Para-swimmer Husnah Kukundakwe is under no pressure to qualify at all costs at the ongoing World Series in Sheffield, England.
The Series offers a final chance for the swimmer, who jetted out of the country belatedly yesterday, to qualify on merit for the 2020 Paralympics due August in Tokyo.
“Husnah is [only] 14 so these events are meant to lay a proper foundation for her future in the sport,” her coach Muzafaru Muwanguzi said.
“She only finds herself in a fortunate situation where she is swimming within qualification times (in the 100m breaststroke) so that gives us hope that she can do it.
“However, we are not putting her on any pressure to do it by all means. Pressure scares swimmers and we do not want to lose a young talent at the start of her career.”
Kukundakwe, who alongside her coach was facilitated by National Council of Sports (NCS) but also travelled with her mother and manager Hashima Batamuriza, starts her Series on Wednesday with the 100m freestyle in the S9 classification and 200m individual medley (SM9), an event she last competed in at the World Series in Nairobi in 2018, clocking 4:00.03.
That should put her in good stead for the 100m breast (SB8) in which her training trials show that she has drastically lowered the 1:57.44 she made at the World Series in Singapore in early 2019 to 1:36.95 – a few seconds under the 1:37.00 qualification time.
If she hits the mark, Kukundakwe will becomes the first Ugandan para-swimmer to qualify on merit for the Games and the second to take part after Prossy Tusabe, who went to Sydney 2000 and competed in the S10’s 100m freestyle.
Should she not make the grade, Kukundakwe’s participation in London will then add meat to her case if she decides to exploit the Bipartite Commission Invitation, where only five swimmers per gender will be invited by International Paralympics Committee to take part in the August Games.
Muwanguzi’s presence should be an added advantage. After all, his presence at the World Championships in London in 2019 helped the athlete perform better than in Singapore, where she only travelled with her mother. They would communicate to the coach through social media channels.
In London, however, the Dolphins para-swimmer clocked 1:24.83 and 38.14 in the 100m and 50m free, respectively, to land the Bipartite shortlist.
“I will admit that government has been struggling to support national teams and athletes but I assure you that there are plans to improve this,” NCS general secretary Bernard Ogwel said during the swimmer’s flagoff on Saturday at the Uganda Swimming Federation (USF) offices in Kisementi.
“We are in very tough situation and money will come at the end of May or early June but we squeezed [something] to be able to fully support Husnah. She performed well (in London) last time and we have very high hopes that she will do even better this time.”
Batamuriza, who thanked NCS for the kind gesture, hopes that her daughter can “inspire other children with physical handicap to embrace sports.”