Table tennis boss Jjagwe: National team must camp to compete at African Championship
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Jjagwe also thanked the coaches for nurturing these youngsters. He mentioned three-time Olympian Mary Musoke and Mary Tendo Balyewunya of Nakasero TT Club; Robert Musoke of Mbogo College and Alvin Katumba of Kibuli SSS, among others.
Jemimah Nakawala, Parvin Nangonzi and Shanita Naamala were found crying in their school dormitories, disappointed that despite thriving in the grueling trials, they had missed the trip to the Eastern Africa Regional Table Tennis Senior Championship in Djibouti, due to lack of funds.
Eventually, they were picked from their respective schools, barely 12 hours to the flight, without a coach, but the teenagers returned with silver medals glittering against their torsos. The boys’ team also won bronze in the event played March 8 to 12.
For finishing second behind Mauritius in the team events, the ladies team qualified for the Africa Senior Championships in Tunisia in September, while among the men only Sam Mbabazi Ankunda, who ranked among the top eight, qualified for Tunisia as an individual.
In the ladies’ singles, Nakawala ranked fifth, Nangonzi sixth while Naamala 11th. In the men’s singles, Ankunda ranked seventh, captain Benjamin Achuma 12th while rookie Imran Luwooza lost in the group stage.
Generally a good performance considering the inadequate circumstances, but Uganda Table Tennis Association president Robert Jjagwe thinks the team must camp for at least three weeks before the more competitive African Club Championships and the African Cup, both in Kenya early May.
“In Djibouti we learnt that we shall have to prepare our players better to overcome superior opposition from say, Mauritius and Madagascar, who field France-based professionals,” Jjagwe said, before commending Nangonzi who defeated a France-based Mauritian and narrowly lost to one from Madagascar.
“The ongoing league which kept the players active greatly helped us find them in good shape. But ahead of Kenya, against the African top seeds, we need to prepare better, otherwise our players shall stand no chance,” Jjagwe, the only official who travelled to Djibouti, told Daily Monitor.
“Not every day that gambles will bring silver and bronze. Besides, these players are capable of far better results if we prepare them well. So as soon as the National Council of Sports provides the money we shall start the camp.”
He is considering sending coaches to particular schools to engage the players to avoid disrupting students’ academics.
Naamala, the ladies’ captain, thinks they should have done better if they had a coach.
“We made some mistakes during service reception, which would have been limited if we had a coach to guide us,” she said before commending teammates for working together.
Jjagwe thanked the Uganda Olympic Committee for partly funding the trip and hopes that the NCS reimburses the money for the trip soon as they promised.
Had the teams missed Djibouti, they would have missed all the subsequent international tournaments including the Accra African Games and the Paris Olympic Games in 2024 and the World Table Tennis Championships due May 20 to 28.
“That’s why we did everything to ensure these players play in Djibouti, at all costs to save their very promising careers from ruin.”
He also thanked the coaches for nurturing these youngsters. He mentioned three-time Olympian Mary Musoke and Mary Tendo Balyewunya of Nakasero TT Club; Robert Musoke of Mbogo College and Alvin Katumba of Kibuli SSS, among others.
US-based ex-player John Sebbowa donated $100 to the medalists.