KAMPALA- By Sunday the 13 boxers who excelled at the National Olympic trials will enter camp at Luzira Prison, where they will reside for five weeks until they travel to Dakar for the Africa Olympic Qualifiers late February.
To first-timers, like Sweden-born Alex Bwambale, it will of course be a strange feeling, but to others like 2019 African Games silver medalist David Ssemujju, it will be normal life in Season Two.
Last year, Ssemujju was among the Bombers who camped inside the Luzira Prison walls, endured the strict yet under facilitated prison life for months until their trip to Rabat.
Whether it was a coincidence or not, Ssemuju has no regret about the means after reaping a silver medal, his first ever international silverware after a very impressive show on the continent.
“I don’t care where we camp as long as we do the right preps,” Ssemuju told Daily Monitor yesterday. “One good thing in I remember about Luzira was that ring from which we trained. It helped us a lot in perfecting our ring craft. The other things were normal.” About the strictness of prison rules, Ssemujju said: “It helped us bond and develop a national spirit.” Featherweight Isaac Masembe, who also won silver in Rabat, would prefer camping at Lugogo because of the gym. “But what’s the sense in staying at Lugogo when we are not allowed ample time at the gym?”
Super heavyweight Solomon Geko’s concurs: “Well, at first we had issues being monitored like children but we got used and adjusted.” Geko was in camp for the 2014 and 2018 Commonwealth Games, but the Luzira camp is the longest he has ever stayed away from his family.
“We concentrated, because there were no unnecessary moving out like was the case in other camps,” he said.
However, Yasin Adinan, who defeated archrival Joshua Tukamuhebwa for the lightweight slot, does not know what to expect.
“I have only been to camps in Lugogo. So I don’t know what it is like to camp in a prison.”
Adinan missed the prison camp for the African Games last year after losing the preliminary eliminator to Tukamuhebwa in May 2019. But he was part of the Bombers squad that camped in Lugogo before conquering the inaugural East African Games in Burundi in 2018.
He also camped in Lugogo ahead of the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa, where he failed to box due to weight issues.
Captain speaks out
Meanwhile, Bombers captain Musa Shadir was reticent about camping in Luzira, again. “I won’t say much but I would prefer another camp.”
Camp manager Zebra Ssenyange said six of those who lost the final trials will be selected as sparring partners for the main boxers.
He did not mention names but Yusuf Nkobeza, who gave Ssemuju a tough test for the middleweight slot; Jonah Kyobe, who challenged Isaac Masembe for the featherweight spot and Sarah Laker who lost the lightweight ticket to Rebecca Amongin are some of the likeliest candidates.
Head coach Patrick Lihanda, who will be assisted by seven others, endorses the Luzira camp because it shields boxers from the distractions like families and friends: “One only gets out with a genuine, urgent reason.” He, however, admitted the urgent need for equipment like dumbbells, weights, car tyres for the boxers’ power training.
THE BOMBERS SQUAD
Dissan Mubiru (52kg),
Isaac Masembe (57kg),
Yasin Adinan (63kg)
Musa Shadir (69kg),
David Ssemuju (75kg),
Joshua Male (81kg)
Alex Bwambale (91kg),
Solomon Geko (+91kg)
Catherine Nanziri (51kg),
Emilly Nakalema (69kg),
Suzan Akello (57kg),
Rebecca Amongin (60kg),
Doreen Nassali (75kg)