What does it take to be a winner? Steve Kiprotich knows. He is the gold medal marathon winner of this year's Olympic Games. He is the second gold medal winner in Ugandan history. We won a bronze in 1996, but our last gold medal was in 1972.
My son Nicolas had an opportunity to meet Michael Phelps at Disney World in Florida right after Beijing Olympics. Nicolas was so excited to be swimming in the same pool as Michael, that he showed Michael a few of his own tricks. This year, Nicolas and I watched the Olympics together and enjoyed every event. However, our best moment happened when Steve Kiprovich triumphed against all odds to win the gold for Uganda. I was overjoyed for my home country, and I wasn't the only one. A few minutes after the event, Ugandans all over the world changed their Facebook profiles to honor Kiprotich.
Michael Phelps has more medals than many countries around the world, Uganda included. I am happy for his success, but his many medals do not compare to a single medal won for a small eastern African nation that suffered under the brutal dictator Idi Amin, was torn apart by HIV/AIDs, and ravaged by a war that was publicized by the KONY2012 videos.
In 1972, when Akii-Bua won gold for Uganda in Munich in the 400m hurdles, his success was clouded by politics and war in the Uganda. Since then, there has been no funding for Olympic sports and a lack of sports agents who can get major sponsors behind athletes. Kiprotich actually trained in Kenya.
Kiprotich's win is a win for an entire country. Media advances mean Ugandans now watch events from all over the world. Attention is not only focused on Kiprotich, but on the fact that Uganda, like Kenya, has an altitude and geography tailor-made for elite training for long-distance runners. Ugandans are proud that they are a country of more than poverty, war and HIV. They are the home to a gold medal winner, a distance runner, a man who beat the odds.
Many people told me that they were happy and proud that I was chosen as CNN Hero in 2012.
My success was their success because stories of inspiration move individuals and a country forward. They help young people stay focused. They give promise and hope where they are most needed.
Ask Steve Kiprotich. He knows what it takes to be a winner? Inspiration and determination to go the distance. Uganda is a country destined to success with or without a gold medal, but his win is a mile marker along the way. For the ultimate winner is not one with the most gold medals, it's the one who inspires others to achieve.