May 18, 2024
EXTRACURRICULAR

Swimmers Make Strides On International Scene

By Michael Nsubuga

From their latest outing at the 2022 World Swimming (25m-short course) Championship in Melbourne, Australia to the Commonwealth Games and to the regional CANA championships, national swimmers made great strides in the pool; pointing to a brighter future.

Siblings Kirabo Namutebi and Tendo Mukalazi who were fresh from a FINA training camp in Russia set the pace in April, leading the way at the CANA Zone IV Championships in Zambia. Kirabo won three gold and one silver as Mukalazi picked one gold and one silver to lead the cast that included; Karimah Katemba, Paloma Kirabo and Adnan Kabuye who also won medals alongside masters’ swimmers Donald Rukare, Peter Ssebanakitta, Patience Birungi and Godfrey Kizza.

From then on several national records were re-written over the course of the year most notable among them was US-based Jesse Ssengonzi’s 51.90 in the 100m butterfly achieved from Australia where he also lowered his 50m butterfly personal best to 23.79.

He represented the country alongside Tara Naluwooza aka Kisawuzi and Namutebi with the former producing an impressive 27.71 in the 50m fly. Namutebi made 32.47 in the 50m breast.

Naluwooza had also represented Uganda at the World Junior Swimming Championships in Peru alongside Swagia Mubiru, Joshua Lumonya and Steve Magera. Namutebi missed out on this because of her busy schedule in what would be her last juniors’ event.

But this happened just after she had clocked 26.01 in the 50m freestyle to win silver (Uganda’s first seniors medal) at the Africa Senior Championship in Tunisia. She had also claimed silver from the 50m freestyle event at the Islamic Solidarity Games in Konya, Turkey where she featured alongside Mukalazi and Avice Meya.

Kukundakwe Medal Haul

But the big show in Konya was left for para swimmer Husnah Kukundakwe who after her Commonwealth Games debut in the 100m freestyle in the S9 class where she clocked 01:19.01, a time which was short of her national record of 01:18.59, bagged seven medals (three gold, three silver and one bronze) in what was her best international outing ever.

She had earlier in March, scooped two bronze medals from the Para Swimming World Series in Italy. The 15-year-old Aga Khan High School student clocked 01:29.66 in the 100m breaststroke to win bronze and also returned 01:18.59 in the 100m freestyle event to register new national records and personal bests in the two events.

Ahead of the Commonwealth Games, four Ugandan swimmers who included Olympian Namutebi and her elder brother Mukalazi, Kabuye and Katemba had impressed at the 19th FINA World Championships Budapest in June.

At the championship, Mukalazi set a new national 50m breaststroke record after clocking 30.03, while for the second time at a world championship event, Namutebi won her heat when she clocked 26.26 in the 50m freestyle but finished 36th out of 82 participants overall. Namutebi also posted 35.12 in the 50m breaststroke.

Meya also warmed up for the Commonwealth Games with a 1:03.16 in the 100m freestyle, and a 32.94 (50m back) in Budapest while Kabuye made 29.65 in the 50m backstroke as well as venturing in the 5km Open Water competition alongside Katemba. The Ugandans also competed in the 4×100 relay, posting a new mixed freestyle relay time of 3:56.04 improving the previous record last posted in Gwangju by Meya, Mukalazi, Atuhaire Ambala and Selina Katumba by 44.05 seconds.

In Birmingham, Uganda’s representatives; Ambala Ogola Atuhaire, Meya, Namutebi and Mukalazi clocked 3:51.75 in the 4x100m freestyle relay to set a new national record over the distance. They improved the previous one set during the 19th FINA World Championships Budapest 2022 in June; by Mukalazi, Namutebi, Kabuye and Katemba, by 4.29 seconds.

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