Mathew Chepkurui, Hoza Kiplangat and Andrew Rotich Kwemoi, who won the 10km run in the Uganda Tokyo Run 2020, are no-names.
But 2012 Olympic marathon gold medalist Stephen Kiprotich believes this could be a huge step for them and the hundreds who graced the run to prepare for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in July.
Scores of mostly upcoming athletes from the Sabiny region participated in the 5km and 10km runs set off from the Kapchorwa Boma Ground Saturday as the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) and the Uganda Olympic Committee launched the build-up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, under the theme: #EndFGM.
“This is a massive run, the biggest I have ever seen in the Kapchorwa sub region and I’m sure it’s going to help our runners be fit for the qualifiers to the Olympic Games, which is around the corner,” Kiprotich, who donned #788, told Daily Monitor.
“The numbers in runs around the region have been small…but this huge turn up shows that many want to uphold the legacy of great runners like Kiprotich, [Joshua] Cheptegei, [Moses] Kipsiro.”
Hopes and fears
The 2013 world champion, however, expressed fears about the coronavirus, which has forced some events like the Diamond League circuits in Shangai, China and Doha, Qatar, being postponed:
“These events are Olympic qualifiers and many of our athletes are affected. It’s my prayer that the virus stops soon and Olympic business returns to normal.”
Horii Mizumoto, on behalf of the Japanese Ambassador to Uganda Kazuaki Kameda, said:
“Be sure Japan is doing everything we can to contain the spread of the [coronavirus] disease so that we can proceed with the 2020 Tokyo Olympic/Paralympic Games as scheduled in July and August.”
In 2018, Japan and Uganda struck a deal allowing Ugandan Olympians and Paralympians to camp in Tateshina and Izumisano for a month before the Games.
David Katende, who represented sports minister Hamson Obua, commended Jica and the Japanese government such overwhelming support.
“They even constructed a track specifically for Uganda and Japanese nationals vowed to cheer our athletics team in the Games, that’s more than special.”
Katende also appealed the public to comply with the health ministry guidelines to prevent the coronavirus.
Fukase Yutaka, the Jica chief representative, said they are committed to promoting sports because it’s a major tool for social development as it promotes freedom, welfare and cohesion among people.
On the event’s theme, Emma Rose Chekurut, the Resident District Commissioner, reiterated concerns about Female Genital Mutilation: “This is a vice and an outlawed culture. It is violence against the rights of women and we must strive to end it.”
She also sounded government’s plan to upgrade the Boma Ground to a mini stadium to facilitate a mid-lower altitude for both athletes and the general public.