New Olympics deadlines give sprinter Leni courage

Thursday April 9 2020

Leni is relieved and looking to make the most

Leni is relieved and looking to make the most of the new qualification deadline. PHOTO BY ISMAIL KEZAALA 

By DARREN ALLAN KYEYUNE

The rescheduling of the new qualification window for Tokyo 2020 Olympics has opened a wide sprint lane for Shida Leni in her bid to join the Games party when it opens in July next year.

The sprinter, who has been rewriting national records over the lap event, says she now has some favourable time to fine tune her spikes and sprint plan to earn a ticket to Tokyo.

“Yes, it gives me more time to try prepare and qualify,” Leni said.

In Doha, Qatar, last September, Leni became the first sprinter in 22 years -- since Davis Kamoga -- to represent Uganda at the World Championships. To reach Doha, Leni had rewritten the national record over the lap seven times in less then two years to a personal best of 51.47 seconds.

But that PB is 12 seconds short of the qualifying mark for a sprinter looking to compete alongside Salwa Eid-Naser, the Nigerian-born Bahraini world champion and favourite for gold when the Games open in July 2021.
“By working hard on my weak areas and to maintain the training seriously as I still have a long way,” Leni said.

The 25-year-old sprinter did not progress in Doha but hopes that the knowledge picked from interactions with star sprinters like American Allyson Felix - the most decorated runner in World Athletics Championships history - and 200m world champion Diner Asher-Smith of Great Britain will come in handy.

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“I also picked a lot of lessons from Doha like say how much time and focus you need to have in yourself, the ideal ways to keep the fitness... so all those are important to me,” she added.

The World Athletics said Tuesday that qualification events will resume on December 1, on grounds that the health situation normalises across the globe.

“The end of the Olympic qualification periods are May 31, 2021 (for 50km race walk and marathon) and June 29, 2021 for all other events,” reads part of World Athletics’ email.

“Athletes who have already met the entry standard since the start of the qualification period in 2019 remain qualified and will be eligible for selection by their respective Member Federations and National Olympic Committees, together with the other athletes who will qualify within the extended qualification period.”

Results from events over the next eight months until December 1 will be recorded but won’t count in the qualification to the Games due July 23 to August 8, 2021.

The new calendar also gives sports federations a breather as the postponing of the Olympics and other sporting events had left them in a rush to reschedule the remaining qualification events.

Uganda has not had a sprinter feature at the Olympics since Justine Bayigga at the Beijing 2008 Games in China. 18 runners have already qualified for Tokyo.

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