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Nanyondo leads a race during one of the national trials at Namboole Stadium. PHOTO / ISMAIL KEZAALA

What you need to know:

  • More than 1,900 competitors from 192 teams are entered to vie for glory in 49 different disciplines at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field beginning today until July 24.

After months of preparation for athletes with their coaches, and even a longer wait for the global audience due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the biennial World Athletics Championships are here.

Uganda, one of the three African countries to test gold in Qatari capital Doha three years ago, has entered 17 competitors and it is a historic championship for the East African nation.

This marks the first time that the Pearl of Africa will present two defending champions; Joshua Cheptegei first bidding to retain his 10000m crown on Sunday.

Then, Halimah Nakaayi has her machine well oiled to jostle and keep her crown over the women’s 800m. The previous world champion from Uganda was Stephen Kiprotich who won marathon gold at the Moscow 2013 Worlds in Russia. He finished sixth over the 42km at the Beijing Worlds in China seven years ago.

The team in Eugene also has Commonwealth 10000m champion Stella Chesang, world half-marathon champion and record holder Jacob Kiplimo as well as reigning Olympic 3000m steeplechase queen Peruth Chemutai. Never before has Uganda had a contingent at the Worlds that is that lit.

And also key to note however is the fact that Uganda will present a male sprinter at the Worlds in Tarsis Orogot for the first time since Davis Kamoga won 400m silver behind legendary American Michael Johnson at the Athens 1997 edition.

Now with a scholarship with the University of Alabama, Orogot is the Ugandan that made the shortest trip to Eugene and he will compete over the 200m, a distance where he qualified by ranking after an impressive display at the NCAA Championships.

1500m Heats

Back to Eugene, USA is hosting this championship for the first time and they have entered a strong 150-man team.

For Uganda, the business starts in the evening session where Winnie Nanyondo will be the first Ugandan in action when she lines up in the 1500m Heats in the evening session here which comes in the early hours of tomorrow in Kampala. 

In Doha, Nakaayi was the first Ugandan competitor on the Khalifa Stadium track and came second in Heat 1 of the 800m with 2:02.33 on September 27, 2019.

Since winning 800m bronze at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Nanyondo has endured several shortcomings punctuated by medal misses.

She came fourth in the 800m final at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in Australia and a year later, the same thing happened as Nakaayi won gold at the Doha Worlds.

On March 19, Nanyondo somehow couldn’t split the Ethiopian trio ahead of her thereby settling for fourth place in the 1500m final at the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade, Serbia.

In Eugene, she will need to break the four-minute barrier for the first time this season if she is to exorcise those demons. “My body is okay this year,” she said in a recent chat.

Her season best is 4:00.25 from Eugene Diamond League Meeting on May 28 and her best decision perhaps, was to choose to concentrate on only 1500m this season rather than the middle-distance double.

Nanyondo will be keen on doing better than seventh place she got in the Olympic final in Japan’s capital last August.

OREGON 2022: TITBITS -DAY ONE

10-hour time difference

USA is hosting this championship for the first time ever and being in Eugene, the state of Oregon on the west coast is 10 hours behind Uganda. It means one will need to be passionate enough to catch action on television as it will come at weird hours. And that’s reminiscent of what fans in Kampala went through to catch the the Tokyo 2020 Olympics from Japan last year, the 2015 Worlds in Beijing, China or even the occasional Copa America championship. Those, again, will be late nights and early mornings.

Omanyala sprints to USA

African champion Ferdinand Omanyala is now in a race against time to arrive in Oregon for the World Athletics Championships after being granted a last-minute visa to travel yesterday.

Nation Sport understands that Omanyala, the fastest man in Africa, is set to leave the country at 6pm and will be hoping to arrive in Eugene, Oregon in time for today’s 100m heats. The Kenyan is the third fastest man in the world this year.

It takes over 22 hours of travelling from Kenya to Oregon via Europe or the Middle East depending on the flight.

Felix back, just once more

USA will bid farewell to Allyson Felix tonight. The sprinter is the most decorated athlete in World Championships history with 18 medals (13 gold, three silver and two bronze). She is highly rated here as is Michael Phelps in the history books of the Olympics. Felix will hang up her spikes at the end of the season but the 36-year-old has one more duty to do. She came in a distant sixth place in the 400m at the USA Trials but was named as part of USA’s mixed 4x400m squad. Debutant at the Paris 2003 Worlds, her experience will come in handy as they look to win the first track gold medal on offer tonight. I am privileged to have interviewed her at the Doha Worlds three years ago in Qatar.

NANYONDO AT CHAMPIONSHIP FINALS

2012 World Juniors Barcelona - 800m 8th

2014 Commonwealth Games -800m 3rd

2015 African Games -800m 7th

2018 Commonwealth Games- 800m 4th

2018 Commonwealth Games -1500m 10th

2018 African Senior Champs-800m 5th

2018 African Senior Champs -1500m 5th

2019 World Champs Doha-800m 4th

2019 World Champs Doha -1500m 11th

2020 Tokyo Olympic Games-1500m, 7th

2022 World Indoors Belgrade- 500m, 4th

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