Sunday August 13 2017

London 2017: The good, bad and ugly

Big temperament. Ajok ran the race of her

Big temperament. Ajok ran the race of her season in the 800m event to qualify for the Commonwealth Games scheduled for Gold Coast, Australia in April. AFP PHOTO 

By Robert Madoi

The 16th staging of the IAAF World Championships in London have not quite pulverised legends as much as exposed their vulnerability.
Usain Bolt and Allyson Felix did draw level with the legendary Merlene Ottey on 14 medals at the biennial athletics event. They, however, had to contend with bittersweet bronze medals, which, quite frankly, no-one was bold enough to forecast.
Both Bolt and Felix will get the chance to move clear of Ottey when they take up the baton in different relay races. Their hunt for gold, however, was entirely joyless at individual level.
The same cannot be said of Mo Farah whose swansong season on the track produced individual gold straightaway on the opening night of the championships.
Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei won silver after a sensational final kick saw him play second fiddle to Farah in that 10,000 metres final. What the world got to witness on that opening night was a story of the redemptive powers offered by sport. It tends to give as much as it takes away.
Sport certainly took a lot away from Cheptegei at the backend of March. This after he ill-advisedly turned on the afterburners at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships. A buildup of lactic acid saw the 20-year-old limp to a 30th place finish in the most ungainly fashion.
He was lampooned by many armchair experts who stated in no uncertain terms that his front running tactics should be eschewed.
While this column agreed that it was a foolhardy of Cheptegei to go for the jugular as early as he did, it did not frown upon his front running style. Your columnist also predicted that the embarrassing episode at the Kololo Independence Grounds would have the youngster firing on all cylinders again.
And so it turned out.
The championships in London have also offered a coming-of-age story for Halima Nakaayi. The 22-year-old’s reaction after being boxed in - when she held the inside line during one of her 800 metres qualification heats - oozed maturity.
Another 800 metres runner Dorcus Ajok and steeplechase Albert Chemutai also went to extraordinary lengths to show an old head on young shoulders at London’s Olympic Stadium.
Your columnist wrote this piece a tad too early to tell whether Ronald Musagala did enough to reach today’s 1,500 metres final. The Uganda Wildlife Authority athlete has not been short of confidence in a year that has seen him break Julius Achon’s longstanding 1,500 metres national record.
If anything, the upward trajectories of Musagala and Nakaayi are yet another feather in the cap of Rafael Daniel Kasajja.
Surely, the Uganda Athletics Federation should stop giving the budding coach the short end of the stick.


Basena out to live to die another day

Back in 1994, Coffee United was in a bus enroute to Arua where a topflight league match had been lined up. The journey was mercifully free of any incidents - well until the bus dog-legged right onto a narrow stretch of winding road in a leafy Luwero enclave.
Not long after taking the dogleg, the bus swerved off the road, resulting into an accident. Moses Basena and Fred Kajoba, then Coffee players, were at the front of bus when all hell broke loose. Basena came off worse of the two in the accident that - thankfully - did not claim any victims. The knee injury he picked up in the accident forced him to call time on a playing career that was all nuts and bolts without being particularly memorable.
Last March, some 22 years after the bus accident in Luwero, Kajoba also had his own close shave with death. After failing to charter a plane to Ouagadougou, The Cranes had to make its way through a staggering 10 hours of flying to and fro the Burkinabe capital. The air miles clocked up took a heavy toll on Kajoba, who collapsed at the airport in Ethiopia during a layover. After receiving medical attention, Kajoba was declared to be well and truly out of harm’s way. Just like his former Coffee teammate, the erstwhile Cranes goalkeeping coach showed in that otherwise frightening moment that he too has the proverbial nine lives of a cat.
In the coaching dugout, both Basena and Kajoba have not had as many lives. Certainly not success. Yet they were appointed interim Cranes coaches a few weeks ago following the departure of Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic.
Their appointment to Ugandan football’s biggest job did not quite have Cranes fans caught in a shiver of excitement. The unassuming coaches nevertheless seem untroubled by the hostility.
While the pair’s ultra defensive approach has been identified as the source of bad rap, Basena has made known his intention to play an attractive brand of football. The 49-year-old coach told your columnist that he wants Uganda to source loads of goals. A high goal-scoring midfielder, Basena added, would pretty much complete the jigsaw.
Basena has built a reputation as a straitjacket tactician, probably deservedly so. Micho, however, believes that the man who served as his sidekick in the Cranes realm is underrated. And truth be told, Basena does have numerous strong-points. William Kizito Luwagga highlighted one of those strong-points. The Europe-based midfielder was quoted by this newspaper saying the ability for Basena to calm Cranes players in the run up to their successful qualification for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) was particularly attractive.
Given Luwagga’s rancorous dispute with Micho at the 2017 Afcon finals, some find it hard to take the midfielder’s word for it. They believe the player could be taking a potshot at a coach he fell out dramatically with. Regardless, Basena has two gigs - the double headers against Rwanda and Egypt - to lend credence to what should have been a much-needed ringing endorsement. If he does come up successful, it won’t be the first time he is living to die another day. He has the lives of cat after all!


What we now know....

We now know that Uganda finished third in the 2018 Rugby Africa Gold Cup tournament.
This means that the Rugby Cranes will host three of their five Test matches in next year’s competition, which will also double as a 2019 World Cup qualifier. We know that Namibia will start the qualifying event as outright favourites to seal the lone automatic World Cup slot.
The Welwitschias will, however, have to contend with a trip to Kampala that - by their own admission - they never fancy.