Friday February 16 2018

2018 Commonwealth games: How ready is Team Uganda?

Goldcoast-bound: Michael Wokorach will be part

Goldcoast-bound: Michael Wokorach will be part of Uganda’s Rugby 7s side at this year’s Commonwealth Games. PHOTO BY E. CHICCO 



South Africa, Isle of Man, England, Scotland, among Uganda’s potential opponents, have already named their final squads for the Commonwealth Games, meaning they are more than set for action. This time round the Games came unusually early (April), but Uganda, unsurprisingly, behaves like there are many months to go. Luckily, the president muted the usual financial cries with a Shs14b package.

Nowadays leading in medal potential, the runners are some metres ahead in terms of preps. Only Shida Leni (400m) has qualified from the national trials. Other usual suspects like Dorcus Ajok, Halima Nakaayi, among others, are still struggling to beat the qualifying mark, but hopefully that will be test enough for them.
Meanwhile, 2017 world silver medallist Joshua Cheptegei, and 11 other big names have already qualified from tournaments abroad. However, marathon medal hopeful Solomon Mutai and Juliet Chekwel, who qualified for the 10,000m still have to shake off injuries before the trip.

The She Cranes booked their place at the Games by winning the Africa Nations Championship at Lugogo last June.
Despite the dubious decisions that are synonymous with Suzan Anek’s federation, this time they are trying. The girls are yet to enter residence, but at least they are training daily at Namboole.
I don’t know the impact of upcountry tours, but there’s a friendly with Barbados in Barbados early March.
However, it’s unclear who of Imelda Nyogesa and Rashid Mubiru is the head coach just like we don’t know which players will make the trip to face New Zealand, England, Malawi, Wales and Scotland in pool B.

Rugby Sevens
The national sevens team confirmed its fourth consecutive appearance at the Games after beating Zambia in the 2017 Africa Cup Sevens in October here in Kampala. Pondering the mountain they face in Fiji,
Wales and Sri Lanka, in pool D, coach Tolbert Oyango last week summoned a 21-man squad to begin training.
Two-time African Most Valuable player Phillip Wokorach and Solomon Okia, who stood out in the Dubai Series, among others, have been exempted club duties to concentrate on preps.
That the Hong Kong Series and Commonwealth Games are separated by a week means Onyango has more than a lot to fix.
Uganda’s most decorated Commonwealth sport seems the least prepared for the Gold Coast assignment. As two parallel federations fight for legitimacy, with more action in law courts than in the ring, it’s the boxers who lose. No trials, so far.

Table tennis
Like boxing, table tennis is also divided into two rival associations, and so are the players’ preparations. Earlier this year, Robert Jjagwe’s faction organised trials at Kololo SS, the national training centre.
Policeman Ronald Nyaika leads the men’s rankings having beaten all his men in the two of three rounds. For second-placed Jonathan Ssenyonga to leapfrog him, a miracle and a disaster must happen: Ssenyonga to win all his third round fixtures, and Nyaika to lose all.
Meanwhile, youngster Halima Nambozo, a semi-finalist at the East and Central Championship in Mauritius December, leads the women’s qualifying race, herself having chopped all her opponents in round one.
On the other hand, Douglas Kayondo’s faction held its version of trials in October 2017 where Kevin Mafabi qualified among the men, as Ludia Natunga did among women.
But there’s another hurdle: the Uganda Olympic Committee, which is to coordinate the Commonwealth Games on behalf of the government, does not recognise Kayondo’s leadership or in Kayondo’s words “they are in bed with Jjagwe.”
But the National Council of Sports does not recognise Jjagwe. So it remains to be seen which camp will be fancied.

Having raced in the 2006 Games in Melbourne, former national champion David Matovu would wish to see his son Jordan Ssekanwagi hold the baton to Gold Coast. But divisions and wrangles, the cancer eating up Ugandan sports, might dent this dream.

Mathias Lukwago, the head of the breakaway Uganda Cycling Federation, told us they avoided the Commonwealth business to avoid more clashes. Sam ‘Mahaba’ Muwonge’s, head of the Uganda Cycling Association, did not answer our repeated calls.

Association strongman Salim Musoke told us Julius Ssekitooleko, (category 66) hakim Ssempeereza (category 69), Khalid Batuusa (category 94) and Irene Kasuubo (category 63) are the qualified candidates.
He said the calendar begun with a bonanza on January 28, another build-up event is coming later this month before the club championships in March.