By Norman Katende
TEAM UGANDA RETURNS TODAY, ETA 1pm
MOSCOW - Double gold champion Stephen Kiprotich is set to return with the rest of the team from the just concluded IAAF World Championships .
The 24-year-old Ugandan athlete rose to the occasion on the second-last day of the Moscow event to win gold in the men’s marathon on Saturday.
Thanks to his triumphant run, Team Uganda returns with one medal – a gold one at that.
Indeed, he looked more majestic and confident at the crowning ceremony on Sunday than he appeared to be at the podium in London last year.
Such confidence this time round allowed him the ease to crack a couple of jokes with the organizers moments before receiving his coveted medal.
His return is expected to attract a similar bonfire of attention and excitement as last year’s did when thickets of eager crowds lined up the road leading to Entebbe Airport, a 42km stretch from the capital, to receive their ‘golden’ hero.
Then, he had become the only Ugandan after John Akii-Bua to win a gold medal at the Olympics.
With his Moscow heroism, he becomes the country’s only athlete after Dorcus Inzikuru (2005 women’s steeplechase gold medalist) to win gold at the IAAF World Championships.
Add that up together and you have Kiprotich becoming the only Ugandan to win two gold medals at both the Olympics and the IAAF World Championships. And that he has achieved in a space of just a little over a year.
The confidence and delight of a true world champion. PHOTO/Norman Katende
At the crowning ceremony inside a fully-packed Luzhniki Stadium, he walked up to the podium in such majestic fashion as befits a world champion.
A Mexican wave was immediately cut short during his transit to the platform and the crowds cheered him on – similar cheers that welcomed him the day before when he broke into the stadium towards the finish line in the men’s marathon.
If there was anything to crown the moment for Kiprotich, it must have been listening to the Uganda national anthem play and sound across the entire stadium for the whole watching and listening world to hear.
“It is another moment to remember,” he declared, before going off to sign autographs and take pictures with the excited crowd.
He also celebrated the moment with the Ugandan deputy ambassador Nelson Ocheger, who has been with the team since their arrival in Moscow.
“It was not a wasted effort. We can now start the celebrations,” said the gold champion.
As the team prepares to return today (Monday) afternoon, coach Benjamin Longiross and Team Leader Dominic Otuchet will stay in Moscow for another day.
THE TRIO: The three men's marathon medalists seated patiently as they wait to be called up to the podium for crowning. PHOTO/Norman Katende
WHERE IS HE?: The other Ugandan marathoners, Jackson Kiprop and Abraham Kiprimo sit in the stands during the crowning ceremony. PHOTO/Norman Katende
FINALLY: Stephen Kiprotich receives his gold medal. PHOTO/Norman Katende
BEST TIMES: A huge electronic board displays the best times of the men's marathon. PHOTO/Norman Katende
OH UGANDA!: It was attention as the Uganda national anthem sounded across the entire stadium. PHOTO/Norman Katende
GOLDEN TOUCH: "I did it, and here is proof," Kiprotich must be thinking. PHOTO/Norman Katende
HERE PLEASE: He even took time off to sign autographs for eager fans in the stands. PHOTO/Norman Katende
SAY CHEESE: . . . autographs and pictures! PHOTO/Norman Katende
AND ME PLEASE: He is a star, isn't it? PHOTO/Norman Katende