By JONATHAN KOMEN
|London Marathon champ Wilson Kipsang waves after arriving at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport yesterday. Kipsang set a new London course record of 2:04.27. [PHOTO: STAFFORD ONDEGO/PICCENTRE]|
Kenya team to the London Marathon arrived home yesterday morning to a reception replete with ululations and pageantry.
The Kenya Airways flight 101 carrying President Uhuru Kenyatta and First Lady Margaret Kenyatta and the London Marathon squad, which included champion Wilson Kipsang and runners-up Stanley Biwott and women’s race silver medallist Florence Kiplagat, touched down at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport shortly after 6.30am next to the presidential dais.
Women’s winner Edna Kiplagat chose to remain in London and will arrive on Friday while Prisca Jeptoo, who picked an injury during the race, flew to Italy for treatment.
At hand to receive Kipsang was his parents Grace and Joseph Kiprotich, his pastor Oliver Tanui and a horde of other athletes’ family members, not to forget Kipsang’s colleagues at Kenya Police, led by Athletics Technical Manager Joshua Chelang’a.
It was an emotional reunion as father and son hugged, temporarily forgetting their challenges. Joseph Kiprotich garlanded his son with roses as the hearty crowd broke into songs.
Conspicuously yesterday’s arrival lacked the usual traditional fanfare where stars are adorned with Sinendet (Kalenjin ornamental plant). Instead it was driven by the Christian doctrine.
“I knew I was going back to London for a win (2:04.27). I was grateful my competitors allowed me the opportunity to control the pace. We were within the world record time by 30km. From there, I decided to take the risk and fire away and saw Biwott follow suit,” said Kipsang, an alumnus of Tambach High School in Keiyo North.
“I never expected Biwott to keep the pace. But he came with a tactical and mental approach. I will now rest and prepare for a 10km race in Manchester next month.”
In 2011, wife Doreen stunned the world at the Frankfurt Marathon finishing line when she offered Mursik (sour milk) to Kipsang, having carried it from home. The couple took a different approach in London.
“We prayed at home and asked God to guide us. I decided to take a Bible instead of milk this time,” said Doreen.
Kipsang’s mother Grace, however, said: “Before he left to London, I cooked ugali for him. In our Keiyo culture, talking to mothers before setting off for a huge task is a blessing.”