Long-distance runner Joshua Cheptegei was expectedly crowned as the 2019 Sports Personality of the Year but in absentia on the day Uganda Sports Press Association (Uspa) celebrated its 50th anniversary in a low-key affair at Serena Hotel yesterday. Serena’s Victoria Ballroom epitomized into a brief moment of ecstasy punctuated by handicaps and pomp at the stage as emcee Mark Ssali announced Cheptegei’s 2019’s best athlete at Nile Special-sponsored Gala at 7:10pm.
Uganda Athletics Federation (UAF) president Dominic Otuchet picked the global gem’s accolade as South African artiste Master KG’s song Jerusalema played after Nile Special brand manager Francis Nyende’s speech.
In the afternoon lit up by a split-up performance by Afrigo Band, athletics had had a big share of the day.
To retain the Uspa gong, Cheptegei had beaten his athletics counterpart Halimah Nakaayi and Uganda Cranes’ striker Emmanuel Okwi thanks to a World Cross-country title, the 5000m Diamond League trophy, the world 10000m gold and a 10km world record last year.
While the man from Kapchorwa was away, Nakaayi’s speech could as well have passed for the night’s winner.
“I thank the Almighty God for enabling us to come here,” the world 800m champion began after her speech after collecting the two Athletics’ best honours and for Cheptegei.
“For sure, success is a gradual process. It has been a journey to reach where I am. Each of you has got the key to open your doors,” Nakaayi, also an 800m bronze medalist at the African Games last year, stated in her truncated motivational talk.
Before Cheptegei took the overall crown for the second year running, UAF president Otuchet had been on stage to pick the accolade for the Best-Run Federation.
However, the men’s World Cross-country team and Proline FC were beaten by the national U-17 girls’ football team to the Team of the Year Award.
The Uganda Golf Open was announced as the Best Organised Event of 2019 but few could skip Neko Muduse-Ojala’s acceptance speech after the volleyball legend was given the Legendary Award.
“This award should go to the sister of my mother who introduced me to volleyball in 1957,” said Ojala, a man involved in forming 12 volleyball clubs lately Nemostars since his retirement.
“I am currently working on a project to see my club Nemostars have a home within the next four to five years,” he added, much to the audience’s delight.
Uspa’s golden jubilee was curtailed by the Covid-19 restrictions but also, absence of guests, some of which were trapped by the city chaos yesterday.
“Some of our guests have not been able to join us today because of the situation,” said Uspa president Patriq Kanyomozi. “But I am happy about the journey Uspa has come. At least, we have been able to transfer power peacefully since 1970,” he added.
The celebrations had begun with Ssali’s narrative. “Congratulations Uspa on 50 years of vibrant existence, we know many organisations in Uganda don’t go beyond their third year,” chief guest National Council of Sports (NCS) chairman Donald Rukare said, later past president Douglas Mazune, present Kanyomozi, Nyende and Standard Chartered Bank’s Cynthia Mpanga cutting cake.