What you need to know:
- Kabuye’s next mission is to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics after ranking behind Atuhaire for the 2020 Tokyo Games.
Adnan Kabuye is set to join the ever growing list of Ugandan swimmers moving abroad to enhance their potential and academics.
Kabuye feels years of hard work are paying off through joining Iowa Central Community College (ICCC), US, to swim under coach Joe Plane for two years.
“Initially, a scouting agency contacted me after Budapest (2019 World Junior Championships) asking if I wanted to swim in the US,” Kabuye opens up, after one of his trainings at Hotel Africana, as he signs his commitment forms in the presence of his Dolphins Swim Club teammates.
“But they were charging ridiculous amounts - over $15,000 (about Shs54m). But we searched till we got this 40 per cent scholarship (from ICCC),” adds Kabuye, who alongside his supportive mother Rachael Mwagale, think it is only right that they share this achievement with his teammates, who include his sister Sophia Almor Naggayi,
“Adnan is such a leader. He is always looking out for what his teammates need to improve,” Mwagale interjects.
“Life is about who you impact and whatever you get in life, you must look back immediately. He could have gone quietly but we’ve not been swimming alone.”
Kabuye, 19, started swimming at eight and competing for both Dolphins and Aga Khan School at 12.
His discipline and dedication have rubbed off to his teammates and endeared him to parents, coaches, Uganda Swimming Federation (USF) officials and swimmers from other clubs.
“I started swimming to follow in the footsteps of my sister Aaliyah.
“I was also inspired to take on backstroke by Arnold (Kisulo - multi national record holder between 2012 and 2017). But I can’t forget the love of coaches and entire Dolphins family,” Kabuye adds.
Growing up, the towering 6’7 swimmer, was part of a promising boys’ group; Tendo Mukalazi, Darren Ssamula and Ben Kaganda here then Atuhaire Ambala in Nairobi then, twins; Fadhil and Nabil Saleh in South Africa, and Jesse Ssengonzi in the US.
With Kisulo and brothers Joshua and Elisha Ekirikubinza ahead of them, it looked like a ‘golden age’ of Ugandan swimming and no one knows that better than Kabuye who has missed a few national team selections to faster peers.
“You can’t control some stuff so you’ve to be patient, work hard and make sure you’re on top of the list the next time.”
Much of his missing out is down to his love for both swimming and basketball.
In 2015, Kabuye was introduced to basketball by school coach Raymond Muhumuza and the young centre was immediately hooked.
In 2016, he played in the NBA Fuba Junior League and the love triangle continued until Covid-19 hit with lockdowns early last year.
Swimming struggled to emerge from lockdown and Kabuye nearly ditched it for basketball.
“Missing just two swimming sessions is a disaster. Now, imagine missing a year! The guidelines to return to swimming were also quite tight but with basketball, we could play, skip a rope, jog,” adds Kabuye, who was convinced by a family friend to train with Betway Power and even opened up to representing them in the National Basketball League.
“When I was about to make the decision, God sent a sign as USF sent me, despite all those months off training, to South Africa (with Ambala) for the Cana Swim Camp. That showed me the trust USF had in me but I still wanted basketball too.
“Coach Raymond told me that leaving swimming would be the dumbest thing I’d ever do after all the years I have put in. And he wants to see me at the Olympics.”
He eventually chose swimming and although Dolphins coach Muzafaru Muwanguzi had changed base from the still closed Aga Khan Nursery School to Hotel Africana, Kabuye waited till the club could make provisions for him to train.
All he has left with basketball now are memories and a number of swim teammates tussling it out there too.
Kabuye’s next mission is to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics after ranking behind Atuhaire for the 2020 Tokyo Games.
“I’m now open to new ideas here and in Iowa. I’m sure my nutrition will change, there will be more gym work and I will qualify for Paris.”
In the US, there is a practice called redshirting, where foreign athletes do not get enough support to maximise these opportunities as they are not usually the main focus of the head coaches.
Kabuye tries to avoid this by communicating regularly with Plane before he travels next September.
“The coach is convinced, I have not unlocked something in me because of the way I’m built; my size, height and power. He wants me on his relay team and that shows his confidence in me.”
Scholarships such as these allow Ugandan swimmers access to better facilities.
Mukalazi, who Kabuye has swum with the longest, and Kirabo Namutebi are crashing it at the Fina Development Centre in Kazan, Russia, and Kabuye looks to follow in their steps.
“I want to swim at two or more Olympics. Tendo was at the World Cup, where he did really well and I believe I can go there and in the International Swimming League (ISL) too,” Kabuye says adding that he trusts Plane’s programme as it has produced a swimmer (Nikola Trajanovski) that clocks 20.98 and (Jonathon Turner making 20.70) in 50m freestyle.
Kabuye also has the support of the man he is leaving at the deck.
“If Adnan is put in a good programme, he will definitely do very well. However, for me, he is a long distance swimmer.
Unfortunately, here (in Uganda), we are promoting the sprints – the 50m and 100m events,” coach Muwanguzi says.
“But if we trained and qualified for distance events then the opportunities are there too.”
Muwanguzi, however, hopes that he can keep in touch with his swimmers when they are away as it is hard to keep them in the water when scholarships end.
“Most of them cut the chord with us, there is usually no connection with what we do here and what they do there. So when they return, there is friction.
“It is important that they go but my message to those who get them the scholarships, especially USF and Fina, is that teach us (local coaches) how to fish and don’t just fish for us – involve us in what happens in those training programmes.”
At a glance
Name: Adnan Kabuye
School: Aga Khan School
*Now headed to Iowa Central Community College, US
Club: Dolphins Swim Club
Born: September 8, 2002
Parents: Muhammad Mulindwa and Rachael Mwagale
Kabuye’s best times
Short course Long course
100m free 54:71 100m free 55:25
50m free 24:71 50m free 24:89
50m fly 26:60 50m fly 26:80
50m back 28:72 50m back 29:07
100m back 1:03:00 100m back 1:03:00