Joshua Cheptegei became the first Ugandan World Cross-Country champion in history after beating in in-form counterpart Jacob Kiplimo and two-time defending champion Kenyan Geoffrey Kamworor on a treacherous 10,240m course. But even after exorcising the monster demons of Kololo two years ago, the golden boy still has concerns.
Cheptegei is worried over President Museveni’s unfulfilled promises to Ugandan athletes especially those from the Sebei region.
During a state dinner in Entebbe last April, Museveni promised Cheptegei a house after he won the 5000m and 10000m double at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in Australia. “It is one year now from Gold Coast and the President pledge has not been fulfilled,” Cheptegei opened up to this paper early this week.
His burden is bigger though. Cheptegei is among the elite athletes with arrears yet to be cleared by State House since 2014.
President Museveni introduced a monthly reward for any medal winner from international events after Moses Kipsiro claimed the Commonwealth double at New Delhi, India in 2010.
The prize was calibrated at Shs1m for a bronze medalist, Shs3m for a silver medalist and Shs5m for a champion. Most athletes last received stipends in 2015. Now having won senior men’s 10km gold in Aarhus, Cheptegei personal arrears are in excess of Shs300m. “At first, the State House comptroller (Lucy Nakyobe) said that they have a lot of pledges that they follow. But State House always says they are working on it.” “We bring joy to Uganda. We are international ambassadors and when we win like on Saturday, everybody is very happy. But most of us remain frustrated and losing motivation because promises are not being fulfilled.”
Furthermore after Kipsiro’s heroics in India, Museveni mooted that government would build a High Altitude Center for athletes in Teryet, Kapchorwa. It was first set to be complete in time for the London Olympics in 2012.
However, the 400m track and football pitch have just been leveled plus a hostel that accommodates about 100 people is set to be complete. “Teryet is very important because it will enhance career development, reduce on injuries and costs for athletes spent on training abroad.
But the project is taking long. If you want to see more athletes like me to lift Uganda, finish it. I am just being honest and not political,” he added. Cheptegei is not resting though. He is pursuing is his dream of owning a track. Some 2km away from Teryet, Cheptegei has set up his own murram track to assist his colleagues.