KAMPALA- It has become some sort of song for elite Ugandan runners to rally for government support.
Even after Team Uganda returned from the London World Championships, Uganda’s sole medalist Joshua Cheptegei did not mince his words.
“I request the government to put more funding in sports especially now that we lack facilities and financial support,” Cheptegei, who bagged 10000m silver on Day One of London, told Daily Monitor in an interview yesterday.
“I ask the government to fulfill what they promised with the monthly stipends to excelling athletes,” he said as the returning contingent was treated to a late luncheon by National Council of Sports (NCS) at Café Javas in Kamokya.
This token was introduced by President Yoweri Museveni for any medal winner to motivate runners after Moses Kipsiro bagged double 5000m and 10000m gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India.
“Personally, I have never received any promised money from the government ever since I won gold at the World juniors in 2014,” Cheptegei noted.
Kipsiro, Stephen Kiprotich, Martin Kurong, Simon Ayeko, Sarah Nambawa and Winnie Nanyondo have all echoed the same message to government.
When Kiprotich won London Olympics marathon gold, Museveni raised the prize to Shs5m for gold, Shs3m for silver and Shs1m for a bronze medal per month.
Back on March 26, he was on the end of a social media bashing after terribly burning out to lose the lead and finish 30th in senior men’s World Cross-Country race in Kololo.
Yesterday, smiling Cheptegei, with medal around his neck, had a message for the Doubting Thomases. “As you can see, I am happy,” said the man who finished second behind Briton Mo Farah in the 25-lap race.
“I would like to let Ugandans to know that sports is not easy,” the Nike-sponsored athlete stated.
“It is not something you wake up in the morning and say you just want to do. It takes courage, one’s patience, mental determination, focus. It’s not just a joke, a one-year business or so. It’s a long journey.”
Like many of the returning contingent, Cheptegei has set his eyes on next year’s Commonwealth due April 4-15 in Queensland, Australia. “For now, I am looking at it but I don’t what will happen between now and then.”
At the function, NCS General Secretary Nicholas Muramagi gave Shs1m to every athlete and Shs1.5m for coaches who had returned from London. Winnie Nanyondo and Albert Chemutai were not present.
“For Cheptegei, as government, we congratulate you. Thank you for branding Uganda,” said excited Muramagi.
“With the exiting of big time people like Farah and Bolt (Usain), I think we are going to dominate the world for the next 5-7 years.”