It is commendable that Ugandan athletes put up a tremendous performance at the just concluded Commonwealth Games held in Birmingham, England.
With three gold medals and two bronze, this was a mega haul only comparable to the 1974 Games held in Christ- church, New Zealand, where Uganda registered won two gold, four silver and three bronze medals.
It is safe to say there was improvement in netball, rugby and swimming but the highlight remains athletics. In Joshua Cheptegei and Jacob Kiplimo, Uganda boasts the world’s two best runners over 5,000m and 10,000m.
This was unimaginable a few years ago and whereas Chepetegei seems to have already done enough to be considered the greatest Ugandan sports personality of all time, the fast-maturing Kiplimo continues to push
him to the limit.
It will be interesting to see how the duo compete in the future. These are really interesting times to follow athletics now that Victor Kiplangat and Peruth Chemutai have also emerged on the global scene.
When one critically looks at this recent pattern of success, the elephant in the room remains government’s contribution to their success.
This is critical because it is now 10 years since works started on the Teryet high-altitude training centre but it remains incomplete yet the runners have shrugged this off to continue raising our flag high. If government had financed this facility and completed it in time, the story in Birmingham would have been much better.
Also, boxing may have got a medal through Teddy Nakimuli, one wonders whether there is any progress and matters have not been helped by the continuous boardroom wars in the sport locally.
Talent has never been Uganda’s problem but the stumbling block is lack of proper training facilities as well as poor preparations. Also, hard work, commitment, discipline and focus are also crucial to the success.
Modern facilities will help to produce more athletes, who are well drilled to the international standards and thus win medals.
A key reason why athletics is thriving is due to the exposure of the athletes. The Cheptegeis and Kiplimos regularly compete against the best and can track their progression easily unlike in boxing where the pugilists not only have no permanent home but they also have many distractions and lack proper technical guidance.
For more positive results, government needs to think of constructing a modern sports arena for all the indoor games like netball, handball, basketball, swimming, tennis, volleyball and badminton among others.
Athletes have led the way. It’s not too late for government to come aboard and do the needful.
Cheers for our gallant athletes!