By James Bakama in Soroti
A year after Stephen Kiprotich struck gold at the London Olympics, the excitement that came with this historic feat is yet to die out.
Kiprotich almost caused a stampede when he arrived at the Soroti Municipal ground on Saturday as one of the guests for activities to mark the World Athletics Day.
Track and field events were ongoing when Kiprotich arrived. But the moment it was announced that he had arrived, the crowd surged onto field briefly interrupting the competition.
“Is this really the man who beat the whole world? But he is small and young. He even doesn’t look serious, he is smiling all the time,” one old woman cried out as people scrambled towards the Olympic star.
It took the intervention of security to lead Kiprotich to the pavilion. Some of the officials and athletes were equally mesmerised as they briefly left their immediate tasks to get a glimpse of Kiprotich.
The day was marked by several competitions mainly dominated by children and teenagers under 17 years. Kiprotich, flanked by district officials, led a tree planting session. The day was jointly sponsored by MTN and Mukwano Group of Companies under their Aqua Sipi water brand, for which Kiprotich is an ambassador.
One of the day’s highlights was a 400m lap Kiprotich had with 40 children. “You can also win gold,” Kiprotich said after sprinting from the front pack to the finish.
The big crowd that included Emorimor’s representative Stephen Enokokin, LC 5 chairman George Egunyu and former UAF chairman George Odeke, was further motivated by Kiprotich.
“With hard work everything is possible. A year ago I was like any ordinary Ugandan. In fact in 2008 I competed in a cross-country on this very ground and nobody even noticed me, but I kept on working hard,” he recalled.
“In my first races I won the very things you have won today. I won a basin, plates then later a calculator. Let everyone who has won anything today know that they have begun a new chapter towards a gold medal.”
Kiprotich emphasised patience. “You can’t climb a tree from the top. I also did not start off as a gold medalist. I started off slowly.”
Stephen Kiprotich excites Soroti