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CHEPT-AGAIN: Are we running out of flowers for Joshua Cheptegei?

It’s easy to forget. It’s easy to get used. To take greatness for granted. We have been there before; tasted glory, worn the t-shirt and waved the iconic black, yellow and red. And nowadays? Glory feels normal. There’s no more wow factor. And that’s sad as a nation that’s divided by politics and united by sports. It’s a sad predicament. 

On Sunday, our very own, Joshua Cheptegei clinched his third consecutive World 10,000m Gold in Budapest. He’s the world record holder for both 5,000m and 10,000m. Against a pack of elite runners, he ran to a historic victory. He always runs to victory each passing year.

As a shimmering piece of gold dangled in his neck, Cheptegei beaming with his iconic smile on TV, the celebrations back home weren’t as deafening as before. A few tweets were dropped in Elon Musk’s backyard. Few pictures of him made it to WhatsApp statuses. It’s only diehard sports fanatics who doffed their hats to the world champion. Many? Not so much.

This is a sad space to be in as a country. A space where we remove our feet off the gas and let our sports people battle out there on their own. It happened a few weeks ago when the Gazelles put up an impressive show at the FIBA Women’s AfroBasket 2023 in Rwanda yet only a handful of patriotic Ugandans stood for our girls. Politicians shunned a 40-minute flight down South. They’d rather catch feelings.

When I saw Cheptegei, the two-time defending 10,000m World Champion, sweat to the finish line, Ethiopia’s Selemon Barega on his heels, I felt sorry for him. Not because he could lose, but because, even when he wins, sadly, there won’t be enough flowers for him.

Journalist, Raymond Qatahar Mujuni ‘tweeted’ and asked whether we can rename the Entebbe Expressway after Cheptegei. And some ‘intellectuals’ put their brains on the side and dismissed the thought. Are we suffering from a Cheptegei hungover? Our floriculture numbers aren’t up there, but we need to give our sports people their flowers.

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