On Friday, AUGUST 31 2012, Vision Group held a function at their Kampala head quarters to hand over sh300m fund-raised for Stephen Kiprotich for winning a gold medal in the marathon at the just concluded London Olympics.
Below is Kiprotich’s (slightly edited) acceptance speech.
I am very happy to be hosted by Vision Group. I am a man of few words. Much has been spoken already so I have few words to add on.
The President of the Uganda Olympics Committee (UOC) has spoken about support for athletes. In this vein I would like to thank British Airways who gave us support and boosted our team to the London Olympics as we were going to their home.
Other companies like MTN, Bank Of Uganda, Stanbic, Picfare and Uganda Securities Exchange have all shown their support. Forgive me for those not mentioned - the list of those who have helped raised this fund is too long. So many people have been thanking me, sending congratulatory messages; so it is my time to return the favour.
I appreciate your contributions. Uganda has been a troubled country for many years, but this time, I have not heard of any trouble- even in the papers. This is a year of success.
Allow me to take you back to the marathon race where I won gold.
After I finished the race, as expected, everyone was watching. My president from Uganda Athletics Federation (Domenic Otucet) asked me; “Do you know what you have just done?”
I told him; “Mr President, I don’t know.” He asked again, and I told him that all I knew, is that I had won, and that is all!
“I have won a medal for me, my country and for everybody in Uganda,” I replied.
He stressed that I did not know how significant an achievement I had just attained for the country.
I have just come to my senses to realise and understand what I did. I thank you for that Mr President (of the Uganda Athletics Federation).
We kept praying so much. He used to come to my room before the race, for prayers. Actually when he came to my room the night before the race, I had already finished my prayers. When he came, I didn’t undermine his (extra) prayers. I said ok let’s pray. So we prayed. He then wished me good night and I wished him good night too.”
I would also like to thank my officers in Uganda Prisons service for giving me the chance. When I was training in Kenya, they were working. Sometimes they could pay me. I would ask myself sometimes what kind of officer I was. People are working yet for me I am doing my own things.
Something however came into my mind that I was there for a purpose. Sometimes my fellow athletes at my training camp in Kenya would ask me why are you staying this way? Can you stay in this place forever? I said no, I am a Ugandan. I have come here for a mission I have to fulfill.
Last year, when we went for the World Cross Country, I was number six. I knew there was something special for me but I didn’t know what it was because many times there were obstacles. But all in all I am just happy. I could stay without money for one week or so, but I was always happy.
It was the year 2007, when I started my journey. I knew and decided that I had to reach somewhere. We worked in the Netherlands with a manager, and Godfrey Nuwagaba as coordinator. He is the man I started with before joining Uganda prisons.
Nuwagaba connected me to Netherlands where I went and I ran but was not with strong athletes. Good enough, I met Ethiopian legendary athlete Haile Gebrselassie.
Before the race, they gave us race numbers. For me, I normally called them number plates. I could ask him, what number plate are you or what is the number plate of your car? He was number plate One. Of course the number is his name. I was number11.
After the completion, he won the race, he remained number One for me, I remained number 11. Later I asked him, can I ask you a question, and he said yes. I asked; “What do I need so that in future I can run better?” He told me; “go and sit with your coach so he can give you a programme-a training schedule.”
I am very happy that my coach is here listening. (At this point he requested his coach, Gordon Ahimbisibwe, to stand up for recognition). He is one of the luckiest coaches alive. We travelled together to London and we came back with a medal.
So I call him a lucky coach. So when I asked this man gebreselassie, he told me you have to train for five years. So I had to come back, I trained.
Sometimes things did not go well, but I had something in mind disturbing me all the time. I said no, this thing I have to fulfill.
I started in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. It happened that this year, when I went back for the competition in Tokyo where my managers had organised, it happened also that me and Gebrasellassie we belong to the
same manager. We took part in the competition and I beat him. After the race, I asked him, have you ever seen this face before? I wanted him to say something. He said yes.
He remembered the race we ran together. He told me I can see you are now growing stronger. That is when I believed I am now strong enough to battle with other strong men. After that race, I knew I was ready for competition; I am ready for a fight.
I asked him whether he was going to take part in the Olympics and he said he had to qualify first. It was a big question on my side because he is a big champion everywhere but he is supposed to qualify? Something told me they have stiff competition back in their country.
That time, I knew if it means going to war, it was time. All the time I was just happy. I knew now all these strong men anything can happen to them and a winner can come from nowhere.
Since I have finished the race at the London Olympics, it is now time to start preparations for the next Olympics in 2016.
Always something comes to my mind that when you finish one race, that is when the next one begins. For me already, it has begun. And it is not beginning with me. I want it to begin with so many of us. It is high time we could loop in the money.
As Robert (Kabushenga CEO VISION GROUP) has said, let me assure you that if we work hand in hand, you put in your strength, 2016 is not very far. I see there is hope. We shall not come back with one medal , but with more medals. It doesn’t matter what medals, but any medal provided we come with them.
Read Vision Group’s CEO sh300m handover speech here
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I am already training for 2016 Olympics-Kiprotich