The Monitor (Kampala)

10 October 2005

Uganda: Canadian Wins Nile Kayak Festival

One reason Ugandans give for not making great sports achievements at the world stage is because the games we compete in are foreign.

A friend recently said that if we could manage to convince the Olympic committee to register omweso as one of the games at the prestigious meet, then we would be able to bag some gold medals. After all, the Japanese are lobbying and sumo wrestling could achieve Olympic status by 2008 or 2012.

Ugandans looked on helplessly on Friday when Canadian kayaker Billy Harris took the first position in the Nile freestyle kayaking festival in Jinja and the $2000 prize money.

Kayaking involves surfing waves and doing as many tricks as one can within an allocated time slot in a tiny boat and paddling using oars. Harris dared the mighty rapids of the Nile and showed why he is the world number two in the kayaking sport.

Frenchman Mark Gardin came in second followed by Anthony Knapp from Australia. Uganda's Paul Bibi who won the competition last year was beaten in his own backyard as he only made it to the semi-finals. Bibi, a lifesaver on the Nile, who is ranked 14th worldwide was expected to win the competition as he is familiar with the Nile rapids.

Uganda's Paul Bibi last year's winner. Photos by Ismail Kezaala

He started out floating down the rapids on a jerrycan as a young boy. Locals were heard complaining that the foreigners were winning because they were manipulating the game. "They should try to float using jerrycans, and we shall see who is the best," one of the locals said, as if forgetting that this was kayaking not the 'jerrycan float' game that could also win us Olympic medals if we lobbied for it to be included in the games.

Uganda's first female kayaker Prossy Mirembe also put up a spirited performance though she did not go far in the ladies category. After the competition it was time for one big party and beer was in plenty as Nile Breweries were the main sponsors of the event.

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