News and Views

National salvation: Uganda’s 40-year medal wait ends as Kiprotich wins marathon

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Magnificent, fabulous and astounding genius. On the last day of a remarkably outstanding London 2012 Games, Stephen Kiprotich ran the greatest marathon in Ugandan history to become the most unexpected Olympic champion.

Crossing the finishing line in the Mall near Buckingham Palace in a time of 2:08:11, the Ugandan charmed tens of thousands camped at the Queen’s home – and a global television audience of more than a billion viewers – to strike gold.

He received a Ugandan flag on the home stretch, half-glanced to see the distance between him and the chasing pack before raising it as he raced through the tape.
“Since 1972, Uganda has not won a gold medal,” Kiprotich said after the race. “We are very happy.”

It was the most surreal moment. It was beyond unimaginable. Put simply, words don’t do justice to Kiprotich’s feat achieved on a beautiful early summer afternoon.
The boy-wonder is now a Greek god. Kiprotich stands tallest in the world of athletics today morning.

He is all out on his own in the marathon. Kiprotich rewrote history for himself, Team Uganda and all 35 million Ugandans. Finally Uganda appeared on the medals table for the first time in 16 years. Two weeks of disappointment are forgotten – for now.

The national anthem was played at the Olympic stadium for the first time in 40 years. That is more than 14,600 days since John Akii Bua clinched gold at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
The Kenyans pair of Abel Kirui and Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich, odds-on favourites to win the race, could only watch in despair.

They were in control midway and late in the race. They appeared to have done the job.
Cue Kiprotich, the Ugandan one for avoidance of a mix-up. He was having none of it. Sensing blood, he overtook on a bend with just over 4km to go.

He now has a medallion round his neck to match great champions Usain Bolt, Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce and David Rudisha. And it is not just a medal; it is the treasured piece of silverware that brought athletes from thousands of miles away to London – gold.
Few gave Kiprotich a chance. It did not bother him a bit.

“Look out for the one athlete who everyone believes has nothing to prove,” Akii Bua always said. That athlete yesterday was Stephen Kiprotich. His shock was one that will be spoken about for ages. It was the most unforeseen gold of London 2012.

The only man who saw it coming is wearing the cherished silverware round his neck. His life has taken a positive turn forever. He is a legend of the Olympics. For the next four years, he will reign as the best marathoner in the world.

Two hours, eight minutes and eleven seconds that delivered nirvana in Uganda have skyrocketed Kiprotich’s brand world over. Endorsement deals will be at his door in the Games Village today morning with zealous marketing gurus keen to sign him on.
It is his moment. It will be his until Rio de Janeiro 2016.

mnamanya@ug.nationmedia.com

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