start to his career, must step away from the ‘support’ role and take his lead. Having stood out from the crowd in Mumbai, where he actually entered as a pacesetter before going on to win it on a course record of 2:09:32 and a personal best, Kiprop’s star, albeit under the shadow of Kiprotich, has been steadily raising.

His confidence has not been lost to the watching eye as seen in his ‘supporting role’ in Moscow, where he finished 10th after tiring late on. And when he came up against the world’s best last Sunday, he had to beat the man he was supposed to be ‘escorting’. Kiprop should continue working along that direction.

He has the Commonwealth Games next year to finally become a national star he should be. He has aided Kiprotich to great things, which the latter and nation acknowledge and have been grateful for. Now he needs to be known for Kiprop, not for Kiprotich.

Ambulance a must at basketball playoffs

That Game One of the Castle Lite Basketball Play-offs between UCU and Falcons was full-blooded needs no emphasizing.

From exchanged punches, player ejections, a dunking orgy, and a power eclipse, the game was that to the word.

But it is the incident involving UCU shooting guard Sudi Ulanga and Falcons’ Abdullahi Dulah’ Ramadhan, and what followed that left me perplexed. Having brought down Dulah in unsportsmanlike fashion as his compatriot went for a dunk, Ulanga never got off the ground.

Fuba medics worked frantically to treat Ulanga as he writhed in pain having suffered a double calf injury. But it was clear they could do only just as much.
And that wasn’t the worst incident of recent times. Syrus Kiviri, then playing for Warriors, was hit on the head by UCU’s Desmond Owili and required to spend the night in hospital.

Months earlier, Miracle Eagles’ Chris Kyebambe went down and suffered a wound on his head in a game against DMark Power. He was rushed to Mulago Hospital on the back of a police patrol car. You can cite several others to make a case for an improvement in medical facilities at games. This season, teams are forking out some of their Shs3m sponsorship from Airtel for medical insurance.

Each team pays a fee to cater for all eventualities suffered during games but that’s only a start. We are all better served by having relatively better first aid facilities at all games.

For the start, the top tier could be taken care of as Fuba seek other ways to have the Division One and D-League cared for too. This way, players have a few guarantees than they have now.

The disturbing reality amidst all this was the unavailability of an ambulance at a game like UCU-Falcons or even a Game Seven of the finals last year.
Fuba can talk of having no money but an organisation like this should know too well there are smarter partnerships they could strike with medical centres to ensure there is an ambulance at games. Sunday was containable, today may not.
Twitter: @TheLoveDre