Last Monday World Champion Halimah Nakaayi came out to implore President Museveni to recompense her accomplishment. The nature of the request doesn’t disqualify a conviction for selfishness, and I bow to the worldliness of her specific request for apartments – Dorcas Inzikuru and Stephen Kiprotich got simple bungalows. One just has to appreciate that this egocentric nature is an unintended consequence of walking the lonely path to the top.
Let’s take Nakaayi herself. She wasn’t the strongest or the fastest going into this final. She can’t be said to be blessed with the same natural talent of Raevyn Rogers and Ajee Wilson. She certainly doesn’t have the high calibre training facilities and great coaching opportunities that those two have. All this notwithstanding, she still beat them to gold.
And here is the thing. The secret to success in sports or life in general, is tremendously lonely. You have to make this journey investing more than everyone else. It is just too much work and why a precious few will really take advantage of it, even if the secret is available to all.
At a sub conscious level Nakaayi must be feeling like, I have done all the uncomfortable things that many athletes avoid. I have kept going and looked for ways to get smarter, stronger, faster, and better conditioned. Not only did I do my best, I did whatever it took to win. It is a very personal journey and I guess we really can’t blame her for carrying a sense of entitlement.
What we can do however is be careful. This nation is full of champions whose achievements we just didn’t build upon because we were wrong to believe that rewarding an individual would motivate the entire nation.
While there is nothing wrong with acknowledging individuals, the bigger picture should be how to go beyond personal accomplishment and pursue a national agenda that milks sports for its true value. And the value of sport is to be found in its command of global attention, and how all that slots into influence on world peace, economy and the development of social relationships.
Nations like Qatar itself, have figured this out and Invest heavily on sports. Back home, the feel-good factor that made grown men go juvenile as Nakaayi raced to gold is something we could use to repair the apathy we have for Uganda. Away in South Africa, the 1995 Rugby world cup victory triggered social inclusiveness. And in Kenya’s Mathare slum you would still be mugged for showing up at the wrong hour, but its youth football program has lifted many out drugs and lessened crime.
So yes, to the apartments. But If I was in charge of these things, I would instead be figuring out how to blend the collective credentials of Davis Kamoga, Dorcus Inzikuru, Moses Kipsiro Solomon Mutai and Joshua Cheptegei into a social force that demands, not only for facilities and funding but also for patriotism in every sense of the word.
It sounds dreamy but never underestimate the resolve of champions.