It is every native’s dream to see Uganda make the podium at every tournament they partake. They will always crave for gold, silver or bronze from at least one of the athletes at any event.
Stephen Kiprotich has done that twice in the past 12 months. He is the only of 15 athletes who returned from last year’s London Olympics with a medal - gold at that - after winning the marathon. That commanded a huge applause and a great standing ovation on arrival then.
Yesterday afternoon, the 24-year-old received another but lowly-attended warm welcome at Entebbe Airport having won the 14th World Athletics Championships marathon in Russian capital Moscow on Saturday. But that was atoned by the throngs of ecstatic fans that lined along the road from State House Entebbe, where he was hosted to a luncheon by President Museveni, to Kampala. Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi represented the President.
His heroic time of two hours, nine minutes and 51 seconds brought Uganda’s only medal and fourth in the Championships’ history. He has promised to keep the country basking in the priceless limelight.
“When I started all this, I had a focus of winning until the 2020 Olympics,” Kiprotich said in one of his first interviews upon arrival.
As soon the Fly Emirates air bus A340-500 touched down, excitement gripped many people right from fans to the airport staff, and eventually, put business to a standstill. “This is a very good day for us. I wonder how one goes on to thank God for all this.” said Commissioner Prisons Johnson Byabashaija as the first batch of passengers disembarked from the plane.
The moment proper
Such was the anticipation of many before the golden boy came out. And finally, the much awaited moment came.
With about six minutes to one o’clock, Kiprotich, clad in a black suit with a black bag leaning far most on the left of his back, stood at the exit amidst loud cheers. He looked left and right as he waved to the crowd, took ten steps down before receiving the national flag.
And as soon as he completed the 21 steps down the air bus, the marathon king was embraced in the arms of his delighted wife Patricia, dressed in a black attire and Nike shoes, as the chants amplified. He was then welcomed by Education and Sports Minister Jessica Alupo and Byabashaija.
“I am very happy,” the Assistant Superintendent of Prisons, Kiprotich, wearing the glittering medal with his name encrypted on it, said after inspecting the guard of honour mounted by Uganda Prisons. “I do not have much to say. I just want to thank all Ugandans for the support.”
Before and after the seven-minute inspection, the three stanzas of the national anthem were played by the 40-man brass band that had lined up in ten lines of fours just near the northern gate. Kiprotich and family then took to the black Lincoln Limousine – provided by Auqa Sipi Water. Hundreds of people eagerly awaited it’s exit at the gate. But before they took off, it needed a phone call from ‘above’ to Prisons spokesman Frank Baine and Uganda Athletics Federation administration secretary Apollo Musherure to confirm their destination.
Eventually, they proceeded in a convoy of 20 cars to Entebbe’s Protea Hotel as Kiprotich waved to the following mass.