By the time you read this, maybe Kirabo Namutebi would have taken her gold medal count at the climaxing Africa Junior Swimming Championships in Tunisia to three.
The 14-year-old had won two by Friday; in the 50m freestyle (27.33) and 50m breaststroke (with a new personal best 35.13 on Thursday) to become the first Ugandan to win a continental swimming gold medal – never mind two.
“I am really happy and excited to have won,” Namutebi said, in the aftermath of her first medal.
The feat not only made her Uganda’s most successful and decorated swimmer but further confirmed the belief that our swimmers can go beyond just chasing personal bests at continental events.
Her 50m free gold can be described as a game changer. It was achieved with no PB but it would be too rich of us to demand for it from a swimmer that brought down the national record to 26.98, just 20 days prior to this gold, at the Fina World Junior Championships in Budapest.
“Winning two medals is commendable. It is something we can build on to grow and we remain committed to supporting Kirabo to reach her full potential,” Uganda Swimming Federation (USF) president Dr. Donald Rukare, who had the privilege of awarding Namutebi with both golds in Tunis, said.
Notably, this performance also eclipses her 18-year-old counterpart Rebecca Ssengonzi, who in Egypt 2015 became the first Ugandan swimmer to win medals at a continental event; obtaining bronze in the 400m individual medley (IM) and silver in the 100m butterfly.
Namutebi started her championship by missing out on a podium finish by four microseconds in the 50m butterfly (29.99) on Wednesday. You feel it was the trigger she needed to bounce back. She did miss out on another podium finish by six microseconds in the 50m backstroke (32.48) moments after her second gold. But Uganda’s current most exciting swimmer had another chance to complete a three-peat yesterday in her final race – 100m freestyle.
Namutebi’s mother Hadijah Namanda – also president of Uganda Volleyball Federation – believes her daughter is “just getting started.”
“Overall her performance has been phenomenal. She has left a mark on the continental level and the world should watch out.
She is hardworking and fearless but she is a work in progress and we are thankful to her coaches. We also believe they are watching and devising strategies to make her even better.”