Sunday October 8 2017

Celebrating Uganda’s golden athletes since Independence

John Akii-Bua and Stephen Kiprotich (Right)

John Akii-Bua and Stephen Kiprotich (Right)  

By ABDUL-NASSER SSEMUGABI

Successful or disappointing, depends on one’s notion. But whichever adjective one chooses, they cannot ignore these names while navigating the story of Ugandan sports since Independence. These are Uganda’s golden heroes and heroines for their conquests at the continental and global level.

John Akii-Bua (athletics, 1972)
While boxers Eridadi Mukwanga and Leo Rwabwogo were the first to win Uganda medals, history will forever cherish Akii-Bua (RIP), the country’s first Olympics gold medallist. At Munich 1972, the awkward hurdler from Lira won gold in the 400m hurdles with a world record of 47.82s. It is said that Akii-Bua could have repeated the feat but Africa boycotted the Montreal 1976 Games. In 1973, he won gold at All-Africa Games in Lagos. He coached before he died June 20, 1997 - aged 47.

Ayub Kalule (boxing, 1974)
Uganda’s most successful boxer was the only African to strike gold at the inaugural World Boxing Championship in Havana in 1974. He redid it at the Commonwealth Games in New Zealand in the same year. When Uganda joined Africa in boycotting the 1976 Montreal Olympics, Kalule had already two victories as a professional in Denmark. He won the WBA Light Middleweight title in 1979.

Nyakana, Juuko (boxing 1990)
After senior Bombers squadsmen Charles Matata and Joseph Kaddu Sabata settled for bronze, youngsters Godfrey Nyakana (lightweight) and Justin Juuko (light fly) surprised everyone by bagging gold at the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland.

Tebazalwa Kizito (boxing 1999)
Nine years after the Nyakana-Juuko act, bantamweight Tebazalwa scooped gold at the All-Africa Games in South Africa. Light fly Muhammed Kizito, popularly known as Sande Swico, also won gold as Adam Kassim and Jackson Asiku settled for silver and bronze respectively.
Katongole Sadat (boxing 2004)
The most talented light fly of recent generations, Katongole made history by qualifying for the Olympics aged 17. He did so by stunning Morocco’s Redouane Bouchtouk in front of his home crowd in Casablanca during the first Aiba African 2004 Olympic trials. He died a miserable death May 14, 2015 after a long battle with drugs and alleged sorcery. Sadat, the little brother to Abdu Tebazalwa, won gold in the second edition of the Olympic trials in Gaborone, Botswana.

Dorcus Inzikuru (athletics, 2005/6)
The only woman on this golden list, Inzikuru hit global headlines after winning gold in the 3000m steeplechase (9:18.24 minutes) at the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki, Finland. The Arua Gazelle would redo it in 2006 at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 9:18.24 minutes. Marital problems and injuries curtailed her career.

Boniface Kiprop (athletics, 2006)
Anyone remembers him? The long-distance runner, who won several medals at junior meets and set a world junior record (10,000m 27:04.00 minutes) in Brussels, 2004, followed Inzikuru with gold at the Commonwealth in Melbourne in 2006. His records gradually declined and he slowly vanished from the scene.

Moses Kipsiro (athletics, 2007-14)
He has not won gold at the Olympics or at the World Championship but the son of Bukwo is Uganda’s most decorated athlete.
He has won three Commonwealth gold medals in addition to two from All-Africa Games. His best moment was in 2010 when he won the 5,000m and 10,000m double at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, India.

Stephen Kiprotich (athletics, 2012-2013)
Forty years after Akii-Bua, Uganda got a second gold thanks to Stephen Kiprotich’s marathon (2:08:01) victory in London 2012. Was he a lucky champ? Maybe not-he won more gold at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, running 2:09:51. He has not won much success since, but his achievements will take sometime to beat.

Muzamir Kakande (boxing, 2017)
Since Katongole and Sadat Tebazalwa in 2004, no Ugandan had ever won gold at a major boxing event. Kakande rose from the slums of Bwaise to break the 13-year jinx by defeating Mauritian Merven Clair in the welterweight final of the African Confederation Boxing Championship in Congo-Brazzaville. He recently made wrong headlines when he and African silver medallists Geoffrey Kaketo and David Ayiti, disappeared in Germany after the World Championship.

David Emong (para athletics 2017)
Uganda’s lone ranger at most of the para-athletic tournaments, Emong has the proverbial silver bullet. He has gathered four medals from six events most notably that gold at the 2017 World Para Athletics Championship in London, after winning the 1500m T46 race in 3:58:36 minutes en route beating rival Samir Nouioua of Algeria.

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