ROBERT MADOI and DAVID LUMU list outstanding athletes who defied age to remain top performers in their respective disciplines
1. Margaret Bisereko
She is widely considered the most versatile personality in Ugandan sports. Not only was she a key player in handball, netball and volleyball, she remained active in sports from 1968 till 1991.
In a career spanning four generations, Bisereko also featured in the All Africa Games where she participated in long and high jump as well as the 100m hurdles and 200m.
2. John Oduke
Ugandan tennis has always been on something of a deathbed. Throughout its grim times, John Oduke has always beckoned and summarily offered himself to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. He did exactly that when he soared to a career-high position of 881 on the ATP log back on June 12, 1989.
A late bloomer, Oduke was 31 when he owned world tennis’s No.881 position. Oduke would go on to confound critics who tipped him to wane as the ravages of advanced age reared that trademark ugly head.
The mainstay of Uganda’s Davis Cup team from 1997-1999, Oduke often acquitted himself in the 13 singles and eight doubles matches he played. By the time Oduke played his last Davis Cup game for Uganda in 1999, he was 41!
3. Phillip Omondi
When Phillip Omondi’s three goals spurred the national football team – The Cranes – to the last hurdle of the 1978 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals, he was a wide-eyed 21-year-old. Omondi’s locomotion on the pitch then was as seamless as that of a ballet dancer.
He charmed the crowds in Ghana as The Cranes used a Cinderella run to reach the tournament’s final (which Uganda lost 2-0 to hosts Ghana). Nine years after the splendour of his play had hauled Uganda to the Afcon final, Omondi showed that age had not debased his artistry when he inspired The Cranes to a memorable 3-1 win over mighty Cameroon.
A ripe old 30-year-old then, Omondi reproduced his form of the yesteryear and even scored a peach of a goal as The Cranes threatened to overhaul Cameroon’s first leg score of 5-1. Omondi continue to defy the odds by producing jaw-dropping performances until when he called time on his football career in 1992.
4. Sadi Onito
When Sadi Onito keyed out his golfing skills by caddying for a raft of Caucasian golfers in the late 1960s, little did he know that the knowledge he acquired would help him impose a throttlehold on local golf.
As a young golfer, Onito enjoyed a gripping rivalry with Jumma Jaffar. The pair littered Ugandan golf with many memorable slugfests. Onito came out top of many of the slugfests as a return of 12 Uganda Open laurels indicates. Enter the early 1990s, and the rivalry showed no signs of abating. Jaffar had the upper hand in the 1990s as Onito’s old legs started to quiver.
When Jaffar beat Onito in a thrilling playoff during the 1993 Uganda Open final, many observers were quick to write Onito’s epitaph. Indeed, Onito did peter out only to make a return at the 2003 Uganda Open. The old geezer managed to turn back the clock with an almost flawless performance that saw him finish third. Fittingly, Onito’s son – Charles Yokwe – won the Open that year. Sadly, Onito passed on a year later in the October of 2004.
5. Sam Walusimbi
That Sam Walusimbi is the greatest cricketer Uganda has ever produced is never in doubt. A talented all-rounder during his prime, Walusimbi (together with John Nagenda) played for an East African select side at the 1975 World Cup.
That was no doubt the pinnacle of Walusimbi’s glowing career. So glowing was Walusimbi’s career that it had countless feats. From picking a 5-for against the much-vaunted India right through to learning how to bowl with his left-arm after the right one got spited, Walusimbi proved to have a stomach for feats during his heyday.
And what a long heyday it was as it stretched into the turn of the century. Besides introducing his son, Tendo Mbazzi, to the sport, Walusimbi continued to trouble both local batsmen and bowlers in the 1990s and early 2000s. In 1993, for instance, the then 45-year-old Walusimbi basked in the glory of inspiring his beloved Wanderers Cricket Club to league success.
6. William Kibuukamusoke
There are two things that the enigmatic William Kibuukamusoke is remembered for. One, threatening to bludgeon a New Vision photographer with a soda-pop bottle. Two, denying a batsman a century by deliberately bowling a wide. It is such a shame that such a fine cricketer is pejoratively remembered.
Over the years, Kibuukamusoke has reinvented himself whilst continuing to remain relevant on the local cricketing scene. Aged 56, Kibuukamusoke remains Tornado B’s go-to man in the topflight cricket league. His successes with both bat and ball this season have showed that he still has what it takes to rub shoulders with players much, much younger than he is.
7. Mathias Kaweesa
As recent as the August 2010, Kaweesa helped Ffumbe clan to the Bika By’Abaganda football championship. That’s precisely 24 years since he came to the fore as a Nsambya FC deadly striker who preferred to play barefooted. A three-time national league top-scorer, Kaweesa has seen several players come and go but the 45 year-old remains active, at least in the Bika championship.
8. Paul Mutambuze
As far as the sport of table tennis goes, there is no one more experienced than Mutambuze. A veteran in every sense, Mutambuze first made his mark in the early 80s when he won the national championship in 1983.
He was also part of the Ugandan team at the 1987 All Africa Games in Nairobi. He didn’t win a medal but from then on he has been a mainstay in the team, competing at the 1992 Olympics and besides the multiple national titles, Mutambuze remains active and narrowly missed out on qualification for the ongoing Commonwealth Games.
From 1972 till her retirement in 1996, Nakato established herself as a star in netball and handball. A wing attack who could also play as a centre, Nakato made her name with Coffee netball and handball and captained both national teams. She first played netball for Express in the early 1970s, then moved to Coffee and finally settled for Bank of Uganda from 1979 to 1994 before calling it a day in 1996. She reportedly living in the US.
10. Jimmy Kirunda
He is best remembered for captaining the national team to the Africa Cup Nations final in 1978 but little is known about how he spent 25 years in topflight football. Kirunda was an active footballer at the time of the national league inception in 1968 and went on to captain The Cranes for 15 years on top of topping the scoring charts in 1978. It took the emergence of young blood for Kirunda to pave way in 1983.