In a year preceding the Paralympics, every athlete would want to put in their best performance not only to gauge their work but to also book that coveted ticket to the biggest para-sport event in the world. It’s a tough race.
Emong, Akullo disappoint
The same applies to David Emong and Christine Akullo ahead of the 2019 World Para Athletics Championship in Dubai last month.
They are most exposed and hitherto the most decorated Ugandan para-athletes. Emong being Uganda’s first [silver] medallist at the 2016 Paralympics, and a gold medallist at the 2017 World Championship.
While Akullo won gold at the 2011 and 2015 All-Africa Games.
But the pair failed in Dubai: despite finishing third in the 1500m T46 final, Emong was disqualified, under rule 18.2 (b), for blocking an opponent.
For an athlete of his experience, a defending champion with ambitions of breaking the World Record, this was more than a sorry show that even put his Tokyo 2020 qualification at risk. He just cannot afford to blunder at the Africa Para Games in Rabat in January.
Akullo wanted a medal but did not even come close, finishing fifth in Heat 2 of the 100m T13 semifinal. The only consolation for the visually-impaired runner might come when she is confirmed that she qualified for Tokyo because her 14.06 seconds is better than the 15.00 seconds qualifying mark for the Paralympics.
Kukundakwe, star of the year
Husnah Kukundakwe’s trajectory continued from where it stopped in 2018. Despite government’s little interest in funding her, the 12-year old in May competed at the World Series in Singapore and most importantly got classified in S9.
In September, her mother and manager Hashima Batamuriza and Dolphins Coach Muzafaru Muwanguzi, accompanied her to the World Para-swimming Championships in London, where she improved her personal bests in the 100m and 50m freestyle events.
For this performance, the youngest competitor at the event, could win a wildcard to the Tokyo Games next year. But even if she misses out, it won’t be a heartbreak after all, who doubts her better days are still ahead?
Mubajje double gold
Seems every year now a Ugandan para-athlete gets a medal from an international event. From Emong in 2017, to Nigo and shooter Richard Ayella in 2018, now para-sprinter Sam Mubajje scooped two gold medals at the World Military Games in Wuhan, China. Mubajje, the first Ugandan para-athlete at the Games, won the IT3 100m and 400m, to become the first Ugandan to win to gold medals at a world event in one day. Historic. Now he is focused on hitting the Tokyo qualifying mark in Rabat.
Malta nurtures more para-swimmers
Collins Matovu felt betrayed when Kukundakwe, a swimmer he nurtured from infancy, defected to Dolphins. But the good news is that as Kukundakwe’s star shines Matovu’s gifted hands are training four new para-swimmers at Malta Swim Club.
They are Precious Nankunda, 10, who won relays bronze for Sir Apollo Kaggwa Primary School at the Midland Schools event in March; Hermione Kyeserwa, 9, Rodney Ainomugisha, 10, of Trinity Primary School and Adel Ndusa, 10, of Aga Khan Primary School.
In an exhibition at the National Paralympic Games in Nkozi, Mpigi, they got the chance to dive in the same pool with Kukundakwe weeks after her London expedition. The excitement was mutual and Kukundakwe said: “I enjoyed this event and I’m happy for these young para-swimmers. It means in future international events I will no longer be alone.”
Low numbers at National Gala
Mbarara, the 2018 hosts did not attend the gala in Nkozi, likewise regular participants Mubende Military Rehabilitation Centre. Busia missed for the third consecutive year since they hosted the event in 2016.
Makerere University Business School did not make it, while Kyambogo University, for lack of accommodation funds, drove 96km daily [to and fro] for the two days they attended.
This, Uganda Paralympic Committee president Bumali Mpindi, said negates the Paralympic Movement’s goal of increasing awareness and widening the Paralympic pool. Amputee soccer recognized by world body
In June, Uganda participated in the inaugural Confederation of East and Central Africa Amputee Federation (Cecaaf) tournament in Dar es Salaam, winning the trophy for the most-disciplined team.
But their biggest accolade came in October when the World Amputee Football Federation announced its recognition of Fuafa, the Federation of Uganda Amputee Football Associations.
This is a giant leap for a sport that has been played in Uganda for close to five years, with a national federation formed only in 2017.
Lawrence Kitimbo, the Fuafa president, called it a product of a collective effort by friends around the world.
Nigo’s second chance
By getting bronze at the 2018 World Para-powerlifting Africa Championships in Algeria, Muhammed Nigo ranked among those who had qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Not yet.
At the World Para-powerlifting Championships in Astana, Kazakhstan, in July, his best lift was 130kg, 5kgs better than his bronze medal lift in Algiers. But it ranked 17th among 23 participants in the 72kg category. China’s Hu Peng bagged gold with 209kg, Iran’s Moradi Nader took silver with 202kg, as Nigeria’s Innocent Nnamdi took bronze with 190kg. To get the Tokyo ticket, Nigo might need to try again next year.
Kyankwanzi para-sport launch
The Uganda National Action on Disability (UNAPD), extended its new Disability Sports Project to Kayanja Military Barracks in Kyankwanzi.
Now, the veterans, most of whom wounded in the NRA Bush War and the LRA insurgence, will try their adaptive abilities in boccia, goalball, amputee soccer, wheelchair basketball, para-shooting, sitting volleyball, among others.
Lt Col. Khalid Nassur Nsubuga, commanding officer CMRC Kyankwanzi, thanked UNAPD “for giving us a platform to send a message to society that disability is not inability.”
The initiative replicates that in Mubende and Ntungamo Barracks.
Agitos Proud Paralympian summit
Ali Mukasa Kibirango and Aidah Zawedde, the athlete representatives at the Uganda Paralympic Committee (UPC) were Uganda’s delegates at the Agitos Proud Paralympian summit at Hotel Africana last month.
The two were joined by nine delegates from nine African countries, and four facilitators from Agitos Foundation, the developing arm of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), for the three-day workshop in which members shared their stories, challenged and strategies towards promoting the Paralympic Movement in Africa.
Chief facilitator South African Natalie du Toit said the summit’s cardinal goal is “bringing Africa closer to the IPC.”
Communication was one of the key components addressed and at the end of the summit. Members vowed to execute their duties better. They set themselves personal assignments but all agreed to: familiarising themselves with their National Paralympic Committee’s constitutions regarding athlete representation; sharing what they learnt in the workshop with their NPC’s and their athletes’ community and setting the standards for an African Athlete Representatives (AAR) network which will be consistently maintained.