The Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA) has assured Ugandan athletes of support in the build-up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics set to be held in Japan next year.
ANOCA president Mustapha Berraf made the pledge as a guest speaker to athletes, coaches and officials during a 100-minute webinar organised by the Uganda Olympic Committee (UOC) as part of the International Olympic Day celebrations yesterday.
“From ANOCA, we are at your disposal and we are going to do our best to have the highest participation (from Africa) in the Olympic Games next year,” Algerian Berraf spoke in French, his daughter Lina Berraf later transcribing to English for an audience of about 80 people.
“We have a number of funds put out to help out athletes participate and win medals (in Tokyo),” said Berraf who is also a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Prior to the disruptions of the global sports chain by Covid-19, Uganda had qualified 20 athletes to the Tokyo Games comprising 18 runners, Bomber Shadir Musa and rower Noble Kathleen.
And during the pandemic, UOC through its support systems had extended aid to the Tokyo-bound group.
“At the height of the lockdown, we gave them assistance of Shs1.5m each and also gave some of their coaches something,” said UOC president William Blick.
“And we are going to give those who we think have a chance of qualifying. We are waiting for some funds from ANOCA which, I think, Mr Berraf talked about,” he added.
June 23 is normally a day of activity in celebration and promotion of competitive sport as a revival of the ancient Olympic Games. But Covid-19 restrictions rendered UOC’s plans digital.
The webinar conducted by UOC athletes commission chairman Ganzi Mugula tackled issues about: the meaning of the Olympic Day, influence of sport, the importance of the Olympic Games and why it is important to celebrate sport. “Sports is not about doing it but it’s about life’s values,” said Mugula, Uganda’s flag bearer at the 2012 London Games.
“That’s why sometimes you see sportsmen are mentally stronger than an ordinary person like Serena Williams. We take those values from the pitch, swimming pool and put them into life. It’s why we encourage young people to do it because some things are not taught in class,” he added.
He moderated the session with panellists world 800m champion Halimah Nakaayi, 2017 Africa 7s champion Michael Wokorach and Uganda Hockey Federation president Lydia Dhamuzungu. “Olympic Day is special to me as a person I am exposed to unity in diversity. Through being active, we stay healthy and we are strong but more than anything is unity in diversity. Olympics is a stage for all sports, all people and all races,” said Dhamuzungu.
Berraf too would later share his experiences as a basketballer for Algeria and how he had a strong support system to guide him before emphasizing the power of sport concentrated in nurturing young talent.
“Sports can communicate something worldwide. Our stadium was named Mandela Stadium. So whenever people take part in the stadium, there is a way Mandela is being recognized,” remarked Nakaayi.
She will be at the Olympics for the second time in Japan next year.
“Personally I have never been to the Olympics but it is something I want to do before I retire,” said Wokorach. “Olympic Games are not about winning but participation.”
QUALIFIED FOR TOKYO
Women: Halima Nakaayi (800m), Winnie Nanyondo (800m & 1500m), Peruth Chemutai (3000m steeplechase), Stella Chesang & Sarah Chelangat (5000m), Juliet Chekwel (Marathon) Men: Ronald Musagala (1500m), Albert Chemutai (3000m Steeplechase), Stephen Kissa (5000m), Joshua Cheptegei & Abdallah Mande (10000m), *Fred Musobo, *Stephen Kiprotich, *Solomon Mutai, *Filex Chemonges, *Geoffrey Kusuro, *Jackson Kiprop & *Robert Chemonges (all Marathon) *Only 3 will compete
Welterweight: Shadir Musa Bwogi
Single Scull Category - 2km: Grace Noble Kathleen