The Uganda Olympic Committee (UOC)/ Commonwealth Games Association of Uganda (CGAU) on Saturday 13th June 2020 hosted an online zoom meeting.
The zoom engagement featured a panel discussion on the topic, ‘Keeping active for the Ugandan athlete during lock down.’ A panel of eminent medical practitioners and elite athletes discussed this topic. The panel members included, Dr. Nana Nakiddu Head of UOC Medical Commission Dr. Andrew Etuket Timneth Wellness Hub and Olympian/world female champion in 800m (2019) Halima Nakaayi.
William F. Blick the President of the UOC/IOC Member made the opening remarks of the session that was attended by 49 participants (15 females, 34 male) drawn from the Uganda Olympic Committee, national federations/association, athletes, coaches and the media. UOC Vice President Beatrice Ayikoru and council member World Athletics made a presentation as well and UOC Secretary General Dr. Donald Rukare made concluding remarks at the end of the session. Olympian and chair of the UOC Athletes Commission Ganzi Mugula moderated the highly interactive session.
William F Blick UOC President/IOC Member welcomed the participants and panelists to the online engagement. He pointed out that this was the fourth online session that the UOC was organizing on various topics. He stated that, athletes are key to the Olympic movement and the most important stakeholders. COVID has led to the postponing of the Olympics and this has occasioned issues for athletes preparing for and qualifying for the Olympics. He acknowledged that there was need for athletics to keep focused as COVID has impacted on training and preparation. He looked forward to a fruitful discussion.
Dr. Nana Nakiddu focused on mental wellness matters that athletes face.
She presented results of a survey that revealed that athletes face issues of anxiety, depression, sexual harassment and gender discrimination during this COVID-19 period. She called for open discussion of mental health issues and requested athletes to reach out for support.
Dr. Andrew Etucket structured his presentation around principles of exercising in small space such as intensity, progression, variation of training, rest, recovery and nutrition. He provided several practical tips and tools on how to exercise in small spaces. Dr. Etucket went on to discuss strength, hypertrophy skeletal muscle endurance, aerobic endurance, fat lose, metabolism and nutrition.
Ms. Halima Nakayi OLY and 800 m World Champion 2019 provided an account of the practical challenges she is facing in her training regime during the ongoing lockdown. She pointed to lack of adequate training facilities such as Namboole stadium, gyms as well as mental strength training. In addition, the ban on all sporting activities by the Ministry of Health had affected her ability to train.
UOC Vice President Beatrice Ayikoru and council member World Athletics provided a brief on the qualification processes in play for the Tokyo 2020 games which had been postponed to July 2021. She noted that so far Uganda had qualified 17 athletes from Athletics, 1 rowing and 1 boxer.
International federations had issued revised qualification modalities and athletes from skating, swimming, weightlifting, rowing, rugby boxing and athletics will attempt to qualify for the games in 2021. She called upon athletes to avoid injuries during this period and urged them to listen to their coaches. She outlined the qualification competitions and timelines for the various sports. The Commonwealth Games qualification system/ quota will be communicated to members as well.
Following the presentations an interactive and lively discussion ensured and below are some of the issues raised:
Mr. Kasasa Vincent Arnold (athlete hockey) asked if it is recommended to hydrate after workouts using cold water. It was noted that hydration is important with doing this about 30 minutes before sessions, during session if appropriate and after as well. Hydration is key was the message.
Davis Lakes asked whether the UOC can provide a gym for elite athletes like Nakaayi. This will be looked into taking into the lock down guideline and SOPs.
Hashima Batamuriza (para swimming) inquired whether access to training facilities could be considered. It was acknowledged that each sport had been requested to develop standard operating procedures (SoPs) / guidelines to provide for access to training and practice of the sport. NCS and UOC are developing SOPs for sports in general and for each sport. These SoPs would guide resumption of sports.
Mr. Leonard Lubambula (coach Rugby) asked whether there was support for athletes with mental health problems stemming from long term injuries and ending of a career. They were advised to use resources within their immediate environment like family and also seek help from a professional medical practitioner or counsellor. The issue of athlete career transition will be discussed in subsequent session. Michael Wokorach (player rugby) asked about access to gyms and training facilities. This was being explored. He also asked about financial support from
It was noted that most ministries, departments and agencies of government were facing financial constraints. The issue of nutrition for rugby players was also raised. They were advised to source foods with the right maintenance calories rate (dense carbohydrates and proteins) content. Professional advice could be sought on this.
Robert Jjagwe (President Table Tennis) proposed that there was need to maintain visibility of athletes during the COVID-19 lock down. He noted that sport was not highly considered. The need for visibility of sports was noted though some athletes were subject to contracts which have visibility stipulations while others prefer to train out of the public of the eye.
Moses Mwase (President Swimming) asked about the dynamics for resumption of training for athletes that have no access to facilities completely? This should be gradual with the intensity regulated. It was pointed out that each sport has its regime for resumption with most at two weeks. Obtaining guidance from coaches was essential as one size does not fit all.
Issues to follow up on going forward include inter alia:
Providing support to athletes in the area of nutrition and mental health
Safe access to training facilities like gyms based approved standard operating procedures.
In closing Dr. Donald Rukare UOC Secretary General thanked all for participating in the online discussion as well as the panel members. He stated that athlete welfare and preparation was central and there was need to focus on it. The UOC remains committed to supporting athletes in their training and preparation.