Poor start for Uganda skaters in Olympic qualifiers

Douglas Mwesigwa in action at Mukono Skate Park during the national team selections. PHOTO/GEORGE KATONGOLE 

What you need to know:

Mwesigwa, regarded as the best skateboarder in Uganda, had a bite of the cherry in 2021 qualifiers and maybe a sabbatical he took could have slowed him down.

The Olympic dream for Ugandan skaters starts on a rather low note after a dismal display at the first qualifying events of the year, the World Street Championship at Aljada Skate Park in Sharjah, UAE.

Brian Bukenya, who one was ranked 253 globally, was Uganda’s top performer at the championship, which had five Tokyo 2020 Olympians in the mix. Bukenya finished in the 156 position with 6.58 points, five places better than veteran Douglas Mwesigwa, who managed 4.10 points.

Both athletes did not get ranking points from the World Skate sanctioned event where ranking points are collected for the final slots of the Paris 2024 Olympics. Athletes are judged on four runs of tricks to get ranking points.

Mwesigwa, regarded as the best skateboarder in Uganda, had a bite of the cherry in 2021 qualifiers and maybe a sabbatical he took could have slowed him down.

All is not lost

French Olympian Giraud Aurelien emerged top with 269.33 points after classic performance in the final run having been out of the medal brackets going into the fourth round. He beat Portuguese Gustavo Ribeiro to the second place (267.38pts) while 12-year-old Japanese phenomenon Onodero Ginwoo of Japan was third with 263.4 points.

“Comparatively, we performed very well. Considering the skate park we used, there is hope,” Moses Ddungu, the president of the Uganda Skateboarding Federation, said.

“We have to keep participating in global events so that our athletes get used to international competitions,” he added.

Ranking points are obtained from World Championships, Olympic Qualifier series, Pro Tour events as well as five-star and three-star events. A total of 44 places are available for the park and street competitions at Paris 2024.

Ddungu’s hope is banked on the fact that at the Olympics, disadvantaged countries get wildcards to encourage greater participation. In Olympics, countries that fail to produce athletes who meet qualification standards are granted wildcards, which allow them to enter competitors whose proven abilities are below the standard otherwise required.

Uganda is indeed disadvantaged as only two venues are available for national events yet there are regarded sub-standard but the skaters have to be in the top 50 at the end of the Olympic qualification period to become eligible for the available two universality places.

The fact that only five African countries took part in the first qualifier, is a glimmer of hope for Uganda.

The highest ranked African rider at the championship in UAE was Brandon Valjalo of South Africa, who ranked 61 out of the 171 participants.

Other African countries that presented athletes in the men’s category include Zambia, Botswana, Mozambique and Angola. All of their athletes finished above Ugandans.

The next stop for street skaters on the road to Paris 2024 will be Rome, Italy for a World Skateboarding Tour stop from June 18-25.

Men’s street championship - UAE

Selected results

1. Giraud Aurelien (FRA) – 269.33

2. Gustavo Ribeiro (POR) – 267.38

3. Onodera Ginwoo (JPN) – 263.04

156. Brian Bukenya (UG) – 6.58

161. Douglas Mwesigwa (UG) – 4.10

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