Dorcus Inzikuru of Uganda wins inaugural women's 3000m steeplechase at the 2005 IAAF World Championships (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News 9 August 2005 – Helsinki, Finland

Name mistakenly spelt but maybe no longer – DORCUS Inzikuru

Helsinki, FinlandThe winner of the inaugural women's World 3000m Steeplechase title, the first Ugandan to win a World athletics crown, is determined she will not be a one-hit wonder.

Dorcus Inzikuru is much too shy and modest to make lavish predictions about her own future, but she expresses great hopes for her country.

It was not until I spoke with the Anglican priest's daughter, after she had received her medal that she realised there was a $60,000 prize for the winner. She shrieked with delight.

She agreed that it made her a wealthy woman, and said: "I plan to build a house, but I would really like to help my fellow athletes. I want to bring on the teenage girls, to make sure there are others to follow me.”

"I will be an old woman (she is just 23!), so I want others to follow me."

Knowledge of a legend

She grew up knowing about athletics, and about her nation's iconic athlete, former World record holder and Olympic 400m hurdles champion John Akii-Bua.

"My parents never went to the Olympics, but they were both good athletes," she said. "There are photos of them running in our home, in the early 1960s. So I have inherited my ability from them. Of course Akii-Bua is our most famous athlete, a legend in my country."

And so, now, is she. "A huge story in our country," was the verdict of Ugandan journalists.

She is the eldest of six daughters, but lost two older brothers: one aged eight to malaria, and another, aged 14, to typhoid. She is married to a doctor, Martin Bosco Acidri, and it is clearly a sacrifice to her that they spend long periods apart.

Italian based

She lives and trains in Turin, but competes for the Camelot club, in Milan. "I spend two or three months in Italy, and then four or five weeks in Kenya, at altitude.”

"My husband works in the hospital in Vurra, where my family lives in Uganda, and is very happy for me to run. He was a good 100 metres runner, but had to stop, for his studies, I have stopped my education too, for athletics, but I hope to go back to it, and become a physical education teacher."

Religious up-bringing

Her father is a priest in Vurra which lies in Arua province in north-west Uganda. "They all watched at home on TV. They were very happy for me," she said. "I phoned my sisters before, and asked them to pray for me."

Some of her success, she said, was due to Saif Saaeed Shaheen, the men's World record holder. She shares the same coach (Renata Canova) as the former Kenyan who now runs for Qatar (and took the men's title tonight). "Sometimes I train with him in Iten. It is high in the Rift Valley, while Uganda is low altitude, and not good for long distance training.

"He helped me a little with technique, but I hurt my knee on the barrier, so I am careful "I started running in 1998, and did my first steeplechase in 2003. It's the best race for me. My colleagues in Ethiopia and Kenya run 5000m, but it's too long for me." That said, despite her having been sixth in the 1999 African Games 5000m, winning the world junior title in 2000, fourth at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, and second in the African Games that year.

Get the name right please

She believes she can run faster, and threaten the World record of 9:01.59. "Yes, I will see how I feel, but a World record needs someone to pace it. I think I have to train a bit more, to get better pace. But maybe I can run the World record some day . . . It's a fantastic race, and you can enjoy getting splashed by the water."

Usually her name is rendered "Docus". It is mis-spelt in her passport, and because of that the mistake is perpetuated when she enters international races.

Nobody is likely to forget who she is now.

Doug Gillon – The Herald – for the IAAF