STEPHEN Kiprotich last week became the first Ugandan to win both the Olympic and World Championships gold. James Bakama caught up with the athlete shortly after he crossed the finishing line in Moscow and asked him how he won the race. Kiprotich also opened up on other issues in his life.
You looked so confident right from the start. In fact you were even waving to the crowds at the start of the race. Were you already confident of winning at the start?
I was in great shape. I had together with team-mates Wilson Kiprop and Abraham Kiplimo trained hard. So, were ready to take on anyone. I realized I could do well as early as the first 600 meters when I took the lead. From that point I just kept with those at the front.
After 30 kilometers I again tested the competition by going ahead. But they caught up with me again.
At 39km that’s when I realized that I had to work for a medal. I was at that moment with two Ethiopians. I started pushing. One Ethiopian dropped back then then I started sprinting.
At exactly what point did you realize that you were taking gold?
That was after 40 kilometers. I was strong and decided that I would sprint faster as we got closer to the stadium. But then I was also aware that the Ethiopians are very good at sprinting in the last meters. So I did not want to take any chances.
I had to get to that stadium first. I did not just want to be in the lead, but I also wanted to have a good lead. I had to break the Ethiopian.
Memories of the 2008 World Cross country Championship were still fresh. I was with the Ethiopians in the front pack but they beat me in the final sprint. I was not going to take any chances again by sprinting with the Ethiopians again.
What about your zig Zagging as you approached the stadium. Was that planned earlier?
That was one way of keeping ahead of the Ethiopian. I could see the stadium just ahead of me. I was not going to let anyone pass me at that point.
All that sounds simple. Wasn’t there a point where you felt that a medal was slipping away?
It’s true. There were some tough points. I remember by the 38 km point I was feeling exhausted. It was also very hot. I even told Wilson (Kiprop) who looked stronger at the time to take over.
I told him to take over my role in our strategy of being the one to go for the medal. But Wilson was also tiring and Abraham (Kiplimo) was far back.
So something within me told me to hold on. I did that. But again I also realized that the Kenyans and Ethiopians were no better off. Its then that I started realizing that victory was after all possible.
You have just won $60,000 (sh153m). That’s quite a lot of money. How are you going to spend it?
I have no immediate plans. I will just bank the money. I also banked the money President Yoweri Museveni gave me last year. I also banked the money Vision Group fundraised for me.
But I also pay school fees for my brothers. I have been paying his fees for one of them since senior two. I also have one who is joining university.
So, you have not used your earnings to even for instance build a house?
No. I am still staying the mud and wattle house I have always stayed in. I am a simple person. I don’t want to put myself very high. My mission is to first run and then invest later. Running is short lived. But still life is much better today.
Life was very miserable for my family before. We used to stay in the Mount Elgon national park. We were forced to leave. My parents then had to come down to Kapchorwa and buy plots of land. Just imagine a situation where even getting a simple meal was at times not easy.
Have you got anything to say on your team-mates Kiprop and Kiplimo?
They did a fantastic job. We assisted each other right from training to the competition in Moscow. By seeing Kiprop and Kiplimo ahead and me slightly behind, the
Ethiopians and Kenyans got confused. They simply didn’t know what we were up to. The tactic indeed paid off in the end. They are both very focused runners. They have a very bright future.
Now that you’ve just won the World Championships. What next?
I will first rest for a month then see what marathons to enter next. I also have to consult my manager.
Are next year’s Commonwealth Games in your plans?
I don’t have serious plans for the Commonwealth Games. I have also realized that most world champions don’t go for these games. I am more focused for the Brazil 2016 Olympics.