Uganda’s pursuit for a medal in athletics at the African Games will begin today when 10 runners line-up for races at the Prince Moulay Abdellah Sports Complex in Rabat, Morocco.
For first time in the Games’ history, the nation did not win a medal in track and field at the previous edition in Brazzaville, Congo in 2015. With athletics having secured the most places on the team’s plane to Rabat, it is time to vindicate their numbers.
Sprinters Jacent Nyamahunge and Pius Adome will be the first on track in the women and men’s 100m Round 1 Heats but more attention will be on sprinter Shida Leni, teenager Sarah Chelangat and Stella Chesang. In company of Stella Wonkuru and Nasiba Nabirye, Leni will be in the spotlight in the 400m preliminary Heats, a race where she has rewritten the national record (NR) thrice this year.
“It is a bit hot here but I am fine,” the 25-year-old said yesterday. “My plan is qualify for the semi-finals, then final.”
However, it is Chelangat and Chesang with Uganda’s clear shot at a medal. They will be the last in action for the day when they feature in the women’s 5000m final.
Chelangat is a medal prospect after rewriting the 5000m NR to 15:00.61 at the Nijmegen Global Athletics Meet in Netherlands on June 15.
“My body is doing fine so I have been working on speed for a medal in Morocco,” the 18-year-old told this paper in a recent interview.
“I think I can win something in Rabat then I focus on the World Championships,” the Uganda Wildlife Authority Club runner confidently said.
Chelangat has already tasted continental delight when she scooped 5000m bronze at the Africa U20 Championships in Abidjan, Ivory Coast on April 20.
That came nearly a month she had missed a medal by a second in an iconic photo-finish a behind Kenyan Beatrice Chebet and Ethiopian pair Alemitu Tariku and Tsigie Gebreselama who had all tied on 20:50 in the junior women’s 6km race at the IAAF World Cross-country Championships in Denmark on March 30.
Chelangat will however, require guidance from Commonwealth 10000m champion Chesang who had broken the same NR six days prior. None in the 20-man field has a richer profile than Chesang.
Abel Sikowo will feature in the men’s 3000m steeplechase final while Halimah Nakaayi and Abu Mayanja are entered for the 800m. Leonard Opiny and Haron Adoli will also run the men’s 400m preliminary Heats.
Elsewhere, Simon Ayella and David Oringa exited the men’s lawn tennis singles at the preliminary stage while Uganda failed the Mali hurdle at the women’s basketball 3X3 quarterfinals.
The quintet of Davis Senono, Brian Kasirye, Daniel Mihigo, Gladys Mbabazi and Aisha Nakiyemba will begin their quest in the singles at Ain Chok Indoor Center today.
Chess players Arthur Ssegwanyi and Harold Wanyama have business in the men’s rapid individual event at Grand Mogador Hotel.
AFRICAN GAMES - TODAY
11:50am: Women’s 100m Round 1 Heats
12:20pm: Men’s 100m Round 1
6pm: Women’s 400m Round 1
6:30pm: Men’s 400m Round 1
7:50pm: Men’s Steeplechase Final
8:10pm: Women’s 800m Round 1
8:30pm: Men’s 800m Round 1
9:10pm: Women’s 5000m Final
11am: Men & Women’s Singles
12pm: Men’s Rapid Individual