By Javier Silas Omagor
As the fireworks go off amidst the colourful opening ceremony in Birmingham, the Uganda national athletics contingent is set on their journey to the English city for the commencing Commonwealth Games 2022.
The departing team was by press time camping at the Entebbe International Airport, on Thursday July 28, 2022.
The contingent is a blend of the well-balanced selection featuring both experienced and prudently impressive breakthrough runners.
The team is led by Stella Chesang, the Commonwealth Games 10,000m defending champion, Gold Coast 2018.
Jacob Kiplimo, the recently crowned 10,000m world champs bronze medallist Oregon 2022, who doubles as the World Half-marathon record–holder and defending champion, is also part of the team.
The runners’ squad is also boosted by Africa Senior Championships Mauritius 2022 silver medal winner in 10,000m Rachael Zena Chebet.
In the team as well is the 2018 Youth Olympics double medallist Sarah Chelangat who is also the reigning champion for Kampala elite championships and Uganda COVID-19 run 2021.
At the Uganda national cross country and half-marathon championships 2022, Chelangat won silver medals finishing twice behind Mercyline Chelangat.
Istanbul (Turkey) marathon 2022 reigning champion Victor Kiplangat is the medal hopeful for team Uganda and will be in action on Saturday to attempt his first medal in the Commonwealth Games.
Stylish female runner Linet Chebet Toritch has also travelled and she will carry Uganda’s full marathon hopes in the women category.
Dominic Otucet, the Uganda Athletics Federation (UAF) president, is optimistic that the team will garner an improvised medal haul than it did in the 2018 season.
“Most, if not all, the athletes traveling are medal hopefuls and I believe we shall come back with a big bag full of medals by God’s grace,” Otucet hoped.
It is worth remembering that during the last Commonwealth Games, team Uganda won five medals, including three gold (two by Joshua Cheptegei in 5,000m and 10,000m respectively and the other by Chesang).
Solom Mutai scooped a silver medal while Mercyline Chelangat won a bronze, but was not selected this time round given the fact that she preferred to participate in the just-concluded World Athletics Championships in Oregon, US. She finished a distant sixteenth in the 10,000m.
Stars joining the team from Netherlands
Olympics champion (Tokyo 2021), Peruth Chemutai will fly to Birmingham from Amsterdam, Netherlands over the weekend.
Chemutai and her Global Sports Communication management opted to have her train in the Netherlands ahead of the Commonwealth Games.
During the World Champs, Chemutai did not perform well due to the stomach infection.
Recently while speaking to The Kampala Sun, in an exclusive interview, she promised to make amends in Birmingham.
World Athletics Indoor Championships bronze medallist Halima Nakaayi and the national 1,500m record holder (women) Winnie Nanyondo are already in Europe as well waiting to join their teammates in England.
The 2022 Commonwealth coaches traveling with the team include Benjamin Njia, Benjamin Longiros, Francis Demayi, Lawrence Kavuma, Paul Okello and Dominic Otucet.
Uganda is set to make its 17th appearance at the Commonwealth Games at Birmingham 2022.
It has been billed as “the biggest event that Birmingham and the region has ever staged,” with more than 4,500 athletes from 72 nations and recognized territories expected to take part.
Birmingham 2022 is set to run from July 28 to August 8.