Eight years without gold: Hits and misses in Rabat

Monday September 2 2019

L-R: Uganda’s sprint quartet of Shida Leni,

L-R: Uganda’s sprint quartet of Shida Leni, Emily Nanziri, Nasiba Nabirye and Stella Wonkuru pose with their 4 X 400m bronze medals in company of coach Paul Okello (C) at the Olympic Stadium in Rabat on Friday, Uganda’s first since 1987. COURTESY PHOTO 

By ABDUL-NASSER SSEMUGABI & DARREN ALLAN KYEYUNE

Uganda’s eight medals at the African Games in Rabat—two silver, six bronze—is basically a better harvest than the two bronze in Brazzaville 2015 [except the gold and silver by para-athletes]. But by Accra 2023 Uganda’s wait for gold will be 12 years since Maputo 2011.

Boxing came close to gold, but the Bombers are just rising from a barrage of chaos, which explains their gold drought since 1999. But athletics, which took the biggest contingent, (27 athletes) takes the biggest blame.

They got nothing in Brazzaville 2015, but the Rabat harvest also lacked. Without favourites Winnie Nanyondo, Ronald Musagala and Joshua Cheptegei, who were reaping dollars in the Diamond League, Halima Nakaayi, for example should have won better than bronze.But the achievements first.

First finals and silver
Featherweight Isaac Masembe and middleweight David Ssemuju missed gold by a whisker. But credit them for becoming the first Ugandan boxers to reach the Games final since 1999, before they settled for silver. Their predecessors only managed four bronze medals in the past four editions.

Lady Bombers’ medal
Hellen Baleke’s bronze is 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 2001.
It’s was also the first time Uganda fielded [two] women boxers at the African Games. Seems given chance, the lady Bombers can enhance national glory as have their male mates.

Weightlifting, chess thumbs up
Of the 12 disciplines Uganda competed in weightlifting and chess weren’t among medal hopefuls.
But Zubairi Kubo picked a bronze in the men’s 96kg category, Uganda’s first ever weightlifting medal at the Games.

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He lifted a total 301kg, (snatch in 131kg) and (107kg in clean and jerk). Earlier, Fide master had won bronze, Uganda’s first-ever chess medal, with 6.5 points in the men’s rapid individual contest.
Sprint records
Shida Leni’s combo with Jacent Nyamahunge, Nasiba Nabirye and Emilly Nanziri fetched a surprise bronze in the 4x400m relay in 32.25 minutes. It’s Uganda’s first since Farida Kyakutema and co. got bronze in Nairobi 1987.

Badminton presence
Edwin Ekiring got bronze, silver and bronze at Algiers 2007, Maputo 2011 and in Brazzaville 2015 in men’s singles’. Gladys Mbabazi and Aisha Nakiyemba scooped bronze in the women’s doubles in Rabat.

Our judge in charge
Stephen Aciga Fula is the most high profile referee/judge currently in Ugandan boxing. But he has been accused of bias and has occasionally survived assault at Lugogo.

However in the two years running, Aiba, the international boxing body, has hired him at international events. In Rabat, Aciga handled several bouts and in most, his decision was in tandem with the majority. For long, Uganda lacked such officials at big boxing events.

Bombers could do better
Medals could hide the six Bombers failure. Hellen Baleke, tried likewise Jalia Nali. Youngster Joshua and Champion Businge are the other exemptions. But how could captain Musa Shadir Bwogi, on his third international duty, and Solomon Geko, lose instantly?

Leni injury
At Namboole Leni breaks national records at will. But against even faster runners in Rabat, she finished sixth in the women’s 400m final in 52.47sec, [her PB is 51.47sec].
She needs more tests at the Doha World Championship next month. Hope the hamstring injury sustained in Rabat isn’t serious.

UGANDA’S MEDALLISTS AT RABAT 2019

BOXING: Isaac Masembe (Featherweight Silver), Hellen Baleke (Middleweight Bronze), David Ssemujju (Middleweight Silver)
ATHLETICS: Halimah Nakaayi (800m Bronze), Women’s 4 X 400m Bronze
CHESS: Harold Wanyama (Rapid Individual Bronze)
BADMINTON: Women’s Doubles bronze (Gladys Mbabazi & Aisha Nakiyemba)
WEIGHTLIFTING: Zubairi Kubo (Men’s 96kg bronze)

editorial@ug.nationmedia.com

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