KAMPALA- If memory serves one well, this is the longest in recent years that Uganda Sports Press Association (Uspa) has gone into the year before recognising the country’s best sportsmen.
The moment for 2017’s best athletes finally came on Friday, July 20.
Even if the delay, the 33rd Nile Special Awards were only fitting as Uspa marked its 48th birthday at a yet again glamorous dinner at the Imperial Royal Hotel, Kampala.
With the night choreographed by legendary Afrigo Band and the fine chemistry between emcees Andrew Kabuura and Malaika Nyanzi, that only rolled the red carpet for David Emong to march to history.
Emong became the first para-athlete to win the Uspa Sports Personality of the Year honour after beating three other nominees Rugby Cranes 7s’ star Phillip Wokorach, She Cranes’ stalwart Peace Proscovia and Uganda Cranes’ forward Geoffrey Sserunkuma.
Like Gary Oldman at the Oscars or Chadwick Boseman at the BET Awards, Emong walked up to the podium in company of Eddie Kenzo’s ‘Jubilation’ hit and a standing ovation was accorded to him after his name was read from the envelope by Chief Guest and Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga at 10.26pm.
“I am very happy,” an emotion-filled yet calm, Emong told Sunday Monitor following his photo moment and a live TV interview.
Emong clinched the main honour of the evening having won the T46 1,500m race in 3:58.36 minutes for Uganda’s first gold medal at the World Para-Athletics Championships in London on July 15, 2017.
He got to the shortlist after winning the athletics’ best gong that had competition 2017 World Cross-country gold medallist Jacob Kiplimo and 2017 London World 10,000m silver medallist Joshua Cheptegei.
“I expected it because of the medal that I brought for Uganda after 45 years,” Emong said.
Emong competes in the T46 category following an infirmity on his left arm having suffered an accident when a prefect beat him during his primary four class in 2001 at Abwong Primary School in Amorata district. He still wants more silverware.
“And I pray to God to win more. I am now focusing on the 2020 Paralympic Games where I hope to break the world record,” the 28-year-old added.
Wokorach, who was away at the Rugby Sevens World Cup, took the individual rugby gong and the 7s national side beat the Africa netball champions She Cranes, Africa T20 champions Lady Cricket Cranes, Sserunkuma-inspired 2017 Uganda Premier League winners KCCA FC and basketball bigwigs City Oilers to the Team of the Year honour.
For hosting the IAAF World Cross-country in Kololo, Uganda Athletics Federation won the Best Organized Event award and later returned on the podium to surprisingly take the Best Run Federation prize.
The evening marked the last Gala for president Sabiiti Muwanga and the sixth Uspa Awards dinner bankrolled by Nile Special. Speaker Kadaga couldn’t hide her delight.
Tribute to Sekitto
“What an evening! It’s a very exciting night. I am sports lover only that I no longer have time to attend. But I know football is played in the afternoon and at that time I am saying ‘Point of Order’ in the House,” she said.
“Let me also pay tribute to Fred Sekitto (Uspa founder), 1970 is a long way. I want to commend Uspa, 48 years is a long time for an independent organisation.”
The event also was graced by Sports Writers Association of Nigeria president Honour Sirawoo from Port Harcourt.
2017 NILE SPECIAL USPA AWARDS
Sportsman of the Year:
Best Organised Event: IAAF World Cross-Country Championships
Sports Federation of the Year:
Uganda Athletics Federation
Legendary Award: Simon Mugabi
Team of the Year: Rugby Cranes 7s
ROLL OF HONOURS
2017 CATEGORY WINNERS
Male – David Emong
BoxinG: Muzamir Kakande
Male – Geoffrey Sserunkuma
Female – Vanessa Edith Karungi
Christakis Fitidis and Eric Nzamwita
Male – Ronald Rugumayo
Female – Martha Babirye
Male – Kenneth Waisswa
Female – Gertrude Chandiru
Male – Fahad Ssewankambo
Female – Victoria Namuyanja
Male – Ronald Mwanje
Female – Linda Ochen
Weightlifting: Hakim Ssempereza
Female – Samiya Ayikoru
Male – Phillip Wokorach
Male – Jimmy Enabu
Female – Vilma Acheng
Male – Patrick Kawuma
Female – Maria Nakanyike
Female – Margaret Namyalo
Male – George Aporu
Netball: Peace Proscovia
Kickboxer: Patricia Apolot
Ludo: Kato Charles
Female – Avice Meya
Male – Emmanuel Baguma
Female – Doreen Mbabazi
Tennis: Duncan Mugabe
Body building: Isaac Mubikirwa
Squash: Michael Kawooya
*Badminton – Brian Kasirye (Male)
*Badminton -Husnah Kobugabe (F)
*Motocross – Isabella Blick (F)
*athletics – Josephine Lalam (F)
*swimming – Tendo Mukalazi (Male)