By Swalley Kenyi
AFTER touching down at 1:00pm, Stephen Kiprotich emerged out of the Emirates Airbus A340-500 wearing a black suit over a white shirt, a wide smile and a handbag in his hand, he smiled and waved to the hundreds who were on hand to welcome him home.
Two prisons officers carrying the national and prison force flags ascended the steps towards assistant superintendent Kiprotich and after saluting him, one of them men handed him the national flag.
On the tarmac, Kiprotich first hugged his wife, who had their baby in her hands before commissioner of Prisons Johnson Byabashaija guided him towards the prison band where he inspected a guard of honour.
Prisons officers line up in a formation to welcome Kiprotich who was aboard the Emirates plane seen taxiing in the background at Entebbe Airport. Photo by Mpalanyi Ssentongo.
Kiprotich's Patricia waits eagerly while craddling their baby. Photo by Mpalanyi Ssentongo
The prisons band played the three stanzas of the national anthem and Kiprotich shortly addressed an impromptu press conference with Byabashaija, minister of education and sports Jessica Alupo among other dignitaries standing side by side.
While Captain Juma Seiko repeatedly whispered into Kiprotich’s ear, Byabashaija repeatedly kissed the gold medal hanging round the marathon star’s neck in admiration.
“He (Kiprotich) is a special person,” Byabashaija said after kissing it for the second time.
The double Olympic and World champion waves to the crowd that gathered on the tarmac after alighting from the plane. Photo by Mpalanyi Ssentongo
Kiprotich waves the Ugandan flag which was presented to him by Prisons officers. Photo by Mpalanyi Ssentongo
Kiprotich embraces his wife Patricia
Certainly Kiprotich had gotten everybody feeling nationalistic with his second gold medal in two years; his first from the 2012 London Olympic Games.
Asked about his focus for the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil, Kiprotich confidently replied: “I only have focus for 2020 Olympics. The 2016 Olympics is done deal.”
While many screamed and shouted Kiprotich’s name to get his attention, others scrambled to offer a handshake to the marathoner.
From the airport, Kiprotich together with the wife headed to the nearby Protea Hotel in a black limousine sandwiched by security personnel.
Kiprotich who is also is a prisons officer inspects a guard of honour. Photo by Mpalanyi Ssentongo
He occasionally emerged from the top of the car to wave to the crowds eager catch a glimpse of the man who arguably has become Uganda’s greatest ever athlete.
Byabashaija promised to ensure that Kiprotich is promoted to a higher rank in recognition for the World Championship victory.
“I must say that when I promised that for another medal Kiprotich wins, he would be promoted again, I did not expect it would come this early. But I cannot break my promise even if it means he climbs to my position,” Byabashaija vowed at the hotel.
Kiprotich flanked by education and sports minister Jessica Alupo and prisons boss Johnson Byabashaija, adresses the press at Entebbe Airport. Photo by Mpalanyi Ssentongo
Kiprotich made the trip to State House Entebbe for dinner riding in a limousine and with police escort. Photo by Mpalanyi Ssentongo
“I don’t know how many steps he is going to jump but he definitely will not remain in the same position,” Byabashaija added.
Kiprotich was promoted from a prison warder to assistant superintendent, skipping six ranks, when he won Olympic gold.
He was met at State House by the Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi on behalf of President Yoweri Museveni, who will meet the entire contingent on Friday.
Hundreds lines up the Entebbe Road to catch a glimpse of their hero. Photo by Mpalanyi Ssentongo
Kiprotich waves to the excited crowd from atop the limousine. Photo by Mpalanyi Ssentongo
Many more fans mainly bodaboda riders and bikers from as far Kampala gathered outside State House, armed with tree branches, singing and dancing as they waited to escort him to Kampala.
The number of fans lining up by the road from Entebbe to Kampala grew bigger as they monitored the state luncheon on local television.