By James Bakama
A blazing cash row preceded Uganda’s participation in the just concluded Africa Cross country Championship.
As other teams were laying final strategies on how to win medals, Ugandan athletes were almost flaring into a fist fight with their officials.
Sources have revealed that athletes were discontent with the sh900,000 per athlete offered by Uganda Ugandan Athletics Federation for the one month they had been in camp.
They demanded for extra money equivalent to what they would have spent in air tickets from their bases abroad. UAF is however said not to have budged.
“The disagreement continued late into the night and by the time they got into the competition, most runners were not focused,” said the source.
Government sponsored the event to a tune of $360,000 (sh903m.)
Uganda failed to win an individual medal but still improved from one team bronze at the last championship in South Africa.
Uganda this time finished with one team silver and two bronze medals.
Many Ugandans believe that a better facilitated team could have done better.
Funds were only released by government shortly before the competition.
This late release of money is said to be the reason some Ugandans ran bare-foot on Sunday.
It is however not the first time athletes compete bare-foot.
Even overall champions Kenya had a bare-foot runner.
Faith Cheptengich, who won the women’s race on Sunday, was bare-foot when she won gold at the 2011 World Cross-country in Spain.
South Africa’s Zola Bud also twice won the same competition bare-foot.
But as Ugandan juniors Karen Chekwemoi and Phanice Chemutai ran on the stony sections of the Kololo course on Sunday, it was evident that they were in pain. They also couldn’t match other runners on the slippery terrain that required spikes.
Urged to use shoes
But coach Gordon Ahimbisibwe explained that right from the training in Bukwo three weeks ago, he had urged the athletes to use running shoes.
“But being juniors who have only joined the team, they kept on saying that the shoes would affect their performance.”
He said the only thing that slowed the juniors was the afternoon heat.
“These juniors were competing in the afternoon for the first time. That definitely disadvantaged them.”
Cross-country action continues on Saturday with the World University Cross-country at Entebbe golf course.
A total of 28 countries are expected.