World Championships: Uganda’s marginal gains and their lessons

Saturday December 15 2018

Put In A Shift. (L-R) Team Uganda’s Nabil

Put In A Shift. (L-R) Team Uganda’s Nabil Saleh, Selina Katumba, Avice Meya and Fadhil Saleh at the start of the World Swimming Championships (25m) that climaxes today in Hangzhou, China. COURTESY PHOTO 


KAMPALA. Five days ago, this reporter reminded Muzafaru Muwanguzi of times the Dolphins coach made as a national swimmer at the 12th Fina World Championships (long course) in 2007 in Melbourne – Australia.
Muwanguzi, who took part in the 50m freestyle and butterfly posting 28.30 and 31.44 respectively, replied: “We tried even though we never trained in guided programs like the kids are accessing these days.”
Progressive times
Even with these guided programs, it is hard to quantify, over the last 10 years, how much progress Muwanguzi and others like Abel Ddamulira, who is minding the four swimmers at the 14th Fina World Championships (short course) in Hangzhou – China, have achieved with the current crop of swimmers.
But where Muwanguzi posted 28.30 in the 50m free, Nabil Saleh is now posting 25.00 in Hangzhou – never mind the difference in pool metres as the variance is not that big.
“We soon hope to have a swimmer that can post 25.00 in 50m free,” Uganda Swimming Federation (USF) president Dr. Donald Rukare said two years ago when Arnold Kisulo went to Canada 2016.
Now they do. Nabil’s time is not even his best as he has managed 24.55 at least once in continental and South African events this year. The 17 year old, however, is the first Ugandan to post 25.00 at the Short Course Worlds.
The next best time is 26.14 from Elisha Tibatemwa at his debut in Istanbul 2012.
What Nabil and Tendo Mukalazi or Ambala Atuhaire that have posted 24.88 and 24.86 respectively at home this year, have to learn from Tibatemwa is to stay in for the long haul.
Tibatemwa posted 24.93 at the Commonwealth Games (long course) competition in the same event this year and can only become better.
Reaching for mid-distance
What the guided programs have also guaranteed is a bulk of swimmers technically built for the big stage.
Take Nabil’s twin brother Fadhil or female swimmer Selina Katumba.
Fadhil is a sprinter but whole heartedly took on the 200m free – a mid-distance event following in the shoes of Ambala Atuhaire, who posted four new mid-distance PBs in five events during his international bow at the Youth Commonwealth Games in Bahamas last year.
At her first event off the continent, Katumba would have been excused for not having a PB yet she managed it in her first ever race – the 100m free with 1:03.36. In the same event Rwanda’s Lidwine Umuhoza Uwase reminded the whole world of ‘Eric the Eel’ from the 2000 Olympics.
Eric Moussambani from Equatorial Guinea earned the moniker when he struggled to finish the 100m free posting an unprecedented 1:52.72. Uwase was disqualified after labouring to finish and failing miserably to execute the ‘flip-turn’.
“Many people are wondering how she (Uwase) made it to Hangzhou. Her efforts (or the lack of them) are going to raise several questions in relation to what events swimmers from Africa can do at world meets and how they qualify,” Ddamulira told SCORE.
And what threat does this pose for Uganda whose swimmers are now venturing beyond sprints to mid-distance events? “Our performances so far hold us in good stead and I don’t think our swimmers’ times are questionable in any way,” Ddamulira said. A lot, however, is left to do.
Wednesday - Results
Fadhil Saleh – 200m Free (2:03.49)
*7th in Heat 2/7
Selina Katumba – 100m Free (1:03.36)
*3rd in Heat 4/10
Thursday – Results
Avice Meya – 100IM (1:13.51)
*7th in Heat 1 of 4
Nabil Saleh – 50m Free (25:00)
*3rd in Heat 1 of 13