Ugandan rower Kathleen Noble is on course to achieve her dream of ranking among Africa’s fastest boats in the women’s 2000m single scull at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Noble, who is reportedly 5ft 8 inches and weighing 61kg, should technically be rowing in a lightweight scull but the Olympics offer only an open category for the singles so she has had to battle heavyweights, who are over 6ft and weighing over 75kg thanks to a tough draw ahead of the heats.
The draw made for a grueling weekend in which the 26-year-old was hoping to make the quarterfinals through a repechage after starting against two world champions and two others that had been to the Rio Olympics four years ago in last Friday’s heats.
At the time some of her heat-mates were headed to Rio in 2016, Noble - then based in New Jersey at Princeton University, where she discovered rowing through a roommate and participated as a member of the institutions eight-man boat - was returning home to Uganda to re-orient into a single sculler. After working on these basics with coach William Muwanga, Noble went to Utah, where despite having to row with high school boys between May and November – before winter, coaches Ahsan and Linda Iqbal have harnessed her potential into an Olympian.
Here is how some of her heat-mates have fared as Noble prepares to take part in the regatta’s final E rescheduled - thanks to an anticipated typhoon - to tonight at the windswept Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo.
Ireland’s Sanita Puspure led the first quarterfinal while Greece’s Anneta Kyridou was third in hers to qualify for semifinal A/B, which guarantees them to finish in the top twelve boats.
If they finish among the top three there, they will continue to compete in the medal finals A.
Felice Chow, from Trinidad and Tobago, and Mexican Kenia Lechuga are in semifinal C/D - alongside the Cuban Milena Venega and Hong Kong’s Winnie Hung, who beat Noble in the repechage - which will have them position anywhere from positions 13 to 24 in the finals .
This group also has the Namibian rower Maike Diekmann, who finished 5th in her quarterfinals on Sunday, and is the only African guaranteed to rank higher than the Ugandan.
Noble lines up against familiar faces like Qatar’s Tala Abujbara, who won their semifinal E/F, Nigeria’s Esther Toko, who finished just behind her.
Singapore’s Joan Poh, whom Noble beat in the heats, is back in the fray but the four will also have to contend with Morocco’s Sarah Fraincart and Nicaragua’s Evidelia Jarquin Gonzalez.
Women 2,000M single scull, Friday (2:15am)- Final E Start-list
1. Esther Toko - Nigeria
2. Sarah Fraincart - Morocco
3. Evidelia Jarquin Gonzalez - Nicaragua
4. Tala Abujbara - Qatar
5. Kathleen Noble - Uganda
6. Joan Poh - Singapore