2017 was another memorable year for Ugandan sport.We look back on the records smashed, the history made and some of the longstanding droughts that were ended.
Kiplimo’s gold, Cheptegei’s redemption and DAVID EMONG
Uganda is a country with some athletics pedigree, and if anyone was about to forget that fact, 2017 served a timely reminder. With our first chance of hosting the World Cross Country Championship, young talent Jacob Kiplimo did us proud by bagging the country’s first ever World Cross Country gold medal when he won the U-20 men’s race with a time of 22.40.
That event however, would come to be best remembered for the incredible zizag run by Joshua Cheptegei who looked set to earn Uganda a medal until he ran out of ideas—literally and staggered to the finish line a distant 30th. But they say you cannot put a good man down, and barely three months on, Cheptegei found redemption by winning silver in the men’s 10,000m race at the IAAF World Championship in London.
Nonetheless, it was David Emong who really was king in London. Competing as only one of two Ugandans at the London World Para Athletics Championships, Emong proved his silver medal at the Paralympics last year was no fluke as he delivered a remarkable sprint on the final bend to win the country’s first ever gold at the competition. That performance served as a reminder of how good Uganda can be at athletics and how it remains the country’s best assurance of international sporting glory.
Cranes return to Afcon, threaten to sneak into World Cup
The hard work of qualification might have been done last year, but it really was in 2017 that national football team Uganda Cranes got their reward—a first appearance at the Africa Nations Cup in 39 years. With Group D opponents that included Ghana and Egypt, it was always going to be an uphill task getting a single point, let alone qualifying from the group. Ultimately, Cranes came up short, although the slim 1-0 defeats to their two big name opponents and a creditable 1-1 draw with Mali meant they left Gabon with some pride. That, perhaps, provided the springboard upon which an unlikely World Cup qualification campaign was built, and in a group that had both Egypt and Ghana again, threatened a shock qualification for Russia 2018, until Mohamed Salah happened. Still, the Cranes finished second in the group, the best ever in a World Cup qualification campaign.
Rugby Cranes retain Africa title, make World Cup history If the football Cranes cured an Afcon drought, the Uganda Rugby Cranes Sevens went even a step farther as history makers this year- utilising home advantage by dramatically defending the Africa Rugby Sevens crown against Zimbabwe at Legends and in the process qualifying for their maiden Rugby Sevens World Cup due to happen in 2018 in the US. It was a remarkable achievement for a team that had just lost three of its stars after they deserted during a tour to Germany.
She Cranes win 2017 Africa Netball Championship unbeaten
One other team to take full advantage of their host status was the She Cranes, the Uganda women’s netball team, and how stylish that triumph was. The She Cranes won the 2017 Champions of Africa by whitewashing all their opponents, winning all five of their while scoring 335 goals and conceding 198. The She Cranes went up against Zambia in the final and comfortably dispatched them 67-50 at the Lugogo Indoor Arena. Parliament took note and made good on its promise to provide them with a bus. There was, however, nothing conclusive on the promise of monetary rewards for the team.
KCCA FC get so near, yet remain so far on the continent
KCCA FC had been the standout performers in the local football competitions, winning a first-ever league and cup double in their 54-year existence but it was their exploits on the continent that captured the imagination of the entire land. After getting to within 10 minutes of knocking Denis Onyango’s Mamelodi Sundowns (also the African champions at the time) out of the Caf Champions League, they settled for a Caf Confederation Cup assignment, becoming the first Ugandan club to make it to the group stages of a continental competition and only missing out on the quarter finals after getting eliminated on goal difference.
City Oilers defend Zone V and make history on African stage
City Oilers, much more dominant in local basketball stage than KCCA FC is in football, were expected to retain their regional club basketball title in front of a home crowd, and did just that with the Zone V. The challenge was to do better at the Africa Club Championships, Africa’s premier basketball competition where they debuted last year and finished ninth out of 10 teams. Oilers might not have set the tournament alight, but at least managed a bit of history of their own by making it to the quarter-finals for the first time, only losing 76-91 to the formidable Tunisian opponents Monastir, who were playing in their home country.
AND ON THE LOCAL SCENE…
65-year old Fitidis wins NRC title
Few would probably have predicted that a 65-year-old rally driver would beat more his fresh-bloodied rivals in a sport that thrives on adrenaline, but that is exactly what Christakis Fitidis did to secure the 2017 National Rally Championship. Fitidis collected 401 points to claim his maiden Ugandan rally title despite finishing sixth in the season finale in Masaka in October.
Pirates ends long wait for Cup win
Pirates’ 10-year wait for a Uganda Cup trophy came to an end as they broke the Heathens’ dominant streak by defeating the reigning champions 31-20 in the final at Kyadondo Rugby Club. Pirates had last won the Cup in 2007 and after so many near misses mostly at the hands of Heathens, 2017 proved the year they would not be denied.