News05 Jun 2008

Inzikuru to return to action in Akii Bua CAA Grand Prix


Dorcus Inzikuru of Uganda wins inaugural women's 3000m steeplechase at the 2005 IAAF World Championships (© Getty Images)

Uganda Athletics Federation (UAF) will remember former 400m hurdles Olympic champion John Akii-Bua at the upcoming annual CAA Grand Prix permit which as been amalgamated with the annual Akii-Bua Invitational scheduled for 7 June 2008 at the Mandela Stadium, Kampala.

The CAA Grand Prix permit meeting was scheduled to take place on Sunday 1 June 2008 but the UAF moved it to boost participation.

According to the UAF Vice president Technical Peter Okot Omwony, the federation hopes to extend the former Olympic 400m hurdler’s (John Akii Bua) legacy to the entire African continent and beyond.

"Ugandans will be paying tribute to the fallen hero who has done the country and Africa proud. Though not with us today, he remains a household name and inspires the current young generation of athletes," said Okot.

Inzikuru, Kipsiro, Ali Abubakr to headline

Dorcus Inzikuru, the 2005 World Steeplechase champion, will be the star attraction of the meeting. She will be running the 5000m, her first race since her DNF at the World XC champs in Mombasa in 2007, since then she has been injured and started a family.

Moses Kipsiro, 5000m bronze medallist at last year’s World Championships in Osaka, African 400m champion Nagmeldine Ali Abubakr from Sudan, and Boniface Kiprop, a 10,000m fourth placer at the 2004 Olympic Games are expected the other top names competing in Namboole stadium on 7 June.

"This is just the beginning as we are still upgrading this memorial competition into an international event befitting a fallen African athletics legend and world hero," Okot said.

UAF will also use the two competitions to select qualifiers for the Beijing Olympics, World Junior Championships in Poland and the Commonwealth Youth Games in India.

The events will attract athletes from Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda, Ethiopia, Libya and host Uganda.

Remembering a legend

John Akii Bua died in 1997 at the age of 47. He was the first Olympic champion for Uganda who started his athletics career as a high hurdler (110m), coached by British coach Malcolm Arnold, who introduced him to the 400m Hurdles.

In 1972, after only one international competition, Akii-Bua arrived at the Olympics in Munich, Germany winning. He won the Olympic gold medal in 47.82 seconds, a world record, leaving the silver medallist, Ralph Mann of the USA (48.51 seconds), and the bronze medalist, David Hemery, the defending champion (48.52), six metres behind.

He returned home as a hero but Ugandan dictator Idi Amin did not like all the attention he was receiving and was soon restricting his movements.

In 1979, with Tanzanian troops about to capture Kampala, Akii-Bua, his wife and their three children fled to Kenya. 

As a police official under Amin, he was jailed there for three weeks. He was almost shipped back to Uganda to almost certain death until the West German Embassy and Puma, the German sports-shoe company whose shoes he wore, helped him get his freedom. He sent his wife and children to West Germany and soon joined them there.

He could not defend his Olympic title in 1976 because black African nations boycotted the Montreal Olympics, and did not fare well in the 1980 Moscow Olympics where he was eliminated in the semi-finals.

Under a new democratic government, he returned to Uganda in 1983 and became national coach, and on his death in 1997 was given a state funeral.

Daniel Senfuma and Namayo Mawerere for IAAF