Stephen Kissa was hailed as a Ugandan hero, despite giving up after nearly 19 minutes leading the men’s 10,000m race at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on the evening of July 30.
After the signal to start, Kissa quickly took the lead, then held that position for the first more than 6,000 meters of the race. But past the 18 minutes 30 seconds mark, Kissa looked at the time and then actively gave up, when the clock hit 18 minutes and 52 seconds and the race still had nine laps ahead.
According to Ugandan news site KawowoKissa’s giving up is part of the general strategy of this 10,000m team.
Uganda has three athletes competing, including Kissa, Joshua Cheptegei and Jacob Kiplimo. In particular, Cheptegei holds the world record for running 10,000m with 26 minutes and 11 seconds, set in Valencia on October 7, 2020, and is the world’s number one runner at this distance. Kiplimo ranked seventh in the world, with the best individual record (PB) 26 minutes 33 seconds 93. Kissa is behind two teammates, with only PB 27 minutes 26 seconds 46, ranked 76th in the world in this content.
Based on the achievements of three people, the Ugandan athletics team strategized and chose Kissa as the pacer (speeder) cum “bird of decoy”. Accordingly, Kissa ran the first 6,000 meters at his best pace – 2 minutes 40 seconds per 1000 meters – and then stopped. This tactic, in theory, will help Kissa both speed up two teammates and disrupt and destroy the strength of competitors.
On the running track of the Olympic Stadium, Sapporo on the evening of July 30, Kissa did his best job. But the plan of the Ugandan team to help the other two athletes compete for the gold medal was unsuccessful. As the race entered the final 800 metres, Cheptegei leapt to the top, then fell behind again. Subsequent efforts only helped him to finish second with 27 minutes 43 seconds 63 – Cheptegei’s best individual performance since early 2021. Kiplimo finished third, receiving a silver medal with 27 minutes 43 seconds 88.
The gold medal belongs to Ethiopian runner Selemon Barega with a record of 27 minutes 43 seconds 22.
“It’s just a sacrifice for the collective achievement. As planned, I went ahead and pushed the pace of the race. Our Ugandan team was aiming to win the gold medal, but unfortunately we only got the silver medal. and bronze. Anyway, I’m still happy, because Uganda got two medals,” Kissa said in an interview after the race.
This runner, born in 1995, sacrificed himself for his teammates, standing behind the halo of the medal podium receiving admiration from the online community.
“The best athlete of the race for the Ugandan team today. Hats off to you, Stephen Kissa”, Twitter account of the Ugandan team. Kawowo write. Another tweeted: “Kissa – the unsung hero. You did a great job as a speedrunner for your teammates to glory. We congratulate you too.” “To me, the authentic Ugandan gold medal belongs to Stephen Kissa,” another wrote.
User Bernard Sabiti tweeted: “Everybody wants a Stephen Kissa in their life. A speeder who shows you the way, plots your way to shine, and confuses your opponents. They often just stand on the side. after, outside the frame of the media, and often do not seek glory. Admire you, the speedrunner.”
Ugandan journalist Abdu Dilshan Wasike has a different opinion. He expressed regret that the two teammates could not take advantage of Kissa’s sacrifice to win the race. “When I saw Kissa complete the mission and retreat, I shouted with the hope that Cheptegei and Kiplimo would speed up soon. There is no reason for them to wait until the last minute to open the full speed. I don’t know. What’s their team’s plan. But anyway, congratulations,” this reporter tweeted.
Kissa is a member of NN Running Team – the club that gathers the best long-distance runners in the world today such as Eliud Kipchoge, Stephen Kiprotich in the marathon distance, and Cheptegei (10,000m), Prescious Mashele (5,000m). Kissa’s forte distance is 5,000m, but at the Tokyo Olympics, he was promoted to compete in 10,000m.
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