- Titanic. Ugandans have a chance to show their potential at world events like the World Short Course Championships and Commonwealth Games.
The swimming season starts with the Seals League on February 10, followed by the Masters’ event and a trip to Nairobi for the Kenya Open Long Course Championships. Here are some of the storylines we think will shape the year.
Commonwealth Games lineup
The qualification times for the Commonwealth Games, due April in Gold Coast - Australia, were released over two weeks ago.
Like is always the case, our swimmers have to make the grade for this event and probably the World Short Course Championships in November in Guangzhou China, on wildcards.
Apart from Jamila Lunkuse, who symbolically called time on her career after the 2016 Olympics, Anthea Mudanye, Rebecca Ssengonzi and Avice Meya make the list of girls to have represented Uganda at the world stage over the last three years. All three could make a case for Gold Coast.
The men’s choices will be equally interesting.
Ismah Serunjoji was an interesting pick, alongside Joshua Ekirikubinza, for last year’s World Championships in Hungary.
Ekirikubinza, if available, should be in Australia. His brother Elisha was at the last edition in Glasgow in 2014 while Kenya-based Atuhaire Ambala will be keen to make the main competition after going to Bahamas for the Commonwealth Youth Games last year.
South Africa-based twins Fadhil and Nabil Saleh plus USA-based Jesse Ssengonzi all have enough laps in their bodies to start pushing for senior continental and international events after a couple of trips to Cairo for the Cana Junior Championships.
That said, Uganda Swimming Federation (USF) is ‘notorious’ for throwing a homegrown swimmer into the deep end like they did with Serunjoji in Hungary. Therefore, though it is quite far-fetched, do not entirely rule out Tendo Mukalazi or Adnan Kabuye making their first international cut. After all there are also Youth Summer Olympics (October) and Cana Senior Championships (September) in the picture.
Better competitions at home?
The 15 and over boys’ category got more interesting when Kabuye and Mukalazi turned 15 midway through 2017 and we could expect the same for the girls when Selina Katumba advances to this age group sometime in July.
But the one to watch closely is Kirabo Namutebi who turns 13 on February 8 meaning her year starts in a new age group. She has long craved for competition to test her progress and the prospect of her lining up against Daya Yalonda Mpeera, Alexis Kituuka and Mercedes Mwebeiha for the majority of the year plus Katumba, Ssinzi Nabatanzi and Zara Nsubuga for the first half of 2018 is exciting. And that is only at home!
Cana Zone III Championships
These are the biggest swimming competitions in the region and Uganda’s contingent has managed to put up impressive performances in each of the last three editions.
The championship heads up north in the Sudan heat in October but the humid conditions in Tanzania last year gave a sneak view of what to expect in Khartoum.
However, with more Ugandan swimmers keen on taking part at Level 2 and 3 competitions in South Africa every December, the interest in the Zone III event is likely to dwindle as the financial burden on parents grows.
SCORE predicts, the representation in Sudan could fade further either in terms of quality or numbers.
More aquatic disciplines
Last year, USF decided to get back to the drawing board as far as the growth of water polo is concerned. This year in May, it is expected we shall also see an introduction of artistic swimming or synchronized swimming. A few schools, clubs, swimmers and coaches have picked up water polo and USF hopes to monitor the growth through quarterly reviews and a national championship in July.
Wait for a pool continues
USF’s biggest challenge remains the lack of a swimming pool. The federation lobbied for one from the Hungarian government in the lead to the 2017 World Championships held in Budapest.
But while we cannot ascertain if they will be getting one, USF head Dr Donald Rukare insists; “we are very hopeful.” He knows the lack of one, is a stick his leadership will always be beaten with.
Have the political wounds healed?
Speaking reins, there is no doubt that last year’s USF elections that extended Rukare’s leadership, at the expense of Seals’ Tefiro Serunjogi, left the fraternity bruised.
It was clear even long after the election that both sides were still struggling to move on. Such was the bruise that the final leg of the Seals League was held on the same day as the final USF National Masters’ Gala with both sides accusing each other of ignoring the calendar.
No wonder harmonizing the calendar was hot on the agenda of last weekend’s USF engagement meeting. The bigger discussions on the direction of the sport are, however, expected on what should be an interesting Annual Meeting on March 17.