University Games serve excitement

The netball final between UCU and Victoria University was well contested. PHOTO/GEORGE KATONGOLE 

What you need to know:

At the end of the five-day action, Ndejje University were crowned overall champions, continuing their dominance at the biannual games.

The 19th edition of the Association of Uganda University Sports (AUUS) games concluded just before Christmas at UCU Mukono campus on a high.

Earlier fears of short preparation time were allayed as soon as teams swung in action.

At the end of the five-day action, Ndejje University were crowned overall champions, continuing their dominance at the biannual games.

With eight gold medals, UCU topped the charts followed by the hosts UCU with six.

UCU were overall champions in the women's category winning volleyball, basketball and women football.

Ndejje's dominance was hailed as a landmark for the university that fielded a smaller team due to financial constraints yet they came on top in athletics, handball, karate, swimming, and table tennis in men. Their ladies also won woodball, athletics and karate.

‘Small games’ excite

Football remains the most popular sport in Uganda but its popularity was eclipsed by smaller games. The biggest fanfare was at the netball courts where underdogs UCU faced a star-studded Victoria University in the final.

The highly fancied Victoria University, who were participating in their first AUUS games fielded the likes of Shadia Nassanga and Christine Namulumba, who also feature for the She Cranes.

“Our intention is to attract young players to our team with a view of playing alongside national team players,” Patrick Ssebuliba, the Sports Tutor, who joined from Nkumba University in 2020, said.

Rashid Mubiru, the head coach, who also has national team experience, scouts players from powerhouses St Mary's Kitende, Buddo and St Noa.

There were fireworks on the volleyball courts where the Bugema gave the dominant UCU a run for their money. UCU had to dig deep and win the decider in an enthralling encounter that was witnessed by probably the best crowd at the games.

Paul Kamanyiro, the volleyball coach of Bugema University was thrilled with the performance of his team that was taking part in the volleyball competition for the first time.

“It’s a big achievement that has been made real by hard work and support from the university,” Kamanyiro said.

Woodball, which is also making its mark in institutions of higher learning kept keen fans on their feet. As expected, Ndejje University were going to win but Kyambogo was unstoppable in the men’s category.

With five gold, a silver and two bronze medals, Kyambogo won the fairway doubles, fairway and stroke team events, stroke doubles and stroke singles.

The experience of Simon Otim, Lawrence Mugisha, Philip Nadiope and Trevor Oming shone through.

Ndejje had their revenge in the women's category where they took four of the six gold medals on offer.

But a special moment would be reserved for Bishop Stuart University, who gave a good account of themselves despite a lack of regular competition.

Yet no one could have predicted Muni University's third-place finish when the games kicked off but the performance of Ronald Reagan Odongkene, who got silver in fairway singles and doubles was a reminder of how sport can have the unlikely of champions.

UCU miracle

With just two months to host more than 2,000 athletes, UCU pulled off a miracle. The games, initially planned for Makerere University were moved at the last minute to UCU after the initial hosts announced themselves unready. The university was doing examinations, partly which also affected their performance.

UCU, renowned for its top-notch sports facilities and remarkable track record in nurturing athletes across various disciplines, hosted athletes from 23 universities.

Previously, UCU hosted the Inter-University Games in 2007 and 2013, the Eastern Africa Inter-University Games in 2014, and the Regional Police Games in 2017, an experience they needed to pull off the miracle.

Notably, women's participation increased significantly, with 40 percent female athletes and 46 percent female officials contributing to the success of the games.

Vice Chancellor of UCU, Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi, exuded confidence during the tournament-launch when he said: "UCU has a long history of successfully hosting such games, and therefore, we have no doubt that we will do a good job. It has been a short notice, indeed, but being a Christian University, we also believe in doing things by faith."

No one missed a meal, swift medical attention was provided with an ambulance in place, every delegate and athlete had a comfortable place to rest either at the campus hostels or Ankrah Foundation hostels and security was tight throughout the entire event.

The late night basketball games, which were held at the university court, one of the most well-lit in the country provided a carnivore experience. Additional new facilities such as changing rooms and extra toilets were swiftly set up to accommodate the needs of the tournament.

Partnerships with local service providers such as Coral Paintings and RENU (who provided internet services) further enhanced the overall experience.

Samuel Rukikaire, the university sports tutor was satisfied with the organisation.

“We are a top university and these games are a testament to what we can offer in academics and in sports. We’re providing a complete education,” Rukikaire said. 

AUUS Games 2023: Medal tally

                             Gold      Silver     Bronze     Total

Ndejje                  8             3              -            11

UCU                       6             4              2           12

Makerere            5              6              4              15

Kyambogo          4            -              1            5

Victoria                 3            3              4         10

KIU                         3           3              -         6

UMU-Nkozi        2            -              -           2

Busitema             1              -              3              4

Mubs                    -              5              6              10