Sprinter Leni takes Olympic bid to Zambia

Saturday April 10 2021
score01pix
By Allan Darren Kyeyune

Sprinter Shida Leni could have been one of the most affected Ugandan elite runners by the coronavirus pandemic disruptions.

The closure of Namboole Stadium to become a Covid-19 patient facility meant that the 400m runner was denied the tartan for long, a big blow to her quest for a ticket to the forthcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

“Being a quarter miler, I needed a lot on track so it really affected me,” she said in a recent interview. It further blew away the form she had built all the way to the 2019 Doha World Championships.

She only had two races in 2020. Now, Leni is running out of time as the second qualification period to Tokyo wraps up on June 29. With the prevailing restrictions, races have not been easy to come by.

Luckily, the national record (NR) holder will today line-up in Zambian capital Lusaka for the two-day All-Comers Meeting thanks to an invitation via Uganda Athletics Federation (UAF).

She will do the lap race with a bid to beat the 51.35 second qualifying mark. “I want to run a fast time, I am at 51.47 (NR) so need to work hard for those microseconds,” the 26-year-old noted.

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“When Namboole was not accessible, training at first was not easy but I am now trying my best and I can see the fitness is returning slowly,” added Leni, who has broken the 400m NR seven times since 2018.

No Ugandan sprinter has made it to the Olympic Games since Justine Bayigga at Beijing 2008.

Uganda, however, boasts of an Olympic medal from sprints – Davis Kamoga’s bronze at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
Meanwhile, Emmanuel Osuje, the other Ugandan in Lusaka, will compete over the 800m. He posted a personal best of 1:47.30 at Namboole in 2019 and competition in Lusaka could thrust him to hit the Olympic grade (1:45.20).

About 200 other athletes will convene at Namboole’s warm-up track for the fifth UAF Trials today.

LENI AT A GLANCE

Date of birth:     May 22, 1994
Main Event:     400m
Personal Best:     51.47
World Champs
Appearance:     1st (2019)
Coaches:     Kevin & Sue             O’Connor

Qualified athletes

Women
Halima Nakaayi    800m
Winnie Nanyondo    800m, 1500m
Peruth Chemutai    3000m Stc
Stella Chesang    5000m
Sarah Chelangat    5000m
Juliet Chekwel    Marathon
Men
Ronald Musagala    1500m
Albert Chemutai    3000m Stc
Stephen Kissa    5000m
Joshua Cheptegei    10000m
Abdallah Mande    10000m
*Fred Musobo, Stephen Kiprotich, Solomon Mutai, Filex Chemonges, Geoffrey Kusuro, Jackson Kiprop & Robert Chemonges (all Marathon)
*Only 3 can be allowed to compete

dkyeyune@ug.nationmedia.com

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