Stephen Kiprotich left for the United Kingdom without fanfare but emerged from a British Airways flight at 7.55am on Wednesday as a national hero.
A man who left as a Uganda Prisons warder now stared approvingly at his promotion to Assistant Superintendent of Prisons (ASP).
And having left without much in his pocket, he arrived to a $80,000 (Sh7.6 million) token from President Yoweri Museveni.
Kiprotich won Uganda’s first Olympic gold medal in 40 years on Sunday, beating seasoned Kenyan marathoners Wilson Kipsang and Abel Kirui.
The late John Akii-Bua won the country’s other gold in the 400m hurdles in the 1972 Munich Games.
“For Kiprotich, I don’t want to promise as I did to (Moses) Kipsiro,” said President Museveni when he hosted Kiprotich and Team Uganda to breakfast at State House, Entebbe. “I want to say asante (Kiswahili for ‘Thank you’) here and now.”
The Head of State regretted his unfulfilled pledge to Kipsiro of a high-altitude track in his Bukwo home, a house and a car for a 5,000 metres and 10,000m double at the 2012 Delhi Commonwealth Games.
He said the people responsible did not follow it up but that it has since been approved in this financial year’s budget.
“The Minister of Education and Sports (Jessica Alupo) is here,” said Museveni. “The high-altitude school should be ready in a year, medal winners internationally who want placement should be placed in government forces and given a monthly allowance (of $400, or Sh34,000).”
Though happy with the President’s gesture, Kiprotich had another request: “Your Excellency, what about my parents? I request you to build a good house for them.” And Museveni decreed: “I will build a nice three-bedroomed house for the father and mother of Kiprotich. And this the State House Comptroller will execute.”
Inspected guard of honour
Earlier, more than 100 people, including the runner’s family – wife and two children, father and mother – and government officials had lined up at Entebbe International Airport terminal to receive the nation’s newest hero. Outside the VIP lounge, hundreds of placard-carrying fans danced and blew trumpets.
After meeting government officials, Kiprotich, who shed tears of joy for the welcome as he stepped out of the plane, emerged from the VIP lounge to an ecstatic crowd that security battled to contain.
He then inspected a guard of honour mounted by Uganda Prisons before being driven in a black convertible with customised registration number ‘UG GOLD’ to State House from where a procession of fans led him into the capital Kampala.