There is something magical about Winnie Nanyondo. This is her first year as a senior runner but the confidence and tactical acumen she exudes on track are unbelievable.
On Friday night, the 20-year-old delivered a well calculated performance to land bronze in the Commonwealth Games women’s 800m final at Hampden Park in two minutes, 01.39 seconds.
Kenyan Eunice Sum, leading from gun to tape, predictably won the gold in 2:00.31.
Nanyondo had silver into her firm grip but let it slip to home girl Lynsey Sharp (2:01.34) in the final few metres. That slackness should have earned some scolding but not this time.
Nanyondo leaves Glasgow with a sense of satisfaction. “I am very happy with the bronze,” a Ugandan flag wrapped around her waist, Nanyondo said with a wide smile.
“This is my year. I am glad I have a championship medal.”
About three years ago, it was hard to imagine that Nanyondo would compete at such a level. She showed vast potential, like many other Ugandan runners, but was never good enough until she teamed up with coach Rafael Kasajja. In just two years, Kasajja has turned Nanyondo into an amazing product.
In 2012, she reached the finals of the World Junior Championships in Barcelona, finishing sixth. Last year was a little bit difficult but the hard work never stopped. 2014 has been an astonishing year for her. In March, she won the World University Cross-country Championships at Entebbe.
That was the turning point. In June, she became the second 800m Ugandan female runner after Annet Negesa to break the two-minute barrier, running 1:59.27 in Ostrava. A fortnight ago, Nanyondo set a new national record of 1:58.63 while finishing third in her Diamond League debut in Monaco and sealed her place as a serious medal contender coming into the Games.
“Coach Rafael has been an amazing influence in my career. Before, I was running without a coach and didn’t know what to.
“But he has taught me several things. He is like a parent to me. I know he is not here but kindly let him know that I am grateful.
“This dream wouldn’t have turned into reality without him,” she said.
“I want to thank everyone who has helped me; my boyfriend, my training partners and my parents. This is just the beginning. Better things are coming.”