Hellen Baleke’s bronze last year at Africa Games in Morocco became Uganda’s first medal by a female boxer, since Irene Sserunkuma and Mariam Nalukwago (RIP) won gold at the inaugural Africa Women Boxing Championships in Cairo 200l.
Now coach Mercy Mukankusi has tasked female boxers preparing for Olympic qualifiers due Dakar, Senegal to work hard and make winning habitual.
Five female boxers including flyweight Catherine Nanziri, feather weight Jalia Nali, lightweight Rebecca Amongin, welterweight Emily Nakalema and middle weight Doreen Nassali booked slots on the national boxing team after elimination trials at Lugogo and are looking forward to taking part in Olympic qualifiers.
The girls are undergoing intense preparations at Luzira training grounds alongside male counterparts, under eight coaches.
Mukankusi believes they are in shape to win medals and qualify for Olympics.
She adds that Baleke’s medal inspired many of the girls at the team to work harder.
“We have eight coaches, they are all helping to groom the team. We are taking a full team for the Olympic qualifiers so we expect medals,” Mukankusi said.
“Baleke’s medal taught us that it is possible for women to go on winning medals for Uganda,” she added.
Mukankusi has high hopes in the middle and welter weight boxers.
“Such weights do not have many competitors, so this can be an advantage to us as well,”
Only seven boxers registered in the women’s middleweight division at Africa Games and during the draws, Baleke was the lucky one to get a bye straight into the semis.
This guaranteed her at least bronze, and even when she surrendered to Moroccan Khadija Mardi, Baleke returned with bronze, becoming the first Ugandan lady boxer to win a medal at the continental Games.
Baleke was stopped by Nassali at the national elimination trials.
Nassali is eager to make her international debut.
“I feel so good that I will be representing my country. This is the biggest milestone in my boxing career and I hope to utilise it and bring a medal home,” Nassali told Daily Monitor before entering residential camp.