Uganda Swimming Federation Swimming Through Rough Waters

Uganda Swimming Federation Swimming Through Rough Waters

By Alfred Odong
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First published: January 15, 2006

To know how much the swimming has been a neglected sport, try out a random survey among sports journalists or officials from the Sports ministry. The probability of not finding a single person knowing the best swimmer or club in the country is very high. This is in spite of the fact that swimming in Uganda is done by many people even in the villages and hotel swimming pools not as an organized sport but rather something to do for relaxing. This shows how swimming sport has been neglected as a sport.

Although Uganda may have the potential to produce excellent swimmers, the sport has no sponsors, has no grass root base and the government itself has not shown any interest in supporting the game whose first organized association was formed in the 1960s.

History of the swimming game:
In the 1960s, two Europeans- Pmingah and Jerry Dralega formed the Uganda Amateur Swimming Association (UASA). This association had only two clubs-the Kampala swimming Club and the Jinja swimming Club. These clubs were not sporting associations but rather the recreational centers for mainly the White men in the country. In deed, even the construction of the swimming pools was done in a manner that does not match the required standards of a sporting pool. The swimming/sporting pools are slanting in depth with a shallow and deep end.

As a way of uplifting the standards of the game, the Uganda Amateur Swimming Association in 2001 gave birth to the Uganda Swimming Federation, which has now been in existence for about five years now.

Developments in the swimming sport:
Both the federation president, Donald Mugisha and its Secretary General, Peter Mugisha say that their vision is to ensure that the sport grows to match broader aspects of the Federation of International Swimming Federation (FINA). The Federation Committee says that they have been lobbying for support in uplifting the sport in addition to supporting the game. Already Jinja club has revived with a team coached by George William after the Jinja Mayor; David Wakudumira gave the federation financial support.

In addition, the federation is lobbying hotel owners with swimming pools to start clubs to take part in competitions both locally and internationally for the sports growth, which in a way would promote the image of the participating hotels. The Federation Secretary says that in January this year, the federation is hoping to send a swimming team of thirty swimmers to the Southern Africa Swimming Competitions to be held in Zambia. The federation has been sending teams to international competitions. Though the number has been small, Uganda has won some medals. The Ugandan swimming team has taken part in the World Islamic Games in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the ninth World Meet in Montreal Canada and the World University Games in Turkey (2005).

The swimmers have also participated in the seventh World Swimming Meet in Indiana, USA, the Olympics in Athens, Greece (2004); the World Meet in Japan, Barcelona and World Islamic Swimming Competitions in Iran.

On how the players are being trained to earn their medals, Mugisha says that the federation has organized a referees course for personnel who are competent in organizing, officiating and running competitions of any magnitude at local and international levels. He says that referees for 6 teams have already been trained.

In addition, the federation has managed to secure sponsorship for local competitions in which 5 clubs, 10 universities and 20 schools both primary and secondary schools take part. Our aim is to have water polo, open water, diving and synchronized competition in the sports at local competitions, says Peter Mugisha.

Mugisha says that in 2003, FINA offered the federation an opportunity of having a training clinic for coaches under the instruction of an American instructor, Tony Young. He says that because of the bad state of the sport, Young returned to the United States of Americas State of Indiana and collected assortments of swimming kits for the Ugandan federation.

The Federation Secretary General says that the swimming kits worth 200m shillings included kick boards, fins for legs, starting blocks, hand peddles, skipping ropes, water balls, lane ropes, pace clock. Mugisha says that his executive had planed to give to construct different swimming pools through out the country as a starting point in their mission of turning swimming to a nationally recognized game.

Federation fails to secure the swimming kits:
Mugisha says that their dream was shattered when they approached the then minister of state in charge of sports, Henry Okello Oryem who said he could not help secure funds to ferry the federations materials to Uganda. In addition, Mugisha says, the minister failed to help them bargain for a tax waiver since the kits were not meant for profits.

Support needed from corporate companies:
For the swimming game to develop, it will not be the government or the swimmers responsibility but rather the corporate companies as well. Like the Chairman of the Federation of the Ugandan Football Association, Lawrence Mulindwa did with his organization, the officials in the federation have to work hard to ensure that corporate companies develops interest in the game.

By Alfred Odong
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First published: January 15, 2006
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Alfred Odong is a member of Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd.