For the third straight edition, Uganda has appeared on the medals table of the IAAF World Athletics Championships.
Joshua Cheptegei’s 10,000m silver on the opening night at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic stadium in London ensured that the country maintained the tradition of podium finishes in long distance running.
Thanks to the efforts of Stephen Kiprotich and Moses Kipsiro, Uganda has become famed for excelling in long distance running in the last decade. Not quite to the levels of Ethiopia and Kenya but to a degree of respectability.
The trend of Uganda’s medals appears to be a case of accidental occurrence rather than design.
And while the country’s team to London was the biggest ever with 20 athletes, the progress from Beijing is debatable.
Cheptegei’s silver showed that there is medal-winning potential in Uganda when Kipsiro and Kiprotich are unavailable and on the whole, the team that took part in London is likeliest to form the core of the contingent for the Doha Championships in 2019 and Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
But now is the time for Uganda to start doing so many things differently. The visa mess that delayed the travels of Dorcus Ajok and Winnie Nanyondo was regrettable.
The UK visa can be notoriously disruptive for many applicants and perhaps the Uganda Athletics Federation should have embarked on that process earlier given that there are several well-documented precedents.
“I have to accept it but it was not the most ideal to prepare,” 800m runner Winnie Nanyondo, who failed to advance from the heats on Thursday night, told Sunday Monitor of her late arrival.
And for how long will the country continue having its leading long distance runners prepare from the comforts of Kenya?
High Altitude Centre
The much-talked about High Altitude Training Centre is taking way too long to be opened at a time when youngsters like Jacob Kiplimo showed they are future world beaters. And as Kenya have showed in Javelin Thrower Julius Yego, there are plenty of Track and Field options which Uganda must undertake to enhance the country’s chances of winning medals.
In a country of close to 40 million people with fertile soils, inter-marriages and energy-strengthening foods, the Uganda Athletics Federation and sports ministry should embark on a programme to prioritise field events for males and females in schools.
Cheptegei’s lone silver is to be commended and celebrate. And individually the sky is the limit for him.
But that was just one medal, the same number and type Uganda managed 20 years ago when Davis Kamoga finished behind Michael Johnson in the 400m.
It is arguable that there has been minimal progress, if any, in between those two decades.
UGANDA’S SIX MEDALS AT WORLDS
– Silver 400m
– Gold 3,000m steeplechase
– Bronze 5,000m
– Gold Marathon
– Bronze Marathon
– Silver 10,000m