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UWA Club leads by example

By James Bakama

Added 8th April 2019 12:00 AM

The government project continues dragging almost a decade after it was launched

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The government project continues dragging almost a decade after it was launched

With the national high altitude centre in Teryet dragging, other organisations have opted for alternatives.

The national project complete with a modern field, running track, jogging course, hostels, a hotel and gym, should have been fully complete by the 2016 Rio Olympics.

When complete, this is supposed to become a high-performance centre-churning out world beaters just like Iten, 2400 meters high on the Elgeyo Escarpment. That has not happened. The Ugandan project is dragging.

Even the first phase comprising of the track, field, jogging track and hostel is far from complete. That’s why organisations like the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) have chosen to set up their own centres within the same locality.

I gather even individuals like athlete Joshua Cheptegei have opted for a similar path. This is understandable.

Rather than rely on facilities in neighbouring Kenya, like many Ugandan clubs do, UWA has opted for its own facilities. When its track is complete, it will be the first standard facility in Eastern Uganda.

Meanwhile, the government project continues dragging almost a decade after it was launched.

Is it therefore surprising that even President Yoweri Museveni is also not happy with the pace?

The trend taken by UWA in many ways reminds me of what happened in Kenya. Individuals took it upon themselves to start such camps.

It all began when an Irish Patrician Brother, Colm O’Connell, who was the principal of the local St. Patricks High School in Iten, discovered that many of his students had a talent for running.

He used the school holidays to organize running camps, both for his own student-runners and for talented runners from the rest of the country.

Later, the school decided to plant a tree for every one of its students that had success at an international level. Within a few years, the school compound was full of trees.

In 2000, Lornah Kiplagat started her High Altitude Training Centre in Iten. This was the first training centre with decent facilities meant for Kenyan as well as foreign athletes.

Known as the home of champions, Iten has indeed gone on to produce numerous world beaters. Even foreigners like Briton Mo Farah have trained in Iten.

Meanwhile, more Kenyan runners continue to make Iten their home ground, to be able to train with the best. At the moment, a few thousand athletes live and train in here.

Some of the most famous are Wilson Kipsang (former marathon world record holder and London marathon champion, Abel Kirui, a two-time world marathon champion, David Rudisha (world record holder and Olympic champion 800m). The list is almost endless.

So do projects like the one undertaken by UWA have the capacity to emulate Kenya? Yes. If Sebei region can produce world beaters like Stephen Kiprotich, Joshua Cheptegei and Jacob Kiplimo with no standard facilities.

What will happen when camps like the one started by UWA are complete?

Uganda will be the country to beat.

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