Athletics coach relishes Team Uganda’s chances at Special Olympics

Thursday March 14 2019

Talented. Nyamahunge (bib no. 513) at Namboole

Talented. Nyamahunge (bib no. 513) at Namboole Stadium recently. PHOTO BY GEORGE KATONGOLE 

By George Katongole

Abu Dhabi. It is fair to say that Uganda’s medal hopes rest on the shoulders of individual sports, athletics and swimming at the Abu Dhabi Special Olympic Games.
That athletics has one of Uganda’s best upcoming sprinters Jacent Nyamahunge, proves the point.
Having blitzed past her challengers in the first national trials at Namboole, two weeks back, Nyamahunge easily won the 100 and 200m dashes in 12.1 and 24.5 seconds respectively, making her invincible. Atheltics coach Bashir Ssekandi is banking on such solid performances as Uganda goes for a medal hunt.
“I am happy that all athletes are in good shape and we are ready for the games,” Ssekandi said.
The 26-year-old Hassan Zakulabe, who makes his debut at the world stage, is also a medal hopeful in the 25m run.
Zakulabe, who lives with cerebral palsy, is rated by his coach as a competitive athlete.
While hope abounds for the team that also has Elizabeth Birungi as well as Enock Jefferson Mukiibi in the 50m as well as the 100 and 200m runs respectively, Ssekandi cautions of consistency.
“We are in a good mood here and we hope to get medals as long as the athletes maintain their divisioning time.
“I have talked to them and they have assured me that they will do their best,” he said.

Abu Dhabi culture
Upon arrival in Abu Dhabi the Ugandan team members spent a few days within host town Umm Al Quwain learning about the culture and lifestyle in the UAE. Swimming and athletics teams had a day for simulation yesterday as part of divisioning for the games.
Divisioning is the most unique element of the Special Olympics and continues until today for all sports. It allows athletes the opportunity to compete on an equal playing field as they are matched up with others of the same gender, age and competitive ability.
After A few days of acclimatisation, the opening ceremony will take place in Abu Dhabi today.
Divisioning explained
For judged or other events that are not timed or measured — such as football, gymnastics, volleyball and badminton — there is a series of short games between athletes for teams to assess each athlete or team’s ability by a committee. The divisions are then set up based on the information on each athlete’s skill level so that each set of competitors is closely matched. There should be no more than a 15 per cent difference between the most highly skilled athlete or team – and the lowest skilled athlete or team in each division.

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