World and Olympic marathon champion Stephen Kiprotich has thanked all Ugandans for standing by him in the trying moment when he lost his youngest daughter.
KAPCHORWA - World and Olympic marathon champion Stephen Kiprotich has thanked all Ugandans for standing by him in the trying moment when he lost his youngest daughter.
Little Elizabeth Chelangat, who was fondly called ‘Olympic baby’, because she was born 10 months after Kiprotich won gold in London, died of breathing difficulties on Friday.
Others called the 19-month-old ‘London Olympics baby’ while some other people settled for ‘Golden Baby’ following her father’s marathon heroics at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
She was the third and last born child of the Ugandan world champion and his wife Patricia Kiprotich.
At her burial on Sunday, attended by hundreds of mourners, Kiprotich thanked everyone for their support towards his family in their moment of grief.
"It was a real trial but friends stood by me, they sent me messages and made me feel strong. Not only from the athletics fraternity and Prisons but I got messages from different Ugandans, some whom I have never met and these made me strong," said Kiprotich.
His daughter, who never lived to see much of the new year, was laid to rest in Cheptilyal village, Kapchorwa district.
Over 1,000 people from as far as Kampala attended the burial that took place at James Kitui’s (Kiprotich's father) place.
"They have made me stand strong and they have given me a sense of belonging and even inspired me to work hard,” said the athlete, who is also a Prisons officer.
‘We are a family’
Relatives and friends lend support to Kiprotich's wife at the burial
Declining to comment on his next track outing, Kiprotich – who is the second only Ugandan to win an Olympic gold after John Aki-bua – said he first needed to have time with his family.
However, he was advised by the athletics and Prisons fraternity that he needed to stand up and not to lose the focus.
"He needs so much counseling. Losing a child is so hard but we are going to continuously advise him not to give up on life. At least he looks strong," said Lawrence Kavuma, the vice president of the Uganda Athletics Federation (UAF).
Little Chelangat was born on June 14, 2013 but fell sick just five days later. She has received medication from different hospitals in the country.
She died of breathing problems when she was being transferred to Mulago hospital. She had earlier on been admitted to Mbale hospital.
"It has been a big challenge but they [doctors] have also battled to save her life. I can say they did everything for the child," Kiprotich’s Ugandan manager, Godfrey Nuwagaba said.
Mourners from the Prisons forces arrived at the village earlier from Kampala and managed to do almost all the chores.
"We are a family, and when one of us has a problem, we share the problem. To Kiprotich and wife, count on us," said Samuel Akena, Commissioner for Prisons Support services at the burial.
“We will always be there and stand by you. Life has to go on and we are ready to be with you.”
Pictures of a jovial Patricia carrying Chelangat, accompanied by her other children and relatives, attracted a lot of attention.
Kiprotich made history by becoming the first Ugandan to win gold at the Olympics and World Championships.
He also became the first non-Kenyan since 2005 to win the World Championships marathon gold.
Thousands bury Kiprotich''s golden baby