Ambala Atuhaire and Kirabo Namutebi have been selected to represent Uganda at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics due July 21 - August 8 in Japan.
The duo will be guided by their Dolphins Swim Club coach Muzafaru Muwanguzi, who also beat a pool of four coaches, to make it to his first Olympic Games.
Namutebi is currently in Kazan - Russia, in a Fina training camp, from where she will connect to Japan to find part of Team Uganda that leaves for Tokyo more than a month early on June 15.
Ironically, had the Olympics happened last year, Namutebi - Uganda’s fastest female freestyler with a national record of 26.98seconds made at the Fina World Junior Championships in Budapest, Hungary in 2019 - would not have made the grade.
She would have been at an ineligible age of 15 then. Even when she made 16 in February this year, there was a little worry that Namutebi would only go to Tokyo if she hit the qualification mark, which was always going to be difficult after a year of inactivity.
This is because the world governing body Fina had previously only considered swimmers that went to the World Championships like the one that happened in Gwangju, South Korea in 2019 for universality slots.
This had left Avice Meya and Selina Katumba, who both went to Gwangju, as the main challengers for the Tokyo slot. Meya was a favourite as she had competed in the 50m freestyle event, which is usually the race offered to wild cards, in Gwangju posting 29.49. She also had experience on her side having already been to every swimming competition available to her during her career except the Olympics.
With cancellation of various qualification events over the past 18 months due to Covid-19, Fina opened up the space to allow national federations consider swimmers that had been to international competitions like the World Juniors as they too had Fina points. It is then that USF seized the opportunity to have their girl Namutebi in.
For the men, it was pretty straight forward as Atuhaire, had the most Fina points and was the fastest of all swimmers available for selection. These included Tendo Mukalazi, with whom they went to Gwangju, and the duo of Adnan Kabuye and Darren Ssamula, which went to Budapest.
USF, will also support para-swimmer Husnah Kukundakwe, who is bound to compete at the Paralympics later in August.
Kukundakwe also flies out with the first batch of the team that leaves on June 15 and her mother and manager Hashima Batamuriza has welcomed the idea.
“It helps because the Covid-19 situation is getting out of hand here (Uganda) and that could spell trouble for athletes who have to travel for the Games.
It is better for them to be in a bubble but it (going early) will also help them acclimatize with surroundings in Tokyo and train better,” Batamuriza said.