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.
“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
Appearance: 1st (2019)
Coaches: Kevin & Sue O’Connor
Halima Nakaayi 800m
Winnie Nanyondo 800m, 1500m
Peruth Chemutai 3000m Stc
Stella Chesang 5000m
Sarah Chelangat 5000m
Juliet Chekwel Marathon
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