It is true that swimming is one of the sports codes in Uganda that has consistently participated in the Summer Olympic Games.
The Uganda Swimming Federation (USF) is marking 39 years in 2017; since its establishment, the federation is recognized as the only national amateur aquatics sports association responsible for Aquatics Sports in Uganda.
Donald Rukare, the USF president spoke to Samuel Sanya ahead of the inter-Secondary School Swimming Gala due on 25 March 2017 at Green Hill Academy. He spoke about the federations plans to overhaul Swimming and other water sports. Below are excerpts of what he said:
Q. Swimming is one of the sports where Uganda has regularly competed at the Olympics but is yet to get a medal. What needs to change to propel Uganda to the medal brackets?
A. It is true that swimming is one of the sports codes in Uganda that has consistently participated in the Summer Olympic Games. In order to propel swimming into the medal brackets, we need to deliberately focus on a Podium Development Plan (PDP). This plan would hinge on ensuring we have the right qualified coaches, who are able to build a solid foundation for our young swimmers.
Following on this, the swimmers need to be supported to adequately prepare and train, under a train to win program. We also need to harness and introduce sports medicine and science into our swimming program to allow for the holistic development of our elite swimmers if we are to break into the medal brackets. Partnering with universities in this would be essential. All this should be embedded in a long term athlete development plan (LTAD) which we are currently developing at the Uganda Swimming Federation. All this requires the requisite financial and human resource investment.
You have been on the FINA Masters Committee and FINA Bureau since 2015. What is your view of the Status of Swimming in Uganda vis a vis East Africa. How has FINA assisted Uganda during your tenure?
Swimming in Africa as a whole is still rather nascent and apart from South Africa, Tunisia and Zimbabwe which had won medals at major games like the Olympics most countries are struggling with limited or no support in terms of facilities and coaches. Swimming in Uganda has grown and continues to grow.
Through a deliberate focus on training coaches, we now see Uganda dominating the East Region (Zone 3) in the Junior age category (8-12 years). We however still face challenges in the senior category mainly because our secondary and tertiary sports system is not strong. We need to focus on deepening this system.
FINA has assisted Uganda mainly through supporting development clinics for coaches and officials. We have held over 5 such clinics over the last four years with about 100 coaches trained. It is these coaches that have led to the dramatic development of school especially at the primary school and club level. In addition FINA provides support for our teams to attend the FINA world championships and most recently awarded our swimmer Joshua Ekirikubinza a scholarship to prepare for the forthcoming FINA World Championships in Budapest Hungary this July.
Swimming facilities continue to be a challenge. How can government subsidize the cost? What happened to the plans for an aquatic center?
Lack of our own swimming facility and facilities across the country is a major constraint. Government should partner with the private sector through private public partnerships to put in place facilities. It would be ideal to give incentives to schools to encourage them to build sports facilities including swimming pools. The school system especially at secondary and university is critical to any successful sports program. As USF we would like to see swimming take firm root in the school system. We still have the desire and dream of owning our own facility and to this end plans are afoot to actualize this dream.
We have several aspiring swimmers around the country. What message do you have for them?
I would urge our swimmers to keep focused on achieving their full potential and goals. With hard work and proper guidance they can achieve podium performances.
What is the federation's plan for swimming in the next five years?
As USF we intend to intensify our coach development program. In addition we intend to roll out a long term athlete development plan aimed at enhancing the skill and talent of our young swimmers. We would like to encourage more clubs to be formed as well as school swimming programs especially at secondary and tertiary level. Introducing new disciplines like open water and water polo will also be encouraged. We also intend to strengthen our partnerships with potential sponsors and high performances centers countries like South Africa, Egypt and the United States.
As USF we call upon all stakeholders to work together to develop the sport of swimming. Apart from the competition side of things, Swimming also promotes a healthy life style. Through our swim for all programs, we encourage all people to learn how to swim for life. Join swimming today.