“People got inspired. I was now being compared with John Akii-Bua, a man I never met but only got to know from my teachers in primary school that he was a very strong man.”
Ugandan athlete Stephen Kiprotich won the gold medal in the marathon event at the 2012 Olympics in London, the first gold medal for Uganda since the legendary John Akii-Bua world record performance at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games gave the country her first ever medal.
Stephen Kiprotich was born on February 27, 1989, in Kapchorwa District of Uganda near the Uganda-Kenya border. The youngest of seven children, his parents James Kiptui and Cheptum Kokop of Cheptiyal village, Kapchorwa were subsistence farmers. As a child, young Stephen suffered from an undiagnosed illness which forced him to miss three years of elementary school.
Prior to that illness, Stephen’s interest in running had been aroused by the sight of national marathon champion Francis Musani who used to jog near their home in the morning. By the time Stephen was in Kaminy Primary School, he got encouragement to run from one of his teachers who was in charge of sports.
Stephen began his secondary school education in 2002 at Kapchorwa Secondary School, after his return and completion of elementary school in 2001. After being lapped at a race in which he represented his school, Stephen felt discouraged and decided to give up running to concentrate on his education.
“I decided to concentrate on my books. People were always castigating me for sitting on my talent but I felt I could gain a lot from education.”
In 2006, Stephen resumed training after returning to Sebei College for his A-levels. He had switched to Sebei College back in 2003 where he completed his O-level education. He came 5th in the 8km junior race after making his debut at the National Cross Country Championships. The performance earned him a ticket to the 34th World Cross Country Championships in Fukuoka, Japan where he placed 24th with a time of 25:02.
By the end of the year, Stephen shocked his parents and parents when he announced his decision to school for athletics. He moved to Eldoret, Kenya where he trained for the marathon with Eliud Kipchoge. On May 31, 2007 Stephen Kiprotich won his first national title in the 10,000m with a time of 28:42:54.
“I am ready to beat anyone and I believe it’s possible.”
In 2009, Stephen made his senior debut placing 3rd in the 12km National Cross Country Championships. On the global stage, he came 23rd in the same event at the World Championships in Amman, Jordan. In 2011, Stephen shocked the world by winning the Enschede Marathon, Netherlands running a personal best time of 2:07:20, both a new course and Ugandan national record.
At the 2012 London Olympic Games, Stephen Kiprotich beat a strong Kenya contingent of runners to the gold medal in the marathon with a time of 2:08:11. The following year at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, he became the second person after Ethiopian athlete Gezahegne Abera to win the marathon gold medal following his Olympic victory.
Stephen Kiprotich won silver the Tokyo Marathon in 2015, running a personal best and new Ugandan national record of 2:06:33. Presently in Brazil for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the defending Olympic champion has assured Ugandans of returning home with a medal.
Afro Tourism® salutes the dogged athlete, Ugandan star, African hero, Olympic and world champion Stephen Kiprotich.
For further reading, please see: