One more medal for Kiprotich to overhaul Akii-Bua as greatest

Marathoner Kiprotich is on the brink of being Uganda’s greatest ever athlete. AFP Photo.

What you need to know:

Any podium finish will make Kiprotich only the second Ugandan to win medals at the Olympics and World Championships.

He is already great. He is an Olympic champion. He can be Uganda’s greatest ever, though, with another title.

A world title. Even silver or bronze in tomorrow’s World Championships marathon would elevate Stephen Kiprotich to a whole new level.

Since August last year when he stunned the world to win the marathon gold at the London Olympics, there has been debate about who of Kiprotich and John Akii-Bua is Uganda’s greatest.

Akii-Bua won Uganda’s first Olympic gold when he powered to 400m hurdles victory at the 1972 Munich Olympics. That Akii-Bua set a then world record of 47.82 seconds enroute to his gold placed him high up there in the annals of Uganda’s sporting history. Comparing the former Police officer who passed on in 1997 with any other Ugandan athlete bordered on insanity.

It would take 40 years to find him a match. Akii-Bua and Kiprotich almost had similar build-ups to their Olympic competitions. Akii-Bua came agonisingly close to snatching a medal but finish fourth at the 1970 Commonwealth Games. Going into the Olympics he was never a favourite. Kiprotich was ninth at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea.

Despite his third-place finish at the Tokyo Marathon months to the Olympics, he was still considered an outsider for the gold in London. Both defied the odds to emerge triumphant. But when the starter’s gun sounds tomorrow afternoon, Kiprotich will have a chance to put these comparisons to rest. Any podium finish will make him only the second Ugandan to win medals at the Olympics and World Championships. Davis Kamoga, 400m bronze at the 1996 Olympics and silver at the 1997 worlds, is the other.

Kamoga would probably be Uganda’s greatest had he not competed with the unbeatable American Michael Johnson.

Kamoga can’t be scolded for rejecting a call to greatness. He gave it his best but was competing against a monster of a man.

That can’t be said of other Ugandan athletes like Dorcus Inzikuru and Moses Kipsiro. The two have shared a bed with greatness but failed to perform when it mattered most.

With a Commonwealth gold in 2006 a year after her world accolade, Inzikuru needed two more years to seal her place as the country’s finest.

Defending the world crown in 2007 and making a shot at the 2008 Olympic gold was all she needed. She chose to give birth.

Among the lot, none has had opportunities like Moses Kipsiro. He has blown many of them and could retire without an Olympic medal on track. Now it is Kiprotich’s chance. Will he answer the call to greatness? Tomorrow will provide the answer.


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