Commonwealth – Nanyondo Holds Key

Ahead of today’s opening ceremony of the 20th Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, middle distance runner Winnie Nanyondo carries the hopes of a nation as the main favourite to win a medal, writes Moses Mugalu.

It was unimaginable six months that Uganda’s fortunes at the Games would rely on a 20-year-old rookie. Yet as things stand, Nanyondo’s form in the 800 metres could decide the fate of Team Uganda’s medal hopes in the two weeks of non-stop action.

Nanyondo, who is also eyeing success in the 1,500m, starts her medal hunt in the 800m heats on July 31. But before she steps onto the Hampden Park track, the national Rugby Sevens team would have known their fate, as would the teams of badminton, squash, shooting table tennis and swimming.

So, of the 62 athletes representing the country, it goes without saying that athletics and boxing hold realistic chances. In fact, Uganda has never won any major international medal outside of the two disciplines. That is not to say that the rest are merely making up numbers, but they have a tall order to even leave a mark at the Games.

It is also worth noting that the recently-regrouped boxing team is still inexperienced at this level of competition but given Uganda’s boxing record at the Commonwealth Games, you can only rule them out at your own peril. Which leaves athletics, and in particular Nanyondo, as the biggest prospect.

It is a bit of a surprise that the chances of Moses Kipsiro, a double gold medalist from the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, aren’t high. The 28-year-old has endured a torrid season curtailed by injuries.

Meteoric rise of Nanyondo:

Nanyondo’s rise is nothing short of a fairytale and she first gained recognition after bagging gold at the World University Games in Entebbe back in March. She went on to win the East Africa Games, National Championships and a number of IAAF events in Europe). In doing so, Nanyondo has shown she is ready to rule in Glasgow.

And on July 18, Nanyondo affirmed that she is indeed Uganda’s new 800 metre queen at the Monaco Diamond event by setting a new personal best and national record as she romped to third place in one minute 58.63 seconds. Indeed, the athlete’s blistering form has earned attention and praise from rare quarters such as Dr Kizza Besigye.

The former opposition FDC party leader this week posted on his Twitter account. “Winnie Nanyondo, a girl with two names that I like, is doing wonders on the track! Keep it up, Winnie!’

(The athlete shares first name with Besigye’s wife, Winnie Byanyima and Nanyondo, refers to his famous ‘hammer’ campaign symbol in the run-up to the 2001 general elections).

Uganda holds proud record at Commonwealth:

Vancouver 1954

Silver: Patrick Etolu (High Jump)

Cardiff 1958

Silver: Thomas Kawere (Boxing)

Perth 1962

Gold: George Oywello, Silver: Kesi Odongo, Bronze: Francis Nyangweso, John Sentongo and Donciano Ochodomuge (Boxing)

Edinburgh 1970

Gold: Benson Masanda, Mohamed Muruli and James Odwori (Boxing), Silver: Leo Rwabogo, Deo Musoke (Boxing) and William Koskei (200m hurdles)

Christchurch 1974

Gold: Ayub Kalule and Mohamed Muruli, Silver: Shadrack Odhiambo, Ali Rojo, James Odwori and Silver Ayoo (400m)

Brisbane 1982

Silver: Ruth Kyalisima (400m hurdles), Peter Rwamuhanda (400m hurdles), Vicky Byarugaba (Boxing)

Auckland 1990

Gold: Justin Juuko and Godfrey Nyakana (Boxing)

Victoria 1994

Bronze: Charles Kizza

Kuala Lumpur 1998

Bronze: Jackson Asiku

Manchester 2002

Silver: Muhammed Kayongo and Joseph Lubega (Boxing)

Melbourne 2006

Gold: Dorcus Inzikuru (3,000m steeplechase), Boniface Kiprop (10,000m), Bronze: Martin Mubiru (Boxing)

Delhi 2010

Gold: Moses Kipsiro, 5,000m and 10,000m.

Source : The Observer

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