Ambala Atuhaire and Adnan Kabuye have been offered a chance to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics on merit.
The two are in Stellenbosch, South Africa, with their coach Muzafaru Muwanguzi for the Cana Swim Camp that started yesterday and climaxes with the Cana Grand Prix – an Olympic qualification competition – on May 7 and 8.
However, theirs is a herculean task as they must first beat the disorientation of not competing in over a year, let alone the inconsistent training schedules since Covid-19 hit and led to the total suspension of sports from March to September 2020.
Ugandan swimming is yet to recover from that limbo with the National Championships postponed till September.
“We have worked for two weeks to put them in the kind of shape they need to be in to participate in the camp,” Muwanguzi said.
The camp is led by world swimming governing body Fina’s head of coaching commission Graham Hill, who coached top South African swimmer Chad Le Clos for 16 years till 2016.
“The camp brings together some of the top swimmers and coaches on the continent and I’m looking forward to learning more and to work with some top coaches,” he added, as the team was being flagged off on Friday at Hotel Africa – where they trained at a subsidised price.
While Hill helped Le Clos upset Michael Phelps to the 200m butterfly gold at the 2012 Olympics in London, Uganda’s duo only hope that he can weave the magic wand that could lead them to Tokyo.
Kabuye, who represented Uganda at the Fina World Junior Championships in Hungary in 2019, will need to dig deep. His best times in the 50m and 100m freestyle are 25.00 and 56.05 seconds.
These would have taken him to London nine years ago but the Olympic Selection Time is 22.67 and 50.03 in the respective events.
“The time we’ve to turn things around after Covid-19 is not enough but all we need now is the right mindset, then we can leave the rest to God,” Kabuye said.
Atuhaire clocked 24.69 and 53.89 in the 50m and 100m freestyle, respectively, when he represented Uganda in the World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, in 2019.
“Preparation time is not an issue now. It is just about what you put into the race. I’m going to swim my best and get as much experience from the camp as I can,” Atuhaire, who was based in Thailand on a swimming scholarship pre-Covid, said.
Wild card chance
Group II actions kickoff
Atuhaire’s participation in Gwangju means that if Uganda does not automatically qualify an athlete between now and the June 27 deadline, he stands a high chance of taking the country’s wild card invitation to Japan.