By Samson Opus
KAMPALA - Mention the name Michael Kawooya and the game of squash comes into mind.
The 24-year-old Kampala Club player and Uganda’s top seed, has evolved into a household name and is a joy to watch on the court.
The industrious athlete is perhaps one of the most passionate squash players in Uganda today. His love for the game has earned him worthwhile rewards.
Kawooya, who so far has four international titles and one won on the domestic stage to his name, epitomizes the rise of the sport which was formerly a preserve of the expatriate community.
He represents a new crop of players in the action packed sport.
Despite the fact that he comes from a humble background, Kawooya’s love for squash accounts for his rise to success in one of the most intense indoor sports.
He dominated the local scene for three years before he fell to the country’s second seed two Ian Rukunya in the Castle Open last month.
Kawooya has also shown his talent on the international stage. He made an impressive debut at the St. Petersburg International Open in Russia.
Kawooya, the only African in the event, bagged a gold medal in the M1 category. The event is ranked highly on the European circuit.
After the trip to Russia, Kawooya together with Rukunya, Lawrence Matovu, Paul Kadoma and Brian Okumu entered the Kengen Parkland Open in Nairobi.
The five-man team mounted a spirited fight to finish among the top performers. Matovu won the plate event while Rukunya and Kawooya settled for silver medals.
Kawooya hands over some of the trophies he won the international stage to Uganda Squash Rackets Association vice chairman Abdallah Kyeira. PHOTO/Samson Opus
Kawooya impressed the domestic squash fraternity by reaching the quarter-finals of the Prince Grand Prix in South Africa.
Elsewhere, he reached the semi-finals of the Nakuru Open in Kenya.
Uganda Squash and Rackets Association (USRA) chairman Bosco Tamwesigire saluted the players for portraying the sport well.
“For a small sport like squash, this has been a successful season,” he stated. The official added that plans are on to attract more young players to the sport.
Kawooya and his colleagues are already making plans for the 2013 season. “I would say 2012 has been a good season for me,” the player said.
The quest by Kawooya and his colleagues to go up the ladder will start in January. They will compete in the All Africa Championship in Windhoek, Namibia.
The event, that traditionally attracts the continent’s top players, will provide a fresh opportunity for Kawooya and his colleagues to get more international exposure.
Although the players have the zeal to compete, there are a number of challenges that USRA needs to address on the domestic stage.
These include limited facilities like playing surfaces, training and competition kit.
Today, a racket goes for not less than sh160,000.
One major advantage in squash is that players and officials are willing to work together.
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Kaooya''s love, hardwork for squash pays off