Najjuma, Okello look to build on continental rowing sprints

Najjuma and Okello in Tunisia. PHOTO/COURTESY 

What you need to know:

Najjuma, who started rowing with Kisubi Pirates in July, and Okello, who has been with Maroons Aqua Sport Club a little longer, competed in the singles time trials and later the mixed double event from which they got to the quarters. 


Ugandan rowers Rashida Najjuma and Darius Okello are pumped up for their future after finishing as quarterfinalists at the October 27-28 Africa Beach Rowing Sprints Championships in Hammamet, Tunisia on the back of just three months of preparation.

Najjuma, who started rowing with Kisubi Pirates in July, and Okello, who has been with Maroons Aqua Sport Club a little longer, competed in the singles time trials and later the mixed double event from which they got to the quarters. 

Both are Ndejje University students and have had short stints in rowing as they are products of Olympian Kathleen Noble's rowing clinics held last year. Najjuma, however, is a swimmer too while Okello is a runner.

"It wasn't easy because the Mediterranean Sea has bigger waves as compared to Lake Victoria which we had been training on but we acclimatized and built confidence after a few days of training and we also met top athletes whose videos we had been watching and studying," Okello said while Najjuma expects to "build on the exposure."

Such was their inexperience going to the competition, which also doubled as qualifiers for the World Beach Games, that their coaches Batenga Nakisozi and Richard Kigozi also used the opportunity to attend the October 21-26 World Rowing Development Camp where they learnt the nuances of beach sprints and undertook a Fisa Level 1 coaching course.

"Their performance surpassed our expectations as beach sprints are new to our national program but I look forward to seeing more of them and involving other rowers," Nakisozi said. 

Beach sprints event takes place in a beach setting with head-to-head racing taking place in solos, mixed doubles and mixed coxed quads. It begins with a 50m run start before the athletes row out to a buoy and back. The race ends with one rower from each team running to a finish line on the beach.

Meanwhile, the sprints came a week after Noble and male colleagues William Mwanga and Douglas Kisarale rowed (classing rowing) at the Head of the Charles Regatta, considered the largest regatta in the world. last weekend and they did well. Kisarale rowed in an inclusive mixed double with a para-rower.


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