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Explorating The Legacy of Team Uganda at the Olympic Games

It’s not everyday that Team Uganda gets into an Olympics event so rejuvenated and with untainted belief in the abilities of it’s athletes to deliver succeed, neither is it a common occurrence for us to bask in glory of the best Olympics performance ever.

The two are mutually exclusive circumstances that could never have been thought about as happening simultaneously given our medieval approach to matters concerning preparations and setting up for this success irrespective of the sports discipline in question.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics event has not only changed this narrative but also created a benchmark for the Uganda Athletics Federation (UAF) as they quest to recreate this humongous success in the years to come.

In all honesty, these great men and women produced milestones that resonate with relevance, that echoe with history, and matter almost more than any other.

Winnie Nanyondo competed at the 800m and 1500m in Tokyo. Reuters photo

The fact that we gave our East African adversaries a run for their money is sufficient enough given their dominance in both track-and-field disciplines over the years. Now the press-forward Kenyans must eat humble pie since this is the kind of celebration we shall have to share.

That withstanding, the entire history of Ugandan sport has ultimately led us to this moment where Team Uganda has produced a shockwave of emotion that transcends time and space.

The fact that we now count as high as 11 medals makes it even special, so much so that many Ugandans are bursting with pride and have run out of figures counting the number of times their country has medalled at the quadrennial event since our debut at the 1956 games in Melbourne Australia.

The Medal Tally since 1956

Eridadi Mukwanga and Leo Rwabwogo brought home Uganda’s maiden Olympics medals at the Mexico games in 1968. The two gentlemen won silver and bronze in the Men’s BantamWeight and FlyWeight respectively.

John Akii-bua followed this up with the country’s first gold in the 400m hurdles while at the Munich games in 1972. Leo Rwabwogo would further add Silver in the Men’s FlyWeight at the same event, thereby cementing his legacy in the history books.

Leo Rwabogo (left) won two medals for Uganda at the Olympics. Getty images

While the Montreal games in 1976 were boycotted, John (The Beast) Mugabi wiped the tears with his silver medal in the Men’s Welterweight at the 1980 Moscow games before Davis Kamoga would provide a bronze medal in the 400m at the 1996 Atlanta games.

Steven Kiprotich’s genius at the 2012 London Olympic games stopped the unprecedented 19 year drought. His dominant and magical run in the Marathon brought gold, sending the less expectant Ugandan crowds into rupture.

A feeling of awe and huge expectation was maintained for Kiprotich going into Rio 2016, but little did we know that his dominance was to ably be challenged by Eliud Kipchoge. This defeat subjected him to this uncharacteristic plummet he has is experiencing.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Peruth Chemutai won the Olympics 3000m SC gold. Courtesy

Fast forward to Peruth Chemutai whose mentality and never-die attitude established her as the first female Ugandan athlete to bring an Olympic medal to the Pearl of Africa, a gold at that.

Her intense running adrenaline, tenacity and sweeping assault on the eighteen barriers and five water-jumps spread over seven-and-a-half laps in the 3000m steeplechase was not only mouthwatering but also one to cherish.

This brought back a feeling of reminiscence of Dorcus Inzikuru, whose win in the inaugural women’s 3000m steeplechase at the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki is still held in high esteem.

Joshua Cheptegei on-the-other-hand provided gold and silver in the 5,000m and 10,000m respectively while his counterpart Jacob Kiplimo managed bronze in the 10,000m to bring the tally to four medals at this iconic event.

Cheptegei, who easily comes off as likeable, intelligent, driven, shaped by his sometimes challenging past, managed to gather the charisma to bring home not one but two Olympic medals.

The memory of his initial debacle at the 2016 World Cross-country Championships hosted at Kololo in Kampala which provoked the media to ride the narrative of him not being good enough is still staggering but probably the biggest manifestation of his strong mentality.

One could call his recent success a proverbial shot at redemption, but sport for the most part refuses to be a tale of missed opportunities. It doesn’t punish us according to our inequities and it did pay Joshua in desirable quantities.

Cheptegei, whose silverback gesture-like celebration at the reception of his gold medal provoked a lot of humour, has been responsible for creating this newly derived complacency amongst Ugandans. To which he keeps providing a justification.

His aggression on the track can be compared to Moses Kiprotich who played a fundamental role in paving a way for future success when he won double gold in the 5,000m and 10,000m at the 2010 Commonwealth games in Delhi.

Joshua Cheptegei has rightly laid claim to being Uganda’s greatest ever. Reuters photo

He has rightfully put to rest the debate about who the greatest Ugandan Sports personality of all time is with his valley of achievements ranging from the junior championships to now that he is the face of Ugandan Sport both locally and internationally. He is the perfect

To the federation, your work in setting up the athletes alongside the National Council of Sports was commendable. The fact that the preparations weren’t done in an haphazard manner makes even this postmortem subjective to only the positives.

To the athletes that brought the medals home, we as a country wear your success like a badge of honour and commend you for the impeccable milestones you have achieved.

For those that were unable to bring a medal home, the results should never be perceived as a zero-sum-game where one’s gain has an inverse proportional relationship with another person’s. We are all winners.

TOKYO, JAPAN – JULY 31: Jacob Kiplimo of Team Uganda poses with his bronze medal for the Men’s 10,000m on day eight of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on July 31, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Your contribution at the event weighed in a currency far more valuable than medals or mere competition triumph. You return home with your pride intact, with reputation in hearts and with Uganda perfectly marketed.

The country indeed held it’s breath for the golden children and now that this success is with us, we ought to breathe it, feel it, embrace it and relish it’s rich relevance right here-right now.


Uganda’s Olympics Medal Winners

  1. Eridad Mukwanga – Silver in Boxing (1968 Mexico City)
  2. Leo Rwabogo – Bronze in Boxing (1968 Mexico City)
  3. John Akii-bua – Gold in Men’s 400m Hurdles – 1972 Munich
  4. Leo Rwabogo – Silver in Boxing (1972 Munich)
  5. John Mugabi – Silver in Boxing (1980 Moscow)
  6. Davis Kamoga – Bronze in 400m (1996 Atlanta)
  7. Stephen Kiprotich – Gold in Marathon (2012 London)
  8. Joshua Cheptegei – Silver in 10,000m (2020 Tokyo
  9. Jacob Kiplimo – Bronze in 10,000m (2020 Tokyo Olympics)
  10. Peruth Chemutai – Gold in 3000m Steeplechase (2020 Tokyo).
  11. Joshua Cheptegei – Gold in 5000m (2020 Tokyo)

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