Athletics is the only discipline that has hit double digits for Uganda ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games. Eighteen athletes, including six women, have secured tickets to the Japanese capital for the July 24 - August 8 global showpiece.
Seven marathoners have qualified for the men’s category but must battle for three tickets available to Tokyo – that will go to three best timed runners. However, more athletes are still in line for the tickets.
First, he has no relation to the first secretary general of Uganda National Congress despite the shared name. This middle-distance runner has not hit the 800m personal best (PB) time of 1:45.73 he posted to qualify for London 2017 Worlds. He stopped in the semi-final heats at last year’s African Games in Morocco. Mayanja, 24, must run below the qualifying time of 1:45.20 over the two-lap distance before June 29 to be in Tokyo.
Young steeplechaser Sikowo is just seconds shy of the qualifying time of 8:22.00 over the seven-and-a-half-lap race. He posted a season best and PB time of 8:25.91 in Slovakia last year. Dutch manager Jurrie van der Velden should know what to do to get Sikowo to make the necessary improvement, especially with experience from his second appearance at the World Championships in Doha, Qatar, last year.
A spate of knee and ankle injuries had taken their toll on Kiplagat’s career over the last six years but the national steeplechase record holder shook them off and qualified for a record sixth Worlds appearance in Doha last year where he posted 8:24.24 in the Heats. He will be aiming for a rare feat for a Ugandan – a third straight ticket to the Olympics – if he can beat the 8:22.00 mark. The 2012 Africa Senior bronze medallist has enough experience to do it.
The 18-year-old’s career has grown in leaps and bounds since finishing fifth in the 3000m final at the 2017 World Youth Championships in Kenya, before a silver at the 2018 Africa Youth Games in Algeria. In March last year, Chelimo won bronze over the junior men’s 6km at the World Cross-country Championships in Aarhus, Denmark. He was at the Doha Worlds last September but missed out on the 5000m final.
“I am still young but I will try to qualify for the Olympics,” Chelimo said in Doha. Like Mayanja, he must improve his 5000m PB (13:20.10) to beat the qualifying time of 13:13.50.
He may not only get the credit he deserves but Kipyeko is a two-time National Cross-country Champion as well as a silver medallist at the 2016 Africa Cross-country Championships in Cameroon. He has been treating a knee problem in Kenya recently and should return in time to attempt to beat the 5000m qualifying mark of 13:13.50. His Rio Olympics ended in the Heats.
After winning nine titles and the World Senior Men’s 10km silver medal during the cross-country season last year, Kiplimo suffered a problem on the tibialis anterior muscle that kept him on the sidelines, consequently missing the 10000m final at the Doha Worlds.
He has not been on track since finishing sixth in the 5000m final at the World Junior Championships in Tampere, Finland, on July 14, 2018.
However, Kiplimo will be buoyed by his wins in the Greater Manchester 10K Run in England in May and second-place finish at the Corrida Internacional de São Silvestre 15K in Brazil on New Year’s Eve.
“He will run in March,” Kiplimo’s manager Federico Rosa said.
Aged 16, he was Uganda’s youngest Olympian in Rio four years ago but did not make it past the 5000m Heats. He must run 27:28.00 or faster over the 25-lap race by June 29.
Toroitich is the other of the quartet from the Rio campaign who is yet to secure a ticket to Tokyo. He is currently in transition from track to road and this has so far won at the Great Scottish Run and finished second at the Lisbon Half-Marathon in Portugal last year. The 28-year-old could attempt to qualify for Tokyo over the 10000m by June 29 or try and run under 2:11:30 for a marathon debut by May. In Rio, he finished 28th in the 10000m final.
The London 2012 Olympian is also plotting a switch to marathon. He was seventh in Aarhus and third at the Lisbon Half-Marathon last year. By winning the Cáceres de Campo 10K Grand Prix in Spain last month, Ayeko will surely throw his cards over the 10000m for a ticket to Tokyo.
Kipsiro will be 37 when Paris 2024 Olympics starts. Already battling niggles and knee problems for the last six years, this surely is the last realistic chance for one of Uganda’s greatest athletes to run at the global Games.
Kipsiro is only seeking an Olympic medal to affirm his legendary status, but his marathon spell hasn’t been rosy. Since his debut in 2016, he has only run three races, finishing fourth at the 2017 Ottawa Marathon in Canada in his last race. To be safe, he must post a sub-2:07 to earn one of three available tickets as seven men have already qualified for Tokyo.
Uganda’s sprints notebook at recent championships is nearly empty. And if there’s anyone to jot something on it, it is 400m ace Leni. In Doha last year, she became the first Ugandan sprinter to feature in the Worlds since Atalanta ‘96 Olympic bronze medallist Davis Kamoga picked silver at Athens 1997 in Greece.
Leni has rewritten national record over the lap seven times since 2018 and with a PB of 51.47 seconds, she will need a slight push to knock off the qualifying mark of 51.35 to become the first Ugandan sprinter at the Olympics since Justine Bayiga at Beijing 2008.
Chebet still held her gentle smile even if she ran only 15km of the historic night marathon at the Doha Worlds. The former national record holder has a chance to join Zurich Marathon champion Juliet Chekwel in Tokyo but must run a marathon under 2:29:30 before May 31.
If she makes it, Uganda will field two women marathoners at an Olympics edition for the first time in history.
2: Japanese capital Tokyo is the first city in Asia to host the Summer Olympics Games twice, the first being in 1964.
3: Uganda had only three participants in athletics on their debut Olympics at Melbourne 1956 in Australia. They were sprinter Benjamin Ngunda, Patrick Etolu in high jump and Lawrence Ogwal in long jump and triple jump.
4: Only four countries have featured in all 28 editions of the Olympics; Great Britain, France, Switzerland and Greece
7: Uganda has won a total of seven medals from 15 editions of the Olympic Games
Tokyo qualified athletes
WOMEN Halima Nakaayi - 800m
Winnie Nanyondo - 800m, 1500m
Peruth Chemutai - 3000m St’chase
Stella Chesang - 5000m
Sarah Chelangat - 5000m
Juliet Chekwel - Marathon
MEN Ronald Musagala - 1500m
Albert Chemutai - 3000m St’chase
Stephen Kissa - 5000m
Joshua Cheptegei - 10000m
Abdallah Mande - 10000m
*MARATHON (max. of three can compete)
Fred Musobo, Stephen Kiprotich,
Solomon Mutai, Filex Chemonges,
Geoffrey Kusuro, Jackson Kiprop &