Kiprotich’s house in Cheptilyal village in Tegeres sub-county in Kapchorwa. Kiprotich’s house in Cheptilyal village in Tegeres sub-county in Kapchorwa. Photo by David Mafabi
By Lutaya Shafiq
Kapchorwa is one of the remotest areas in Uganda. But since Sunday, it has become the centre of attention.
Cheptilyal village in Tegeres sub-county, Kapchorwa District, at the slopes of Mt Elgon needed one man to put it in international spotlight. That man is Stephen Kiprotich. The 23-year-old son to Mr James Kapchesukok, 85, and Mrs Eserena Cheptumi Kokop, 65, produced an upset of the championship when beat favoured Kenyans to win Uganda’s first Olympic gold medal in 40 years.
Kiprotich won the men’s 42km marathon in 2.08.01 at the London Olympics on Sunday to join the late John Akii-Bua, the first man to win gold when he clinched it at the 400 hurdles at the 1972 Munich Olympics, as the only two Ugandans to achieve the feat.
It is 11.30am. on Monday and Cheptilyal, the home village of Kiprotich, is engulfed in excitement and jubiliation. People gather in the compound with grass and sticks – a traditional sign of excitement here. Kiprotich’s brother Mr David Cherop, who plays guide to Daily Monitor, says people started gathering immediately they received the news that Kiprotich had won gold on Sunday.
Pacing up and down the compound is the LCI chairman for Cheptilyal village, Mr Patrick Cheroto, who says Kiprotich has lit the village. “He is like ‘Tadoba’(candle), this village was not known anywhere,” said Mr Cheroto.
“For us it is a miracle, it is God’s divine intervention, God has answered our prayers, we now know that in this remote village, all will be good because the road was bad, we were unheard of, it is a blessing.. Oh God,” he added. The LCIII chairman of Tegeres sub-county, Mr Alfred Kamutya, said Sunday afternoon news of Kiprotich’s victory in the 42km marathon has left many people in Kapchorwa speechless.
“We never expected it especially after others fell out of their races but his winning brough life back into Sebei sub-region. It has spoken volumes and now ittells government to do much to support sports in this part of the country especially Bukwo, Kapchorwa, Kween and Bugisu sub-region,” said Kamutya.
Kiprotich’s parents were all smiles that God had finally done it for Kapchorwa, Sebei and Uganda. “God has a plan for each of us, all you have to do is believe,” ,” said Mrs Cheptum Kapchesukok, Kiprotich’s mother.
“We are very happy for our child, we are so happy because this does not only bring joy to the family but even benefits to us. Look we are so poor, these children grew up poor, we are just asking government to construct for us a decent house to bring hope to us.
“These boys (the Kapchesukok sons) would go to the national park for honey, vegetables and bamboo shoots for us to survive on. That is how we have lived to date. We never had school fees for the children but they would compete is atheletics to win sponsorship,” added Mrs Kapchesukok.
Mr Chelimo, the former LCV chairman for Kapchorwa and former inspector of schools in Kapchorwa district, said government must reap where they sowed. “We should not pretend as government that we are helping but we must be seen to be helping, investing money in sports in order to reap. We identified Teryet High Altitude Sports Ground in Kapchorwa, passed a resolution in the council but todate government has only made promises without making any step,” said Mr Chelimo.