2017: Year Ugandan sport broke global frontiers

Thursday December 7 2017

Joy. Peace Proscovia (Middle) led the She

Joy. Peace Proscovia (Middle) led the She Cranes to the Commonwealth Games after lifting the African Netball Championship in June while Coach Micho (L) led Uganda Cranes to Afcon. David Emong (R) won gold in the T46 1500m race at the World Para Athletics Championship in London in July. PHOTOS BY ISMAIL KEZAALA 

By Andrew Mwanguhya

Emong top of the world
The 2016 Paralympic silver medallist, David Emong, charmed the world when clinched gold in the T46 1500m race at the World Para Athletics Championship in London in July. That he represented Uganda alone after his would-be teammates Christine Akullo, Sam Mubajje and Al-Bashir Bwaga were dropped for lack of facilitation tells a lot about his character and discipline. Emong raced from behind to run his personal best time of 3:58:36 minutes, beating arch-rival and 2016 Olympic champion Samir Nouioua of Algeria. This was also Emong and Uganda’s first ever gold medal at the World Para Athletics.
Cheptegei announces self in London
Joshua Cheptegei’s star has been rising like a whirlwind. That journey of one of Uganda’s biggest young talents hit new heights in August when Cheptegei produced his best race ever to win 10000m silver at the IAAF London World Championships. It says a lot when you finish only behind Briton Mo Farah in a field of highly talented and experienced runners. Cheptegei fended off the Kenyan duo of Paul Tanui and Bedan Karoki to finish second in 26 minutes and 49.94 seconds at the Olympic Stadium in Stratford. This was the 20-year-old’s first senior athletics medal. The 2014 World Junior 10000m, 2014 World University Cross-country and 2015 Africa 10000m gold medals are also among his collection.

Kiplimo makes history in X-Country
In a tournament Uganda put up largely a poor show in March, teenager Jacob Kiplimo emerged from obscurity to rescue the World Cross Country Championship hosts by claiming the country’s first ever gold medal at the event. The 10,000 metres bronze medallist at the 2016 IAAF World U20 Championships posted 22 minutes and 40 seconds to win the Junior Men’s 8km race at Kololo.

Rugby Cranes reach for the sky
Two precious birds could not escape the precise shooting of the Rugby Cranes as Tolbert Onyango’s men meticulously defended the Africa Rugby 7s Championship in October to qualify - for the first time ever - for 2018 World Cup. It is due July in San Francisco. That the team achieved the feat on the back of poor facilitation tells a lot about players sacrifice and character. It is the 38-12 semifinal victory over Zambia that confirmed the qualification before the Rugby Cranes saw off Zimbabwe 10-7 in the final.

Lady Cricket Cranes shine brightest
Where the Cricket Cranes hit the abyss, their women counterparts – the Lady Cricket Cranes - shot through the roof. A red carpet was rolled out for the ladies on their return from the ICC Africa Women’s Twenty20 World Cup Qualifier in Windhoek, Namibia after they shook quarters far and wide. The new-look national women’s cricket team, majority of them students, stunned the cricketing world when they outsmarted higher-ranked nations Kenya and Zimbabwe to grab the continent’s lone ticket to the global qualifier.
Cranes back with the big boys
Uganda Cranes finally played at the Africa Cup of Nations, 39 years after they last graced the event. Few expected Uganda to hit the ground running in Gabon, but the Cranes left the tournament without embarrassment, losing 1-0 to Ghana (a penalty) and Egypt, before Farouk Miya, who also scored the goal that confirmed Uganda’s qualification last year, struck a pitcher of a goal in the 1-1 draw with Mali. That goal was voted by fans as the CNN Goal of the Tournament.

She Cranes storm Commonwealth Games
For winning the African Netball Championships in Kampala in June, Uganda’s national netball team qualified for the 2018 Commonwealth Netball Championship in Australia. The She Cranes are grouped with giants New Zealand and England in Pool B. Others are Malawi, Wales and Scotland.
Unstoppable Oilers
City Oilers successfully defended their Zone V Basketball title, which they had won last year in Tanzania, by easing past Rwanda’s Patriots 86-59 in the final at Lugogo in October. Import Jordin Mayers was the star man of the day, tallying a game high 21 points as Oilers confirmed their ticket to the Fiba Africa Club Champions.

KCCA exploits
A first ever double league and Cup double, and group stage appearance in the Caf Confederation Cup, is the best return in the club’s history.
The lows

Cricket Cranes relegation
Ugandan cricket must look at September 2018 with trepidation. That is the month and year Uganda will start new life in Division Four after being relegated in May. Home advantage counted for naught as Uganda collapsed at the hands of Canada at Lugogo, Oman at Kyambogo and USA in Entebbe to finish fifth in the six-team ICC World Cricket League Division Three. Uganda will now humble themselves and join Bermuda and Denmark among others in the lower tier.

Fufa Awards
You would think Fufa Awards organisers had learned a lesson from last year’s event, where an SMS voting system hands most of the powers to determine the winner to fans, ignored the widely expected winner in Denis Onyango for Muhammad Shaban. Fast forward to the 2017 edition, the same happened as Muzamir Mutyaba surprisingly beat favourite Geoffrey Sserunkuma to Player of the Year Award. Mutyaba scored six times and contributed eight assists as KCCA won the league title last season while Sserunkuma – also the club’s MVP - scored a league high 21 goals and 32 in all competitions.
Netball magic ballot
In an election pitting Susan Anek and Aidah Nambuusi Kibedi for Uganda Netball Federation (UNF) president in November, the Electoral Commission’s total returned two votes more than the announced 158 delegates, with the former polling 82 ahead of Nambuusi’s 78. Magical, isn’t it?

Disappearance acts
The year saw boxers David Ayiti, Geoffrey Kakeeto, and Muzamiru Kakande, who represented Uganda at the World Championships in Hamburg, Germany, go AWOL. Three of the 12 Rugby Cranes stars also vanished from the team hotel in Munic in the aftermath of the Oktoberfest Sevens. They are Ramathan Govule, Brian Kikaawa and Fred Odur.