By Javier Silas Omagor
Having concluded the World Athletics Championships 2022 in Oregon with three medals, the senior team switched places as they took a flight from the US to the UK.
Joshua Cheptegei, the greatest athlete of all time in the country, Jacob Kiplimo and Oscar Chelimo clinched gold and bronze medals respectively to make Uganda proud in the US.
Now, in the UK, the team is fruitfully taking part in the ongoing Commonwealth Games 2022, which the English city of Birmingham is hosting.
They have already bagged two gold medals in marathon and 10,000m events won by the two brothers Victor Kiplangat and Jacob Kiplimo respectively.
As the seniors continue to toil for more rewards in Queensland, the junior team recently took the flight to the Colombian city of Cali to compete in the World Junior Championships 2022.
The country’s budding athletes ran riot in Cali on Wednesday, August 3, resulting in qualification into the semis and finals respectively.
It is fair to say coach Charles Mukiibi’s budding stars are encountering mixed fortunes in Colombia.
First things fast, a couple of them have managed to make the final cut and one such player is Rogers Kibet of KCCA Club and Global Sports Communication Agency.
Having struggled on August 1 in the finals of the men’s 5km, Kibet returned to action on August 3 where he made amends.
During that failed 5,000m glory attempt, Kibet was fifth when he clocked 14mins, 7seconds and 71 microseconds, narrowly missing out on the medal.
But he quickly put the disappointment behind him and the youngster has now sealed the 3,000m finals qualification with a clock of 7mins, 57seconds and 18 microseconds.
The highlight of the day was perhaps Alphas Ndiwa Torotich running half the 3,000m steeplechase distance heats with only one shoe after being spiked by a competitor while racing.
In fear of losing his momentum, Ndiwa could not stop to fix his shoe.
Racing without one shoe is not just funny, but also detrimental as it affects the runner mentally, as well as physically throughout the race since it brings about composure imbalance.
The energetic Ndiwa demonstrated his classiness in large parts of the competition up until his right shoe gave way.
Ndiwa managed to finish fourth, a position good enough to send him into the finals. It was amazing to see Ndiwa brave through all those challenges with his bare leg.
Meantime, The Kampala Sun has since learnt that the situation led to a minor injury, but Mukiibi is optimistic Ndiwa will be able to shake it before the next race.
“It is not gross and the team doctors are managing it,” Mukiibi, who is manning the national junior team for this year, revealed.
Another steeplechaser, Leonard Chemutai, also qualified to the next level with an astonishing show of 8mins, 51seconds and microseconds, second fastest time on track.
The UPDF Athletics Club junior officer was resilient in the beginning of the race, midway and even better in his finishing.
In the women’s category, Loice Chekwemoi cruised into the 3000m steeplechase finals with a Personal Best (PB) of 10mins, 10seconds and 82 microseconds.
By the time of filling this story, Chekwemoi was the one Ugandan athlete to record a PB in Cali. The youngster is highly rated by the steeplechase Olympic champion, Peruth Chemutai.
Most of their respective finals are scheduled for Friday morning, August 5, at 1:20am local time.
Coach Mukiibi expects a better performance from Prisca Chesang, who won a bronze in the last championships edition.
“Prisca is doing well and I think she will make us proud again. All the squad members who have progressed to the finals are doing just fine,” Mukiibi said.
In contrast, the junior reigning national cross country champion Scarlet Patrick Chebet came home in the 10th position as her clock read 9:47.02 in the 3000m women’s final.
Fresh from representing his country in the senior championships in Oregon, Peter Maru ran in the 5,000km distance, but could not finish in the medal bracket after uncharacteristic lackluster performance.
The Rosa Associati Agency runner yielded a poor time of 14mins, 13seconds and 71 microseconds.
Then there was Hosea Krop who was running in the 1,500m distance heats in which failed to qualify when he finished fifth with a time of 3mins, 48seconds and 43 microseconds.
In Heat 2 of 800m women category, Maureen Chebet poached a time of 2mins, 12seconds and 25 microseconds a clock only good enough for the eighth position, but not qualification into the finals.
Nonetheless, that was a slightly good show from Chebet, given the fact that she was struggling with what looked like a minor hamstring injury.
Emmanuel Rwomotomiya missed finals in 400m when he struggled to stop the clock that kept ticking until 47seconds and 86 microseconds.
Elsewhere, in Birmingham, Stella Chesang could not defend her Commonwealth Games 10km gold title after she finished fourth, just outside the medal bracket.
Chesang started the star-studded race very well as she ducked within the leading pack all the way into the second half of the event.
However, with a couple of laps to home-straight the Inspector of Police dropped off the intensively paced pack composed of Eilish McColgan of Scotland and Kenyan duo of Cheptai and Kiprotich who swept the podium in gold, silver and bronze respectively.
Chesang, who was the best of the rest, says she will now swiftly shift focus back to her training so as to prepare for upcoming competitions including World Championships 2023 in Hungary and Olympics 2024 in Paris, France.
Probably the upcoming competitions will find Chesang who is only returning from her childbirth break in even a much better shape than what she was in England on Wednesday.
Today, August 4, Emmanuel Otim, Abud Mayanja and Jacent Namuhunge will battle for qualification in 1500m and 200m, respectively.
Peruth Chemutai, the only female Olympic gold medallist in the country’s history, will be running on Friday, August 5, in the same Commonwealth Games.
Back home in Uganda, another set of prudently talented athletes are today (August 4) carrying out their COVID-19 tests before they fly to Konya city in Turkey to represent their nation in the World Islamic Solidarity Games.
The group is being led by the Poland championships defending champion Abel Chebet, who also doubles as the national half-marathon silver medallist.
Chebet shares the leadership responsibility along with the highly rated female speed monster Janat Chemusto of Police Athletics Club coached by ASP Benjamin Njia.
The Islamic Solidarity Games officially commence on August 8 and the Ugandan contingent will hope to make the flag fly high in Turkey.