World champion in the 10000m, world cross country champion, 10k world-record holder, 10,000m Commonwealth Games champion, Joshua Cheptegei pieced together a decade for the ages.
Many of Uganda’s most acclaimed successes in the last decade were in sports, despite persisting doubts about its actual value in national development. In the last 10 years, Uganda produced some world and African stars plus a huge cast of national icons. Mark you public appeal is a valuable ingredient of sports stardom. So, who makes your top 20 of Uganda’s sports stars of the 2010s? Check out our list, with the athletes ranked from least to the greatest.
20. Moses Golola
Hold the laughter! Moses Golola spent the decade making Ugandans giggle and many will simply remember him for the quips. Jokes aside, though, Golola did a lot to lift the profile of kickboxing. At his peak, Golola’s fights packed out arenas and made the front pages. He showed how far a sportsman can go with the right marketing.
19. Flavia Oketcho
She took her tally of National Basketball League championships to 12 after picking up four in the 2010s. But Flavia Oketcho’s greatness was also witnessed in the Uganda Gazelles epic 2014 Afrobasket qualification bid. Oketcho has been the face of women’s basketball in Uganda in the last decade even if peers like Claire Lamunu, the first Ugandan female professional basketball, have reached greater peaks in the same period.
18. Ronald Otile
Ronald Otile had incredible successes in 2010 but his display in the 2015 Africa Golf Zone VI championship is still fresh in memory. Otile won both the main amateur and professional categories that year, spicing up his victories by also taking the longest drive prize on the 18th fairway. At just 20, Otile later came two strokes short of winning the individual accolade at the Africa Amateur Golf Championship at Limuru Golf and Country Club in Nairobi.
17. Arthur Blick
Arthur Blick Jr (L) with His Navigator Noela Blick shows their plaques for winning the Sprint Championship at Festino Cite. PHOTO BY JOHNSON WERE
He retired last year with 12 motocross/ grass-track racing titles to his name but Arthur Blick did much more than just pick up his record collection of silverware. Blick practically built a national sport after spearheading the transition from grass-track racing to motocross. He’s contribution is legendary given how much motocross has attained and its prospects going forward.
16. Stephen Omony
Considered by many as Uganda’s greatest basketball player, Omony featured prominently in the past decade even though he obviously played his best basketball in the decade before. He was still at a level most only dream about. He was a key protagonist in Ugandan basketball’s greatest moments – the 2015 and 2017 Afrobasket campaigns – with the belated successes that followed his transfer to the City Oilers really just bonuses.
15. Jimmy Enabu
No player did more for Ugandan basketball or was more locally, regionally and on the continent than Jimmy Enabu. His switch from Power to the City Oilers at the start of 2013 is one of the events in sports that reshape history. Enabu made that often elusive talent leap when he joined the Oilers and not only starred in every Oilers glorious moment but played with a quality that often boarded on world-class. Enabu had the ability to elevate his game to incredible levels and yet you still saw layers of untapped potential.
14. Emmanuel Okwi
One of the most gifted footballers of the last decade, Emmanuel Okwi completed the decade as the fulltime first choice Cranes striker. It was a point long and hard in the making, with stints in Tanzania, Tunisia and Denmark part of his often trying club career. Okwi’s two goals at the 2019 Afcon are certainly the highlight for a career that occasionally appeared to be in danger of losing its way in the last decade.
13. Geoffrey Massa
Uganda’s record goal-scorer bowed out on a high after captaining the Cranes to the 2017 Afcon. But what a struggle it was for Geoffrey Massa to fight and wait and to wait and fight for that breakthrough. For six campaigns, Massa ploughed the lonely furrow that is the Cranes’ striking job in vain. In 2017, the door opened and Massa’s goal in Uganda’s 2-0 win over Botswana was the first spark in a qualification journey that ended in glory.
12. Ibrahim Sekagya
What a shame he had retired when the Afcon breakthrough arrived in 2017. Ibrahim Sekagya is the most talented Ugandan footballer from the last decade even though he retired from competitive football in 2014, three years after ending his international career. Sekagya won the Australian Bundesliga and Cup double in 2012 with Redbull Salzburg, later becoming captain of the club in an incredible honour for a Ugandan. He also enjoyed two campaigns in Europe’s Europa League with Salzburg before joining its New York sister club and, upon retiring, studying for his coaching badges.
11. Rachael Nanyonga
If only she was a few inches taller! Amazed observers always remark about Rachael Nanyonga. The point is that if the goal attack is so good at five feet, what would happen if she were bigger. Truth is Nanyonga’s brilliance, which saw her score 136 goals at the 2015 World Cup, is precisely enhanced by her small frame. She is the She Cranes second-biggest star after you know who. Meanwhile, her transfer to Prisons from NIC led to a shift in the balance of power in the national league.
10. Solomon Mutai
Solomon Mutai will proudly reflect on a decade that took him from obscurity to a place among the biggest achievers of the past decade in Ugandan sport. Mutai snatched a surprise medal – bronze in the marathon at the 2015 world athletics championships – that saved Uganda’s bid at the global showpiece from embarrassment. Three years later, he was at it again, lifting silver in the same race at the Commonwealth Games.
9. David Emong
No one did more for para-athletics in the last decade than David Emong. May be ever. He started off with bronze in the 5000T46 at the 2011 All Africa Games, upgraded it to silver in the 1500m T46 at the 2015 edition before claiming Uganda’s first-ever Paralympics medal with silver in the 1500m T45-46 in 2016. Emong was not done, going one better with gold in the 1500m in the T46 at the 2017 World Para Athletics Championships.
8. Moses Kipsiro
He might have failed to win the world medal many thought his talent deserved but Moses Kipsiro was no disappointment in the last decade. Far from it! Winner of three Commonwealth gold medals (including the 5000m and 10000m double at the 2010 Games), gold in the 5000m at 2011 All African Games, silver at 2010 African championships and bronze at the 2010 World Cross Country championships, Kipsiro was something of a serial winner in the last decade.
7. Phillip Wokorach
A fullback of great skill and heart, Philip Wokorach had to overcome two gruesome knee injuries in the last decade, on either knee. It is a testament to the character and talent of the man that he bounced back to reach unfathomable heights both in the 15s and sevens rugby, with individual accolades in both formats becoming the norm and an appearance at the sevens World Cup the ultimate reward for his brilliance. He completed the decade by moving to French Division 5 side Bourges XV, which he hopes will be the beginning of the best part of his career.
6. Jacob Kiplimo
Winner of the U-20 race at the 2017 World Cross Country Championships, Jacob Kiplimo is responsible for the biggest athletics feat witnessed on Ugandan soil in the last decade. What a glorious race the youngster produced that day as if the pressure of the moment was mere fuel for the tank. And then there is his silver in the senior race at the 2019 edition, which would have been gold if it wasn’t for a one Joshua Cheptegei. Kiplimo is a rare talent, as the next decade should show.
5. Peace Proscovia
Peace Proscovia’s resume is so long it is exhausting to delineate. This, after all, is one of the world’s top netball players, the 2019 World Cup ambassador. In the past 10 years, Proscovia sealed her place as the greatest netballer in Uganda’s history by a wide margin, winning everything in Africa, dominating the English League, being fifth top-scorer at the 2015 world cup and securing a lucrative deal with Sunshine Coast of the world-leading netball league. And that is without getting into her basketball feats, such as her role in the Uganda Gazelles historic 2015 Afrobasket campaign in the early part of the decade.
4. Denis Onyango
Goalkeepers are often unsung heroes but Uganda’s Denis Onyango became the wild exception in the last decade. He was a mini-superman for club and country. Voted the best Africa-based footballer in 2017, Africa’s best goalkeeper in 2018, Onyango had an unforgettable decade as he also became the first Ugandan to win the CAF Champions League – in 2016 with Mamelodi Sundowns. Onyango has been the cornerstone of Uganda’s 2017 and 2019 Afcon campaigns and has won six South African League titles.
3. Halima Nakaayi
Miracles are real. Ask Halima Nakaayi. Nowhere near the contenders for a medal going into the 2019 IAAF world athletics championships, the middle distance runner produced an unbelievable display to win gold in the women’s 800m in what is arguably the most unprecedented achievement in the history of Ugandan athletics. It has not sunk in yet.
2. Joshua Cheptegei
World champion in the 10000m, world cross country champion, 10k world-record holder, 10,000m Commonwealth Games champion, Joshua Cheptegei pieced together a decade for the ages. His list of achievements also includes world athletics silver and gold in the junior world athletics championships. He was the most consistent winner of the decade and would have been top but for one thing – the Olympic success of his friend and mentor.
1. Stephen Kiprotich
His 2012 Olympic gold in the marathon was Uganda’s single biggest sports achievement of the last decade. Well, the last four decades. Stephen Kiprotich took his place alongside the legendary John Akii-Bua with his gold at the London Olympics, except in 2013 he went one better by winning gold at the world athletics championship. He is considered by many; Uganda’s greatest athlete of all time.