When Stephen Kiprotich won a gold medal in the recently concluded London Olympics becoming second Uganda to win an olympic gold medal after John Akii Bua in Munich 1972, Ugandans not only jubilated but also used the occasion as an excuse to have one too many drinks because I can assure you quite a number are still at it.
Being a social media addict (don’t judge me), I took some time off (hope my boss doesn’t read this) to witness online baptisms, names changed from Peter MisterLoverMan to Peter MisterLoverMan Kiprotich or Jane Zawedde to Jane Zawedde Kiprotich! Kiprotichmania had taken over the Pearl of Africa, if such reference is to go by.
It was evident that the nation was proud of its new hero - come on –the chap from the slopes of Mt. Elgon put Uganda back on the map after an insane 40 years…are you kidding? Everyone in Uganda wants to be named after him!
But before this young man soared on the last day of the Olympics, Uganda was labeled a curse and its athletes good for nothing.
When former world steeplechase champion Dorcus Inzikuru failed to qualify in the heats, judging from the posts I read, she was not only a disappointment but also a waste of time! When she won the inaugural women’s 3000m steeplechase at the World Championships in Helsinki, Finland, she was the country’s golden girl –her pedestal couldn’t get higher! (Her name was associated with something that can’t be written in these pages but in a medical manual). So maybe she didn’t win this time round, does that make her any less the heroine she already is? All I read was Kiprotich this and Kiprotich that…and how he is the only person in Uganda worth remembering! Really? Kiprotich did his country proud, there’s no doubt about that, but John Akii Bua made Uganda proud long before!
People forget about old heroes so fast it’s embarrassing. Don’t get me wrong, the more heroes the better – what I truly despise is dismissing the old ones like they never existed. They put themselves out there, ignoring voices in their head and the general public telling them they can’t do it. When they win – we celebrate, when they lose – we curse, but how many of us have ever gotten close to that?
Whereas Rwanda has never won an Olympic medal, it has some really promising athletes. I am particularly interested in a 16 year old swimmer called Alphonsine Agahozo. I think that for a girl who has no access to an Olympics standard swimming pool - forcing her to train in a lake near her home - her presence alone was inspiring!
If we could just give these athletes the support they need, who knows what the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Brazil will bring? Will Rwanda shine brighter than it ever has - silencing anyone who has ever doubted it? With our support and their talent, the sky is the limit. I just hope Rwandans are not as ungrateful as some Ugandans and will continue to honour their heroes – old and new.