Ugandan athletics’ dilemma and lessons for 2018 Commonwealth travails

As coach, he has been credited for a role in the rise of Stephen Kiprotich, the world and Olympic marathon champion

Medal hopeful: Cheptegei will be Uganda’s brightest medal in Goldcoast, Australia 

BY George Katongole



Newly appointed Uganda athletics national team coach Nalis Bigingo is known for his shrewd leadership.
As coach, he has been credited for a role in the rise of Stephen Kiprotich, the world and Olympic marathon champion.
His composure is what athletes need in a high octane competition where glory can be made overnight or a proven star be named a tourist in the blink of an eye.
But the Prisons coach is also in a dilemma as Uganda prepares to participate in the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games that kick off in just 25 days.
Crawling to Gold Coast
Of the 23-man squad, sixteen athletes managed to beat the set qualifying times while the other six were only handpicked to fill the slots availed to the federation.
“They were put on the team because they were closest to qualifying,” Uganda Athletics Federation (UAF) spokesman Namayo Mawerere said of their inclusion.
Apart from Shida Leni, all the other sprinters and middle distance runners struggled.

Too early to run
Dorcus Ajok, who made the cut after Saturday’s final qualifying time trial at Namboole, admitted the timing of the Commonwealth Games this year posed a big challenge.
“I am relieved to qualify but surely most of us cannot be able to hit the peak in the first quarter of the year,” Ajok said after qualifying on the seventh attempt.
Coach Raphael Kasajja of the Uganda Wildlife Authority team concurred with her assertions saying the long distance runners have the benefit of the early season.
“Normally, the athletics season starts with the distance races and it’s just warm up for the sprinters.
So it’s hard to adjust bodies to such high tempo runs this early. Actually, the distance runners will still be the hope for Uganda in Australia,” Kasajja said. Qualifying for the prestigious Gold Coast games began in October last year.

Bigingo has work cut out for him
The head coach has a duty of not only inspiring the athletes low on confidence but ensure they are in the right shape with limited time remaining. Joshua Cheptegei, Moses Kiplimo and Jacob Kiplimo will surely be the medal hopefuls so is Mercyline Chelangat. Ali Ngaimoko, who had injured his right leg on Saturday, may find it difficult to regain top speed in time but Bigingo still has hope.
Bigingo wants his team to excel and is confident they will go all the way.

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