What you need to know:
- She has won the last five league titles and is raring to go for a sixth in a row, one year and three months after giving birth to twins
Ritah Imanishimwe is one of the names that have dominated Ugandan basketball in the last decade. She has featured on all fronts from high school, university and in the top flight as well as different national teams.
She has won the last five league titles and is raring to go for a sixth in a row, one year and three months after giving birth to twins.
Having won a three-peat with UCU Lady Canons between 2015 and 2017, she crossed to JKL Lady Dolphins and helped the side to the 2018 and 2019 titles.
She used the Covid-19 for maternity and was ready to bounce back last year, only for the league to be cancelled and has since been on her road back to the top.
When the league tipped off last Friday, she was resuming a quest for a sixth title in six seasons.
“For the last two months, I have had personal workout sessions with Ram Nyakana, one of the best physios and worked on my fitness and endurance mainly,” the shooting guard told Score in an exclusive interview.
“I barely worked out the last two years of no basketball and I am happy to be back.”
The long break of no basketball allowed the former UCU guard time for family and is one of the various sports women who used the time to give birth and are now back in shape for the full reopening of sports activities.
“It was a great feeling to step back on the court after becoming a mother,” she says.
“I was excited and eager to see what I could do since it’s usually said and believed that after childbirth, one can barely play or play as good as they were before.”
In good shape
At the UCU Invitational last weekend, the guard looked like her former self and competed well as her side finished third.
“I’m in good shape now considering I worked on weight loss (after the kids), fitness, conditioning and endurance. I’ll be working on my ball work progressively through the season.”
Nyakana, who has been helpful in Imanishimwe’s road back, is also confident she is ready to play at the highest level yet again.
“Ritah is in a very good shape because she has actually put in work,” the Silverbacks strength and conditioning coach told Score.
Appreciate the game
Imanishimwe is one of the several sports women who have not had to worry about schools throughout her career. At Crane High, she was on a full scholarship before crossing to UCU from where she completed a Bachelors of Journalism and Mass Communication.
Having started out in 2008 as a senior one student at Crane High, she was lured into the game by her three sisters who dragged her to the court for the first time.
She played bare footed and in sandals to start her career but all that is now history as she is now a permanent fixture on the Gazelles team and has played 3x3 basketball at the highest level.
“I love playing the game and also everyone around me, family and friends are super supportive,” Imanishimwe says.
“Not forgetting the game has done so much for me, financially from paying my tuition from high school, through university and now I earn from it.”
Tough season ahead
UCU Lady Canons’ victory over the weekend must have sent a message to JKL although the side is expected to be a lot more competitive than they were at the tournament. They played without their captain and best player Flavia Okecho and will be much better with her back in the side.
Imanishimwe expects a tough season but believes they still have what it takes to retain the title.
“I have no doubts we can win it. Whoever wants it more will walk away with it. Let’s wait and see what the season has in store,” she says.
“The season is definitely going to be tough but we’re ready to hustle it all the way and we’ve very good chances of taking it home this year as well.”
As one of the stars in the country, Imanishimwe inspires several girls looking to take up a career in basketball or sport in general.
She says her key to the top has mainly been discipline, without which she can’t see anyone progressing in life.
“Discipline is key. It does not matter how good one is, if you can’t be respectful and humble, you have failed as a player.
“The game has so much to teach beyond just playing it so it’s a good feeling to be a sports woman.”