Sex talk predictably dominated Saturday’s World Cross-country Championships at Entebbe Golf Course. Is the coach accussed of sexual harassment among us? Why don’t you name and shame that coach? Those were some of the many questions directed to this writer.
Of course many in the fraternity know the coach accused of sexually harassing runners. They also know the reasons as to why the authorities are covering up for him.
What many don’t know is that one of the female runners that represented Uganda on the day is ‘married’ to the said coach.
Once one of Uganda’s brightest talents, the runner took off time to give birth and raise the coach’s kid before returning to school.
She is now trying to get her career back on track but Saturday wasn’t her day. She didn’t shine and she may never do. Giving birth at a very young age took a toll on her body.
While there was some interest in the runner from some circles before and during the race, it faded after Winnie Nanyondo led Uganda to a clean sweep at the world event. After running on teammate Dorcus Ajok’s shoulders for the opening two laps, Nanyondo pounced to comfortably stride home in 20:33.77.
As she approached the finish line, the small but vibrant crowd was thrown into frenzy. They screamed and ran on the shoulders of the course in celebration during the Coca-cola-sponsored showpiece. Suddenly, the poor performance in the Africa Cross-country Championships at Kololo the previous week was forgotten.
The sexual harassment talk, too, became history albeit briefly.
Ajok secured the silver in 21:01.85 with Prim Twikirize digging deep to outlast two opponents in the dying metres to win bronze. That secured the team title for Uganda ahead of Japan and Canada.
Then Joshua Cheptegei further fired up the atmosphere by comfortably controlling the men’s 10km race. Seventh in the Africa Cross-country Championships junior race at Kololo, Cheptegei wore a more determined face here.
He started with an assured swagger but had to keep Kenyan Daniel Muindi in check for more than half the race. Going into the final two laps, it was clear Uganda had a second gold. The Makerere University student crossed the finishing line in 31:06.71 minutes.
“At Kololo, my teammates made a big mistake of starting with a very high pace which they couldn’t sustain,” said Cheptegei, the Ugandan flag wrapped around his shoulders and several spectators trying to catch a glimpse of him. “I decided to control the pace today and was sure of winning. I never panicked even when the Kenyan tried to disorganize me.”
Muindi settled for the silver (31:12.79) and Kenya took the men’s team gold ahead of silver medallists Uganda. But that mattered less. National University Sports Federation of Uganda (Nusfu) had scored so highly by helping Uganda become the second African country to host the event after Algeria (2006).
That the government invested so little or nothing in bringing the event was not a subject of discussion. What athletics enthusiasts wanted brought to the fore was the measures put in place to protect young female athletes.
“After here, we want to have a meeting (with all stakeholders) and if the coach is found guilty, we’ll make sure he is punished,” Ali Ngaimoko, the athletes representative said. “We shouldn’t politicize this matter. It is an individual matter and we must deal with it individually. The whole UAF executive must not be blamed.”
1. Joshua Cheptegei (UGA) 31:06.71
2. Daniel Muindi (KEN) 31:12.79
3. Mark Lokwanamoi (KEN) 32:33.26
8. Martin Chemtengin (UGA) 33:00.09
9. Julius Ochieng (UGA) 33:12.93
11. Sam Cherop (UGA) 33:18.54
17. Edward Mukasa (UGA) 33:48.93
25. K. Nuwahereza (UGA) 34:33.87
1. Winnie Nanyondo (UGA) 20:33.77
2. Dorcus Ajok (UGA) 21:01.85
3. Prim Twkirize (UGA) 21:06.14
10. Annet Chebet (UGA) 21:43.50
13. Lillian Anzazi (UGA) 22:02.88
30. Margaret Lubagu (UGA) 24:28.84
Kenya 9 points