Ugandan star athlete Jacob Kiplimo on Tuesday won the men’s 5,000m race, out-performing Selemon Barega of Ethiopia at the Ostrava Golden Spike in Czech Republic.
This win came weeks after another Ugandan star Joshua Cheptegei shattered Ethiopian legend Kenenisa Bekele’s 16-year-old 5,000m world record at the restart of the coronavirus-hit Diamond League in Monaco, France.
Cheptegei clocked in at 12 minutes 35.36 seconds to conquer Bekele’s previous best of 12:37.35 which was set in 2004.
Back in February before the coronavirus outbreak in Europe, the Ugandan had set a world 5,000 record on road, also in Monaco.
“It took a lot of mind setting to keep being motivated this year because so many people are staying at home but you have to stay motivated. I pushed myself, I had the right staff with me, the right coach,” he said. “I’m also usually based in Europe, but being based in Uganda with my family was actually great.”
Cheptegei is already the 2019 men’s 10,000 world champion and world cross country champion.
Cheptegei and Kiplimo are only part of the top tier of athletes that the East African country has to offer.
Over the years, Uganda has been a rising star in the world of long distance running, gunning to join the table of countries with world class long distance runners like neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia.
At the 2012 London Olympics, Stephen Kiprotich won Uganda gold in the marathon race. He brought back the ‘sweet memories’ of the 1972 Munich Olympics where John Akii Bua won gold in the marathon race.
Uganda’s journey to stardom has been long, and full of trials and tribulations, according to analysts.
David Kimuli, a sports fan, told Xinhua in a recent interview that despite the little resources invested in sports, local athletes continue to prove that a lot more can be achieved if more is invested.
“Government should invest more in sports so that more medals are won and the country gets good branding out of it,” said Kimuli.
Jackie Nakiyingi, another sports fan, argues that recent wins are a testimony that Uganda has potential to do even better.
Like Kimuli, Nakiyingi argued that government needs to invest more in sports.
Training at times with no appropriate gear like shoes, many athletes in Uganda persevere focusing on winning a medal someday.
Those with financial capabilities, cross to neighboring Kenya to train alongside the country’s giants in the sport.
There has also been increased government support to athletics. For instance the government, despite a COVID-19 lockdown, facilitated the travel of a team of athletes, headed by Cheptegei, to travel to Monaco for the Diamond League.
The country’s President’s office over the years started rewarding athletes who won medals on the international stage. They are given a motivational token of 1,350 U.S. dollars for a gold medal, 850 dollars for a silver and 500 dollars for a bronze medal. This is paid monthly once an athlete wins a medal at any international event.
The government is also constructing a state of the art high altitude training facility in Bukwo in the eastern part of the country. It believes that once the facility is completed by the end of this year, the country will win more medals.