Leni needs more exposure

By James Bakama

Added 29th July 2019 12:00 AM

She needs the weekly competitions and regularly take on sprint’s’ cream de la cream

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She needs the weekly competitions and regularly take on sprint’s’ cream de la cream

Athlete Shida Leni is enjoying the form of her life. She sprinted to new heights at the weekend breaking national records in two events.

The Uganda Police athlete first rewrote her 400-meter record for a record fifth time on Friday then broke Justin Bayigga’s 200m record, set in Khartoum in 2007, the following day.

That all this came shortly after the Bugema University student winning 400m silver for Uganda at the World University Games, says volumes about the athlete’s form.

Her form of course also says a lot about the tireless input of her coaches Sue and Kevin O’Connor together with Paul Okello.

Then there is of course also athletics governing body UAF providing an enabling environment for athletes to thrive.

Key in the sprinters’ case is the availability of electronic timing. Not very long ago our sprinters couldn’t qualify for major meets from home.

Back to the coaches, the O’Connors who have handled Leni for six years have besides the usual sprint drills, also ensured that the sprinter builds up the necessary power.

Kevin specifically points at weight training at the Espace Gym at Silver Springs Hotel in Bugolobi.

Despite her tall and slender frame, she is immensely strong, and this strength and power has been converted into speed.

Leni has in the process qualified for not only next month’s Rabat All Africa Games in the 200 and 400m, but also the Doha World Championships in the 400m.

But despite her impressive trajectory, there is one thing that Leni still misses. Unlike her long-distance teammates, she hasn’t got enough international exposure.

While other African athletes run at times even up to twice a week on the international circuit, Leni has largely been limited to the local scene.

True, she was recently in Naples and will soon be in Rabat and Doha, but these are periodic competitions that are usually years apart.

She also needs the weekly competitions and regularly take on sprint’s’ cream de la cream if she is to improve to the next level. She has already shown that there is nothing more for her to prove on the local scene.

She can now only improve by running with those who are better than her. Fellow quarter-miler Davis Kamoga over two decades ago proved that the international circuit was the best way to get the best from talented runners from poorly facilitated countries like Uganda.

Based in Italy and regularly competing in Europe and the US, he first won a bronze medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

To prove that this was no fluke, Kamoga then won silver at the World Championships the following year in Athens.

I believe that Leni, who is now a huge inspiration to other female athletes, can also soar to similar heights. She only has to be accorded similar opportunities.

True, the O’Connors and Okello have done a good job for Leni. But I think it is also time they worked jointly with international managers/promoters to boost her exposure on the global circuit.

If they can’t then Uganda Athletics Federation can step in and link Leni to the key contacts.

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