21 August 2013

Uganda: Why Kiprotich Is Uganda's Best Ever

STEPHEN Kiprotich on Saturday strode into the history books by becoming Uganda's most decorated sportsman.

With his latest medal, he becomes the first Ugandan to win gold at both the Olympics and World Championships.

Before Saturday, Kiprotich, a gold medallist at the 2012 London Olympics, was at par with 1972 Olympic 400 meter hurdles champion John Akii-Bua in terms of medals won.

But with the World Athletics Championship gold added to his collection, Kiprotich sored into a higher orbit. The Ugandan runner is now being mentioned in the same breath with other African greats like Kenenisa Bekele and Haile Gebrselassie.

Kiprotich is not only breaking records in Uganda.This lean ever smiling runner from Kapchorwa also became the third person to win both the Olympic and world championship gold.

Before Moscow, only Portuguese runner Rosa Mota and Ethiopia's Gezahegne Abera, had won the gruelling 42 kilometre event at both competitions.

Mota became the first person to achieve this double when she won the women's marathon at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Abera reached similar heights 13 years later at the Edmonton championships.

Dorcus Inzikuru was until Saturday the only Ugandan to have won a world championship gold.

The Arua Gazelle triumphed at the maiden women's 3000m steeplechase event in Helsinki.

Other Ugandan sportsmen who also left a mark include boxers Eridad Mukwanga, Leo Rwabwogo and Ayub Kalule and athlete Davis Kamoga.

Mukwanga won Olympic silver while Rwabwogo had both silver and bronze at the prestigious quadrennial event. Quarter miler Kamoga also boasts of two medals.

He won a bronze at the Atlanta Olympics and silver at the Athens World Championships. Kalule on his part won a gold medal at the first World Amateur Boxing Championship in Havana, Cuba in 1974.

Of course, sports is largely about medals. Kiprotich has won more of the big medals than anyone else in Uganda so he is certainly number one in the country.

But the debate on who is a greater athlete between Akii-Bua and Kiprotich could rage on largely because of the circumstances in which the former won his Olympic gold.

The 400 meter hurdles was until the 1972 final considered a special preserve of athletics super powers USA and England. But Akii-Bua was to change all this. He not only won gold in that final, but also did so in a world record time of 47.82. He was also the first to dip under 48 seconds.

Akii-Bua couldn't defend his title in 1976 in Montreal because Uganda boycotted the games. He also couldn't feature at the world championships because the biennial competition began in 1983 when he was retired.

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