Kirabo bosses with double gold

History maker. Kirabo Namutebi of Dolphins Swim Club competes in the 50m breaststroke during the 5th USF National Age-group Championships 2019 at Gems Cambridge International School, Butabika. Photo by Ismael Keezala

Kirabo Namutebi’s gold medals at the Africa Junior Championships in Tunisia in September not only made her Uganda’s most successful swimmer but showed that despite the infrastructural challenges, our swimmers can go beyond just chasing personal bests (PB) at continental events.

Namutebi came good on her promise to bag medals when she clocked a PB 35.13 to win the 13-14 years’ girls’ gold medal in the 50m breaststroke finals. Then doubled her money by getting the 50m freestyle (27.33) one too.

Her feat eclipsed her now 18-year-old counterpart Rebecca Ssengonzi, who at the same event in Egypt in 2015, became the first Ugandan swimmer to win medals at a continental event; bronze in the 400m individual medley and silver in the 100m butterfly.

World Juniors - August
Namutebi made her intentions to conquer Africa clear when she clocked a new national record 26.98s in the 50m freestyle at the Fina World Junior Championship in Budapest – Hungary in August.

Her Budapest time took over Jamila Lunkuse’s 27.43 from the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Scotland.
Namutebi had been chasing Lunkuse’s time right from the start of the year. At the Cana Zone IV Championships in Namibia in February, she made 27.74 in the 13-14 years’ girls’50m freestyle to clinch her second gold at the championships. Her first was in the 50m butterfly.

Her time was also a championship age group record that significantly sunk the 28.42 managed by Zimbabwe’s Paige van der Westhuizen in 2017 and was the second best among all girls at the event then.

Only 16-year-old South African Kelsea Munro managed better at 26.95. At the Uganda Swimming Federation (USF) National Championships won by her Dolphins Swim Club, Naumtebi clocked 26.79 in 50m freestyle (short course).

It was also the best time posted by a girl at the championship and it bettered the AAA motivational times for her age group and was at par with that of 15 and over.

Her time also bettered the national record (27.46) that Jamila Lunkuse held from the 2013 Devon County Championships in Plymouth, UK.

Meanwhile, Adnan Kabuye also had a good campaign in Budapest. He managed a new long course personal best (PB) of 29.58 in the 50m backstroke, some microseconds faster than the 29.70 his Dolphins teammate Tendo Mukalazi managed at the Fina World Championships a month before. Kabuye also clocked 25.99 for a 50m freestyle.

World Championships
More positively, Mukalazi, who qualified for the World Championships in Gwangju - South Korea as the best performing male swimmer from the national championships, also had a good international bow as he made a 32.64 NR in 50m breaststroke.

Later in the year, at the USF National Sprints Gala, Mukalazi beat Arnold Kisulo’s 28.46 long-standing 50m backstroke national record from the 2015 National Championships by six microseconds.

Back to Budapest, Ambala Atuhaire also set a new NR in the 100m freestyle (53.89) while Katumba lowered her times in the women’s event (1:03.88). She also managed another PB in the 50m butterfly (32.77).

Perhaps the only episodes Uganda want to forget from their international season was the 4*100m medley relay that they did not honour and that Avice Meya failed to lower her times in the 100m fly (1:19.69) and 50m freestyle (29.49) – events she will likely do if she makes the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

USF also extended support towards para-swimmer Husnah Kukundakwe ahead of her World Championships in London in September. But first at the World Series in Singapore, Kukundakwe, 12, recorded three personal bests in the 100m breaststroke – where she clocked 1:57.84 and amassed 239 points, 100m freestyle – clocking 1:30.43 with 229 points and the50m freestyle (40.24 with 296 points).
She also did 100m backstroke touching home at 1:52.80 to get 53 points and subsequently qualified for London as the youngest swimmer at the championship but the weight of the competition and seniority of her colleagues did not stop her from posting personal bests (PB) in the 50m (38.14) and 100m (1:24.85) freestyle events.

Cana Zone III
Largely, the performances out of the country continued to be good. Not only was Kasarani in Nairobi – Kenya a good hunting ground for Dolphins but also for the national team that were there in late November for the Cana Zone III Swimming Championships.

At this year’s three-day edition that ended there were better fortunes as Uganda’s team of 28 swimmers – of which about eight were on the national team for the first time - collected 2,392 points to finish second and just 55.5 points behind the hosts (2,477.5).

Uganda’s team to Zone III was largely home-based, bar Ahura Ambala and Daryl Kyabayinze, who also live in Kenya, after USF decided that they would not consider swimmers who miss nationals for national team engagements anymore.

Open water
Ugandan swimmers did not limit themselves to only swimming but also won four medals in the second edition of the Cana Zone III Open Water Championship held at Karen Waterfront – Nairobi.

Open water, held in the man-made water body at the Karen mall, attracted 19 swimmers nine of whom were from Uganda, which hosts the competition next year. Ahura led the nine with gold in the 15 and over girls’ event that was 1,390m long.

For the under 15 girls, Swagiah Mubiru finished second (21.49.64) just microseconds ahead of Sofia Nagayi (21.49.83) – to bring Uganda’s first open water medals from female swimmers to three.

They were joined by Freda Nakafu Luzinda (22.00.98). Kabuye also got silver in the senior men’s open water event that was 5,000m long and was joined by teammates Mikka Kigundu (fifth at 45:16.41), Daryl (seventh at 47:03.70) and Ampaire Namanya (47.12.04).

Daryl and Kisitu also represented the country in a 500m open water event in the Oanob Dam in Namibia. Kisitu won silver. Earlier in the year, about 35 swimmers bore the brunt of the waters at Aero Beach – Entebbe as USF launched open water swimming in the country as part of their celebrations to mark the Fina World Aquatics Day.

For Masters’ Swimming, at the 13th edition of the USF Masters Gala in August, Formidables established themselves as the team to beat ahead of Altona, which won the 12th in March. The trail of development continues as USF have now spread wings to Masaka and Jinja.