Athletics has been Uganda’s most successful sport over the past two decades.
Josephine Lalam over the weekend pulled off a rare victory for Uganda.
Lalam threw 51.86 meters in the javelin to win the women’s gold at the Youth Commonwealth Games in the Bahamas.
So what’s special about this? After all it is not the first gold that Uganda is winning at these games.
For starters, to stand out as the best in an entry of 64 countries is in itself outstanding. But what makes this very feat unique is the event in which Lalam sparkled.
She stood out in a field event. This is an area that seemed dead in Uganda.
Athletics has been Uganda’s most successful sport over the past two decades. But even then, almost all the medals here have been in long distance events.
Save for Davis Kamoga’s Olympic and World Championship medals in the 400 meters in 1996 and 7 respectively, Uganda has lately had nothing to show in the other events.
The field events, which like the sprints need very close supervision and coaching, have like someone once put it, been virtually dead in Uganda.
Not that we lack talent in this area. As far back as 1954 at the senior version of the same games where Lalam was unstoppable another Ugandan Patrick Etolu won silver in the high jump.
You certainly have also not forgotten another Ugandan Justin Arop. The late Arop, who hailed from the same Acholi region like Lalam, was in the late 1980s one of the world’s best javelin throwers.
So when Lalam threw the javelin to a gold medal on Saturday there was indeed reason to pay special attention.
Given Uganda’s lack of attention to this event, this should indeed be a special talent sprouting virtually on its own.
Athletics governing body UAF therefore has to invest in this teenager to ensure that she fully realizes her potential.
Lalam’s story shouldn’t be the same as that of another Ugandan thrower Patrick Kibwota.
About a decade ago Kibwota, who interestingly also hails from the Acholi region, was beating Kenya’s Julius Yego in javelin.
But as it turned out, Kibwota happened to find himself in the wrong setting. There was little in Uganda to help him sharpen his abilities.
Yego to the contrary had all the necessary resource to help him develop Kenya.
The athletics governing body of the country also ensured that he also had all the international exposure he required.
Hardly a decade later, Yego was a world champion with Kibwota nowhere on the international roster.
My prayer is that the same doesn’t happen to Lalam. She needs special attention if she is to translate her success to the senior level.
Athletes like Australia’s Bowyer Ellie Frances who on Saturday took silver are more privileged.
Their countries have solid athletics set ups that ensure growth. Within five years she will most likely be winning bigger titles.
Will Lalam follow a similar trend?