The thin but manageable Uganda Swimming Federation annual calendar was this year stretched by hosting the Cana Zone III and IV Championships.
Cana, held at Kampala Parents’ School was the ultimate test for a federation that lacks a swimming pool but like all continental and international competitions held in Uganda this year, across different sports disciplines, USF too, managed to pull this one off.
Preparations were in tandem from January with different sponsors coming on board to offer help. USF organised different coaches’ clinics to help the swimmers prepare for the meet and to prepare for the long term development of swimming in Uganda.
American instructor Richard Powers passed 48 coaches in January while in February Australian instructor Don Blew and his Nigerian counterpart Lawal Gbenga Akinsanya approved over 50.
The eighth Aga Khan Junior Swimming Championships hosted at the Aga Khan Nursery School, Kololo swimming pool in March gave the swimmers the kind of competition they needed to prepare for Cana.
Aga Khan Junior school won the overall crown with 265 points, winning the biggest local schools swimming championship for a record fifth time.
Kimberley Hind and Saleh Nabil led the assault for medals during Cana at the Naguru-based school as Team Uganda, which fielded a record high 38 swimmers, put up its best ever performance at Cana. Uganda amassed 1,375 points and won 31 medals.
Nabil, 12, was Uganda’s best performer and the overall best male swimmer in the 12 and under age group scoring 54 points and winning nine gold medals.
Hind was the best female representative for Uganda contributing 33 points, winning four gold and four silver medals.
After Cana, Joshua Ekirikubinza, 17, took part in three events 13-18 years 50m freestyle (26.77s), 50m (34.03s) and 100m (1:20.99) breaststroke categories at the Africa Youth Games in Botswana in May.
Dismal show at international, continental meets
Although, there was no pressure to fall among medal brackets, Arnold Kisulo, Jamila Lunkuse and Ekirikubinza had a low key performance against fellow elite swimmers at the July 23-August 3 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland.
Joshua’s younger brother, Elisha and Kisulo, largely passed as also-rans in the 12th edition of the Fina World Short Course Championships held earlier this month at Hamad Aquatic Centre, in Doha, Qatar. Lunkuse pulled out of the Qatar event due to an ankle injury.
Dolphins’ regional dominance
After the national team engagements in the first half of the year, the club rivalries resumed, albeit away from home where local clubs Seals and Dolphins participated in the May 16-19 Kenya Junior Championships (KJC) in Nairobi.
Dolphins won the KJC event for the third successive year and have since decided to push for new challenges in the new-year. Dolphins will seek to compete in different continental level two championships.
Seals recorded an impressive performance as all their 13 swimmers managed to improve their personal best times.
Though, the two clubs struggled to replicate the same level of dominance at the Kenya National Age Group and Open Championships in October, they returned home with collections of medals.
Last month, a 12-man Seals team bagged 11 medals at the November 29-30 Nairobi Association of Swimming Association (NASA) Swim Gala. Coach Chisela Kanchela labeled it their best performance of the year.
Next June, the Kampala Parents School-based club, in conjunction with TYR from South Africa, will host its first ever swimming championship scheduled for June 26-28.
Back home, Dolphins Swimming Club successfully defended the Independence Swimming Gala crown at Kampala International School of Uganda (Kisu), Bukoto.
The Aga Khan Nursery School, Kololo-based club amassed 1,138 points over two days to fend off competition from second placed Seals who managed 869.
Though the swimmers were largely competitive and put up top performances for their clubs at home and within the region, they struggled to replicate the same performances at international and continental events bar Cana, consequently Uganda has continued to play second-fiddle at these events.
But the emergency of Dolphins and Seals has broken the dominancy of international schools at local meets.
Uganda in swimming conferences
Jethro Sengonzi and Hind flanked by their coach Nana Nakiddu also made the Qatar delegation. The three attended a youth conference, organized by the Qatar Swimming Association and the Qatar Olympic Committee.
National team coach Muzafaru Muwanguzi, also attended a Gold Clinic for elite coaches during the Qatar meet.
“It is important for our young but talented swimmers to attend these championships as observers because this will prepare them for the big stage when they get there. Many a time, swimmers fail to perform at this level because of the pressure and environment,” Muwanguzi said.
The biggest highlight of the Qatar meet was the appointment of USF boss Donald Rukare to the Fina Bureau, a technical decision-making and planning body for Fina, to replace Mr. Lino Loureno of Angola, who passed on in May. Rukare made a presentation at the meet on ‘Creating Outstanding Development Programmes’ after USF successfully hosted the Cana.
Elsewhere, Ugandan swimming coaches Tony Kasujja (Dolphins) and Lillian Mugisha (Makerere) joined Leipzig University in Germany on five months sports scholarships from the German government.
Kasujja and Mugisha beat three other participants from different sports disciplines in the interviews that were conducted by German sports instructor Luger Gunter last year.
“We don’t really give support in terms of facilities. We don’t give the fish but we give the fishing skills,” Gunter told the two coaches.
“We expect you to share the knowledge you acquire from Germany with Ugandans after you come back and probably we will see a boost in the development of swimming,” Gunter added then.
Muwanguzi was also a beneficiary of this scholarship scheme five years ago. London-based Lunkuse also got an Olympic scholarship from Uganda Olympic Committee to aid in her preparations for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Meanwhile, former Ugandan flag bearer and swimmer at Olympics 2012 Ganzi Mugula also retired into administration and masters’ swimming to give young swimmers a chance to step up.
Mugula, 32, swam at this years’ Masters’ Swim event in Montreal Canada together with Dr. Rukare. Masters’ swimming is an event that attracts swimmers of at least 25 years of age.
Despite trying to take big strides in the development of open water swimming, USF failed to pull off the sport’s much anticipated exhibition in March during the East and Central Africa Rowing Club Championships at Kisubi Beach.
Coach Max Kanyerezi had presented a paper on the sport last December and the sport was expected to take centre-stage this year.
Among other challenges for the swimming federation, has been the continued failure to secure a swimming pool.
“Hiring pools has been expensive on our side and that hasn’t helped us grow our calendar.
“We urge the clubs to start organising events and we (USF) shall offer the technical support though frankly we have also had the officiating challenges on our side. We hope to keep improving in all these aspects,” Dr. Rukare said.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor