KAMPALA- By being an Olympic year, Uganda Olympic Committee (UOC) was the most body after the government suspended sports activity in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
UOC activities in the buildup to the Tokyo Olympic Games were cut short in mid-March and the whole plan got botched when the International Olympic Committee pushed the quadrennial Games to 2021.
During their recent meeting attended by 55 participants from UOC member national federations, UOC commissions and executive committee members, UOC announced a revised calendar to help more athletes secure tickets to Japan.
“The physical engagement with our members as well as the disruption to the athlete preparations/ training for the postponed Tokyo Games,” UOC general secretary Donald Rukare explained the effect of the pandemic.
Much of UOC’s outdoor activity plan has been cut short with digital solutions mitigating loss of time.
“We have to reprogram our operations for example conduct online executive committees, council meetings and the Advance Sports Management Course (ASMC),” noted Rukare, also the National Council of Sports (NCS) chairman. Having formulated Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) with member bodies, NCS and UOC are awaiting a government response about the resumption of sports activity.
“We are optimistic that the situation will improve to permit sports to operate and training to start for those that have qualified (for Olympics),” Rukare told this paper. “Protecting the safety and health of our athletes remains the central focus.” Before the pandemic, 20 athletes had qualified for the Tokyo Olympics with the list comprising 18 runners of which seven are male marathoners, boxer Musa Bwogi and US-based rower Noble Kathleen.
UOC’s new program is focused on raising the numbers to Japan. “We could look at 25-30,” Rukare said of the tally expected to go to Tokyo.
“We are hoping to get more from swimming, boxing, weightlifting, skating and maybe rugby,” he added.
The quartet of swimmers Avice Meya, Selina Katumba, Atuhaire Ambala and Tendo Mukalazi are in line for wildcards to Tokyo.
However, the odds are high for boxers to Bwogi to Tokyo via the World Olympic Qualifier next May.
No skater has ever qualified from Uganda in Olympic history and no weightlifter has made it since Charles Ssekyaaya in London eight years ago.
At the height of the lockdown, UOC gave each Tokyo-bound athlete a financial support of Shs1.5m each and according to president William Blick, they plan to offer more to athletes they think could make the Tokyo grade.
Uganda sent 21 competitors in three sports at the 2016 Rio Games in Brazil while 15 competed in four disciplines at the 2012 London Games where Stephen Kiprotich won marathon gold.
QUALIFIED FOR TOKYO
Women: Halima Nakaayi (800m), Winnie Nanyondo (800m & 1500m), Peruth Chemutai (3000m steeplechase), Stella Chesang & Sarah Chelangat (5000m), Juliet Chekwel (Marathon) Men: Ronald Musagala (1500m), Albert Chemutai (3000m Steeplechase), Stephen Kissa (5000m), Joshua Cheptegei & Abdallah Mande (10000m), *Fred Musobo, *Stephen Kiprotich, *Solomon Mutai, *Filex Chemonges, *Geoffrey Kusuro, *Jackson Kiprop & *Robert Chemonges (all Marathon) *Only 3 will compete
Welterweight: Shadir Musa Bwogi
Single Scull Category - 2km: Grace Noble Kathleen