Uganda emerged the winners of the just-concluded eighth Africa Aquatics Zone 3 championship in Kigali, Rwanda; the first time the country has won it on foreign land.Read more: Clean sweep for Uganda at Africa Aquatics Championship
Although Uganda had won this championship twice before – both when it hosted the event in 2015 and 2021 – there was a sweet feeling to this particular victory after the country dethroned the defending champions, Tanzania, at the beautiful La Palisse hotel’s Gahanga Recreation Centre in Kigali.
Uganda drew first blood from the moment the officials blew the whistle, dominating the first race of the championship – the 200-metre backstroke – by winning five of the eight different age group categories. In doing that, Uganda sent a statement of intent to the other nine countries that participated at this championship.
From thereon, Uganda rolled over the rest of the pack; Zara Mbanga won 10 gold medals out of her 10 individual races, Swagiah Mubiru bagged nine gold medals out of her 11 individual races, Tara Kisawuzi took home eight gold medals out of 12 races, and Peyton Suubi closed in with three gold medals.
Uganda’s boys joined the party too: Usadadiya Heer and Tendo Kaumi each walked away with five gold medals, while Abdou Hakim had four gold medals.
And yet, it would be unfair not to recognise the intense shift that all the swimmers put into this championship. Isaiah Kuc, Petersson Inhensiko and Daniel Rukundo, who formed arguably one of the fastest 13-14 age group boys’ team this country has ever seen, all collected individual gold medals, and all three smashed records on a couple of races.
Pendo Kaumi and Ian Aziku met their match in Tanzania’s ruthless duo of BhattBhatt Aryan and Romeo-Mihaly Mwaipasi. While the Tanzanians dominated the Ugandan boys in this age group, Pendo and Aziku still managed to sneak away with two gold medals each.
Overall, Uganda’s swimmers left Kigali with the belief that they can sustain their dominance in the next years. There were personal best times from nearly all Uganda’s 40 swimmers that went to Kigali as the season nearly comes to a close.
The stage is now set for the next season, which will have both the world championships and Olympics. Will Uganda take its strong performance to the tougher environment of Africa Aquatics Zone 4, which brings together countries from southern Africa, and is swam in a long course swimming pool?
Uganda does not have a standard 50-metre swimming pool, which poses a challenge for many of its swimmers. Away from the pool, were there any lessons that Uganda will take from Kigali, which hosted a well-organised event?
One thing remains clear: there remains a strong need for government’s investment in facilities. Nearly all the countries in East Africa have long course swimming pools. The Uganda Swimming Federation (USF) has developed the sport over the last decade, and the number and quality of swimmers has improved.
The federation has ensured that swimmers participate in these regional events regularly. With Uganda’s performance in Kigali, the country will be one of the most watched in the region next year.