“And now the Nile Special beers will be flowing all over Kampala in Uganda I can tell you…” the lead commentator concluded.
With 2 laps to go, the same commentator had almost ran out of superlatives as he poured praise after praise on the American – Courtney Frerichs – who had led the race up until the final 300 meters. He described her lead as “one of the bravest pieces of front running I’ve ever seen.” He said Frerichs was “tearing apart a field full of world class athletes ” and that her performance was a “piece of sporting history”
All he could say about our very own Peruth Chemutai who was in close 2nd throughout, was; “Oh now Chemutai has taken over and Frerichs looks tired.” Even with 100 meters to go with Chemutai 4 meters ahead, the commentator only paid attention to the race between 3rd and 4th, raising his voice when the Kenyan Kiyeng Hyvin got into 3rd. I was livid.
By this time Chemutai was at least 8 meters ahead. Realising that only the electronic scoreboard and history now stood between her and her chasers, she raised her left arm and pointed in eternal space. With a cheer and smile that seemed to say “Look who is champion. I am the girl. The best in the world. The gold winner”
It’s only then that the commentator remembered to use phrases like “absolutely phenomenal” in reference to her victory. He wanted to sound professional. His partying shot summed up his attitude against the unfancied Ugandan however. “The Nile special beers will now be flowing on the streets of Kampala.” True though it may be, it was with a bitter taste in the mouth.
Who cares? Chemutai has now joined Uganda’s pantheon of greatness. As she moved from athlete to athlete shaking their hands to congratulate them for the part they played in writing her history, she turned to look in the stands for a familiar flag or colour. There were only a handful. One offered the national flag which she wrapped around her lean figure with glee.
The golden girl waved but to imaginary countrymen and women. The seats were empty. Her nostalgic moment wouldn’t be shared with her own and it hurt. I shed a tear. She deserved better.
Thankfully back home, on Tv sets and mobile phones throughout the country, millions were cheering and celebrating with her. A rare sight of the Ugandan flag being waved to billions across the globe by our very own – as humble – as they come. Yes, Uganda is on top of the world even if it were for just minutes. The national anthem was played hurriedly but I will take that.
At office; I walked about chest thumping and punched the air while shouting “Yes!” It was a proud moment. Being Ugandan at last meant something. My foreign colleagues understood and gave me some sheepish smiles. I didnt care. Thanks to Chemutai, covid and death talk can take the back seat. For now. It was too depressing.
And for those Europeans who still find it hard to accept – like the day’s leading commentator – that “world class athletes” can also include Ugandans, we can’t help them. Peruth Chemutai is the new Olympic champion. A world class athlete. The one wearing gold. The phenomenon. GOLDEN Chemu. Golden Uganda. Who is Frerichs? I wonder.
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