Gilbert Kaburu did not only attain success in the swimming pool, where his career climaxed with an appearance at the 2008 Olympics.
Kaburu, who explains success as “the ability to impact, help and mentor people,” has worked with children in several international schools in Uganda, India, Sudan and now China. On Saturday, at the Uganda Swimming Federation (USF) medical clinic, in which athletes were taught about injuries and anti-doping, Kaburu shared his life experience with the youngsters – most of whom struggle to find the right balance between swimming and other aspects of life.
The PhD holder in Education from Ohio University, US, advised the swimmers to stay in school, to develop a mindset of “nothing is impossible to achieve if you work towards it,” and to promote the values of honesty, humility, empathy and working with grit.
Kaburu, 39, was inspired to look at a balance in life by distance great Moses Kipsiro.
“While we were on the plane (to Melbourne) for the 2006 Commonwealth Games, Kipsiro was already planning for his retirement,” Kaburu said via Zoom.
“He was talking of building his farm and buying trucks to transport produce for people in his village.”
In the interactive session, youngster Rashidah Najjuma asked: “How did you manage to never give up?” Francis Mugalu was interested in how such a successful swimmer in his prime at Namasagali College decided to stay in school.
“It was never about the medals,” he said, knowing swimming is a quitters’ sport, especially for those who never fall within medal brackets or represent the nation.
“Fall in love with the process. It is the training, and social interactions with my fellow swimmers plus the support from coaches and parents that kept me going.”
Prompted by Dr Nana Nakiddu, a former national swimmer, to explain the challenges he faced in his time, Kaburu dug into the poor preparations.
“We’ve the talent to compete at globally but it’s down to how we prepare. Fortunately, USF is giving our athletes a chance to go and train abroad. That should help us in the future,” Kaburu said.