Uganda put up its best away swimming performance by coming second at the fifth edition of the Cana Zone III Swimming and Open Water Championships that climaxed Sunday in Nairobi – Kenya.
Only 55.5 points separated Uganda and winners Kenya.
Uganda had 28 swimmers – the most to have represented the country in a gala away from home – guided by coaches Muzafaru Muwanguzi, Erick Kisero, Simon Bahemuka and Latif Kajumbi. These made 150 entries amassing 2,392 points (1,421 from the dominant boys and 851 from girls), 58 personal bests (PBs) and 82 medals (22 gold, 36 silver and 24 bronze). Nine swimmers did open water winning one gold, three silvers and one bronze.
With back to back races for some swimmers, there were consequently fewer PBs but Muwanguzi ensured the swimmers flushed the burn out from one race by swimming down before another. Initially, the swim downs seemed as a culture shock for the swimmers as there are no warm down pools at home but they were eventually embraced as they saw the positives.
Uganda had eight debutants on the national team but Nairobi was not necessarily a new environment for their as clubs usually camp there for galas in February and May. The facilities at Stadion Hotel could have been better but for distance’s sake, it helped that the swimmers stayed within the Kasarani Sports Complex. Actually in the mornings, Uganda’s team started their warm up with an up-to 10 minute walk to the pool.
Balance in relays
For points’ championships, it is important to have formidable relay teams. The boys in the 14 and under age group led by Paulsen Settumba, Steve Magera and Shane Biriungi were exactly that as they scooped three relay golds (200m and 400m medley plus 400m free relays).
They would complete the team either with Zaabu Kyabayinze or Kisitu Hayyan. In their mixed relays, Swagiah Mubiru and Kirabo Namutebi came in handy for silver in the 400m free and medley relays.
The girls, who could team up with any of Karla Mugisha – who was operating with a calf injury, Mary Grace Banona, Karimah Katemba, Freda Luzinda Nakafu and Sophia Nagayi also won the 200m free relay, settled for silver in the 200m medley relay and bronze in the 400m ones.
For the big boys, Tendo Mukalazi, Adnan Kabuye, Ben Kaganda would combine with any of Ampaire Namanya, Francesco Kagugube and Kami Walusimbi for bronze in the 200m medley and 400m free relays and silver in the 400m medley relay.
Mukalazi and Kabuye also teamed up with Ahura Ambala and Chiara Nansamba Kagugube for bronze in the 400m mixed medley and free relays. Individually, Ian Aziku and Daniel Nuwagaba proved their worth in the 11-12 years age group. Kabuye also emerged as the second best performer in the senior boys’ category with 126 points. Namutebi, put up a stellar final day performance with four individual golds, to reach 174 points that made her the best swimmer in the 13-14 years age group.
17 and over girls
We will never know how this gala would have ended had Uganda had at least one girl swimming in the 17 and over age group. Or even a few others backing up the efforts of Nansamba and Nakafu in the 15-16 years age group. Or maybe those of Kayla Arinda and Katemba, who posted 91 individual points, in 11-12 years.
Uganda made its presence known from the onset – so much so that South African elite coach Hilton Slack could not resist claiming some of the credit.
“My programme has improved swimming in Uganda,” the self-aggrandising Slack, reportedly told one of the team chaperones. Slack’s Swim Lab Academy partners with local club Seals.
Ironically, while Slack was in Nairobi, many of the Seals that directly benefit from his programme and could have helped Uganda overwhelm Kenya were in South Africa for his Academy’s training camp. The Kagugube siblings are the only Seals that have swum for the national team in the past two years leaving questions on how exactly – apart from a host of galas – his programme impacts Uganda’s wider swimming.