KAMPALA- Jacob Kiplimo’s gold at Sunday’s IAAF World Cross Country Championship did more than emphasize athletics as Uganda’s most successful sport.
His victory in the U20 men’s race at the Kololo Independence grounds took the number of Gold medals Uganda has won at major global events to 15.
Athletics delivered its and Uganda’s first gold at the 1972 Olympic Games when John Akii-Bua stunned the world to win the 400m hurdles in Munich, Germany.
Uganda had to wait 40 years. Stephen Kiprotich broke the hoodoo when he won the Marathon in London five years ago.
In 2013, Kiprotich underlined his legend by winning the same event at the 2013 World Athletics Championships in Moscow, Russia.
He was only the second Ugandan to win a World Championship Gold after Dorcus Inzikuru had ended the country’s 33-year wait at the 2005 edition held in Helsinki, Finland.
The Arua Gazelle as she is fondly referred to won the 3, 000m steeplechase. Inzikuru also accounts for one of the five gold medals earned at the quadrennial Commonwealth Games.
She finished first in the same race in this event that is designed for former British colonies.
It’s also at the Commonwealth Games that Uganda has bagged the most gold medals. Besides Inzikuru, Moses Kipsiro did a 5, 000 and 10, 000m double at the 2010 edition in Delhi, India.
Kipsiro successfully defended his title four years in Glasgow, Scotland edging out Kenya’s Josphat Bett Kipkoech by three-hundredth of a second in a nerve wrecking finish final dash.
The 10, 000m Gold is one Uganda has now won three times in a row as Boniface Kiprop started the domination when he won it in 2006 in Melbourne, Australia.
Like Kiplimo in the cross country, Inzikuru (Santiago 2000), Kiprop (Grosetto 2004), Joshua Cheptegei (Eugene 2014) and Julius Acon (Lisbon 1994) have won Gold at junior level.
While Cheptegei is still knocking on the door at senior level, it feels like Uganda’s other junior champions could have won much more at senior level.
In the aftermath of Kipsiro’s double act in 2010, President Yoweri Museveni promised a high altitude centre to be built in Bukwo.
You shudder to imagine how many more gold medals the country could have churned out or how many more athletics can bring once the centre is complete.
UGANDAN ATHLETICS’ GOLD MEDALS AT MAJOR EVENTS
World Athletics Championships – 2
Commonwealth Games – 5
World Cross Country Championships – 1
World Junior Athletics Championships – 4