KAMPALA- The Nation Media Group’s stables in Uganda bring together a little under thirty sports journalists. These journalists cover a multiplicity of sporting disciplines and have accrued bags of experience. Over the past two months, the journalists converged to put together a list of fifty athletes whose performances in 2017 were definitive.
How the list was put together
Each journalist was asked to craft a list of 50 Ugandan athletes they think stood head and shoulders above their peers in 2017. The list was supposed to be arranged in descending order, with No.1 being their best choice.
Ranking system explained
Common denominators were aggregated from each journalist’s list. The more common denominators translated into a higher ranking for the athlete in question. If athletes were level on points in the scoring, a five-strong team would be tasked to vote to provide a tiebreaker.
1. DAVID EMONG
David Emong beat his equivalent of Mo Farah, Algeria’s multiple World and Paralympic champion Samir Nouioua.
With eight gold and five silver medals under his belt, the Algerian is certainly no slouch. Not that Emong was cowed by this.
He came through to win Uganda’s first ever gold in Paralympic history. His feat can be equated the legendary John Akii-Bua’s gold medal-winning showing at the 1972 Olympics. Abdulnasser Ssemugabi
2. JOSHUA CHEPTEGEI
What a rollercoaster journey Cheptegei has had in 2017! The twists and turns were as many as those fashioned by the sails of a windmill. It all started on a searingly hot Sunday afternoon at Kololo Independence Grounds back in March. Well into the business end of the senior men’s race at the World Cross Country Championships, the distance runner appeared to be on course for a medal — gold at best and silver at worst. Then he ill-advisedly turned on the afterburners only to implode.
But such is Cheptegei’s mental fortitude that, even with the odds stacked against him at the leafy Kololo course, he pushed every sinew in his body to come in 30th. The placement was not in vain as it helped Uganda win a team bronze at the championships.
Describing the days after the extraordinary meltdown, Cheptegei told IAAF’s official website thus: “It took me some weeks to get over. When I met people they felt sorry for me, but when they asked me I would feel bad because they made me remember what happened. “I had to just stay at home, not go around because I didn’t want to meet people.
My wife was there, my family, my manager, and they were encouraging me, saying: ‘you can make it.’ He made a decent return to the track, finishing fourth at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris on July 1st. He would had fared even better had he not been kept up by his son who was born a week leading up to the Paris meet. Front running has always been the centrepiece of his style. Despite taking a lot away from him at the backend of March, Cheptegei adopted an aggressive strategy in Paris. He was also every inch aggressive in London during the Worlds.
The 21-year-old run the opening lap inside 61 seconds en route to winning silver in the 10,000 metres final. Cheptegei’s sensational kick saw him play second-fiddle to the great Sir Mo Farah. A mixed bag it might have been, but 2017 was a hugely productive year for Cheptegei. If not for his silver medal then his redemptive powers. Robert Madoi
3. JACOB KIPLIMO
It was March 26th on a sun-bathed afternoon at the Kololo Independence Grounds that Kiplimo joined the pantheon of the all-time greats.
The teenager pulled a rabbit out of a hat by landing gold in the men’s U20 race at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships.
It was Uganda’s maiden gold meal at a World Cross and Kiplimo couldn’t have chosen a better place to pull off the feat! The Kololo Independence Grounds is a place steeped in history. The national anthem was played for the first time there on October 9, 1962 shortly after the lowering of Great Britain’s Union Jack had ushered in independence.
Since then, the anthem’s three stanzas have been played at the independence grounds more often than not, but not with the groundswell of pride that came with the medal ceremony for the junior men’s race.
Kiplimo made the job look mightily easy, covering eight kilometres in 22:40.
Sweet sixteen at the time of his win, Kiplimo had previously announced himself to Ugandans by placing third at the 2016 IAAF World U20 Championships in the Polish industrial river port of Bydgoszcz. He was quietly confident about his chances after the national junior cross country title left him with a spring in his step.
If he was sustain his purple patch, he needed to do something last achieved in 1984 — stop either a Kenyan or Ethiopian from taking the tape.
It looked like he wasn’t going to do that after Ethiopian and Kenyan runners produced a fast run from the gun. But when the leading pack was then whittled down to three, Kiplimo was in tow with Kenyans Amos Kirui and Edwin Kiplangat. Then something extraordinary happened: Kiplimo broke away with one lap left. A new star had been born.
Jacob Kiplimo’s gold medal-winning feat saw the people that squeezed into the independence grounds serenaded with Uganda’s anthem. A proud President Museveni could barely suppress his smile. Robert Madoi
4. GERTRUDE CANDIRU
If anyone called Candiru one of the wonders of the world, they can literally be forgiven. African champion, African Queen, Most Valuable Player (MVP), the players’ pick from a continental event, four Man of Match (MOM) awards in a coveted African showpiece and the best bowling all-rounder as adjudged by the referees’ panel.
Sweet Candy as she prefers to call herself on social media is larger than life and is the sole reason Uganda will play beyond the boundaries (read outside Africa) for the first time since the ladies took to the crease in 2001.
Candiru wheeled the Russian Roulette from impossible to jackpot with tally of 15 wickets at an average of 7 and 107 runs at 28 per innings to earn the petname ‘destroyer.’ Candiru almost never made the team to the African meet after she rubbed some feathers on the technical bench the wrong way. Her exploits earned Uganda a place at the global qualifier in Netherlands next June. Innocent Ndawula
5. GEOFFREY SSERUNKUMA
The Uganda Premier League (UPL) reigning Footballer of the Year and KCCA MVP, Sserunkuma, has also been nominated for Caf Player of the Year Award.
Sserunkuma was the beauty that puzzled opponents with cunning movement while killing off the chances the other end.
The striker scored a league-high 21 goals and 32 in total in a campaign that had KCCA win a domestic double and reach the group stage of the Caf Champions League. Now with Buildcon in Zambia, Sserunkuma also scored Uganda’s only goal against Cape Verde in the 2019 Afcon qualifiers. Andrew Mwanguhya
6. PHILIP WOKORACH
O Just as he is fondly known helped Uganda defend the Africa Sevens on home soil. Although Zimbabwe players marked the inside of his jersey in the final, Wokorach had done enough to be named tournament MVP as Uganda qualified for the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens.
Earlier, Wokorach had helped the Uganda Sevens reach the quarterfinals of the World HSBC qualifiers in Hong Kong. They lost a tight contest against Papua New Guinea 14-10.
It wasn’t just in the sevens where Wokorach waved a magic wand. He also had a hatful of man-of-the-match awards as Uganda placed third in the Gold Cup. Wokorach also remarkably finished as the top scorer in Uganda’s topflight rugby league despite only playing one round.
He played one round because the sugar millers of Kabras prised him from Hima Cement Heathens’ grasp.
The Ugandan speedster didn’t disappoint in Kenya, helping Kabras win the Kenya Sevens and Christie Sevens titles. To top it all up, Wokorach was named on the Samurai Africa Sevens team (best sevens players on the continent). He travelled with the Samurai Sevens to Ghana and won the Independence Cup. Deus Bugembe
7. DENIS ONYANGO
Reigning Player of 2016 (based in Africa) Onyango, also the first goalkeeper to ever win this Caf award, has been Uganda’s best footballer for some time now.
Now, the Ugandan captain and his Mamelodi Sundowns outfit may have failed to defend their Champions League title, thanks to eventual champions Wydad Casablanca, but it is because of Onyango’s superman-self that Sundowns, who — by last season’s standards — struggled this time round with a quarterfinal exit, made it this far.
Onyango also kept three clean sheets, one of them this year, as Uganda finished second behind Egypt in the World Cup qualifiers, while another clean slate was registered in the first match of the 2019 Afcon qualifiers. For his exploits, he has been named to Caf’s team of the year. Andrew Mwanguhya
8. PATRICIA APOLOT
The Black Pearl, as Apolot is popularly known, is a holder of the World Kickboxing International title and the reigning Africa champion. What sets her apart is that since 2009, she has beaten the prejudices females face in combat sports. Apolot has managed to keep her status as Africa’s number one female kickboxer thanks to wins over Greece’s Katerina Abdallah and Austrian-born Carina Greimel in May.
Apolot has also taken non-title fights to her Teso homeland where she defeated Bosnian Salma Music in Kumi last month and Egypt’s Asmaa Ali on December 9. She will have a go at the World title next year as she seeks to add to her prize possession of four titles. Makhtum Muziransa
9. RONALD RUGUMAYO
On the eve of the seventy-sixth staging of the Uganda Golf Open Championship, Rugumayo was at Uganda Golf Club’s putting green sizing up putt after putt.
The unassuming golfer’s short game has always been hailed as a superlative piece of skill. Yet even those who worked on the assumption that the short game will take him places would never have scripted the grandstand finish he mustered in the Open.
After 72 holes of exhilarating golf, a playoff was needed to determine the outright winner. In the red corner was Rugumayo, with then defending champion Ronald Otile sporting blue. Rugumayo faced long odds going into the three-hole playoff. Otile’s tee shot at the tricky par-4 12th was greeted with the applause it deserved. If Rugumayo had his work cut out, then he did a good job masking it.
He followed up a decent tee with an exceptional second shot. He one-putted for birdie. Otile had to settle for a par. Not one to bring a paper knife to a fight, Otile mustered a superb tee that landed quite close to the par-3 17’s pin. A birdie was well within reach. Rugumayo meanwhile a tough, long birdie putt.
He not only pulled off a jaw-dropping hole-out on 17, but also another on 18. For the first time, Otile had no answers as his dream for a Open hat-trick went up in smoke. To prove that his win was no fluke, Rugumayo had a decent finish at the Kenya Amateur Stroke Play Championships (third). Robert Madoi
10. PEACE PROSCOVIA
Many superlatives have been used to describe the towering 6 ft 6 frame of She Cranes captain Peace Proscovia. Yet every year she continues to show improvement in her game as evidenced in her performances for both club and country. She Cranes coach Vincent Kiwanuka noted improvement in her post play and movement as the English-based Loughborough Lightning goal shooter guided the team to the African title.
She raced to 130 goals of the 270 the team scored after the opening three games and would without doubt have been chosen as tournament MVP had the accolade been available. Her Loughborough performances also earned her the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) Players’ Player of the Season and the Vitality Player of the Season Awards in addition to the contract extension at the English club. Elvis Senono
Mark Namanya (Daily Monitor Sports Editor), Robert Madoi (NTV Sports Editor), Fred Musisi Kyingi (Ennyanda Editor), Caesar Abangirah (Daily Monitor Deputy Sports Editor), Innocent Ndawula (Score Editor), Raul Kanyike (Ennyanda Deputy Editor/Daily Monitor Contributor) Andrew Mwanguhya (Daily Monitor Sports reporter), Patrick Kanyomozi (KFM Sports Editor), Joel Khamadi (NTV Sport Anchor), Ismail Dhakaba Kigongo (Daily Monitor sports reporter, panelist Kfm and Ntv sport), Makhtum Muziransa (Daily Monitor Sports reporter), Allan Darren Kyeyune (Daily Monitor Sports reporter), Deus Bugembe (Daily Monitor Sports reporter), Derrick Ntege (NTV Sport reporter), Sam Mpoza (NTV Sport reporter), Elvis Ssenono (Daily Monitor Sports reporter), Abdulnasser Tajudeen (Daily Monitor Sports reporter), Aminah Babirye (Daily Monitor sports photojournalist), Eddie Chicco (Daily Monitor sports photojournalist), Ismail Kezaala (Daily Monitor sports photojournalist), Dennis Bbosa (Daily Monitor Sports reporter)