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Uganda becomes training destination for world athletes

Germany’s Florian Zittel doing gym work at a Kampala facility after he arrived last week. COURTESY PHOTOS

Training camps in Kapchorwa
✳ Cheptegei Training Centre
✳ Taryet elite athletics training facility

Kampala, Uganda  | THE INDEPENDENT | Uganda is becoming a popular training spot for the world’s elite athletes, with Kapchorwa the favourite destination for long distance stars, and Kampala and Jinja for short and middle distance runners.

Kapchorwa, with its high altitude is now seen as the running Mecca of Uganda and a permanent training base for several elite athletes.  Very popular with teams is the Taryet elite athletics training facility (at 2,600 metres above sea level) and the Cheptegei Training Centre, a legacy project set up by Ugandan legend Joshua Cheptegei.

“Because of the success of our athletes, Uganda is fast becoming a key training centre for the world’s top runners,” said Uganda athletics (UAAF) President Dominic Otuchet recently.

Olympic and World Champion Cheptegei’s  NN Running Team often ferry their selection of world beaters for training at the Ugandan camps. Coached by Dutchman Addy Ruiter, up to 18 athletes of the NN running team visit Uganda several times a year.

According to NN Running team, their track sessions are carried out on a grass track at a local school while the athletes head down to a plateau (at around 1400m) to complete their tempo runs. However, the majority of training will be completed on hilly terrain.

The Zittels

While Kapchorwa is generally at 1,700m above sea level, Kampala at 1,200m is still much higher than most parts of Europe, including Germany where Florian Zittel, 20, lives.

No wonder the German junior athlete has chosen Kampala as one of his training stopping points, and will spend two weeks testing himself in the new environment, and at local facilities. On top of all this, John Akii Bua who set a world record in the 400m hurdles in Germany in 1972, is his idol. (read Akii bua story bottom)

Florian Zittel, who flew in last week, is the German Under-23 steeplechase champion, having won the title in Bochum – which is just about 90m above sea level.

Florian is the son of former Uganda Cranes National Director Guenter Zittel and Ugandan-born Christine Nalwadda Namande.

Middle distance junior Zittel was unchallenged from start to finish as he clinched the Germany U-23 3000m steeplechase final with a commanding lead, in 9 mins 04.99 seconds. The result was about 39 seconds off the winning time (8:25.13) that Morrocan Steeplechase World champion El Bakkali posted in Oregon earlier.

Florian, has run better before, having set a personal best of 9:02.21 in May last year. The German national 3000m steeplechase record 8:09.48  is held by Damian Kallabis while Uganda’s is 8:03.81 Benjamin Kiplagat.

The official world records in the 3000 metres steeplechase are held by Saif Saaeed Shaheen of Qatar at 7:53.63 minutes.

Zittel’s daughter Anna (17) is also an athlete and earlier this year linked up with Ugandan aces Winnie Nanyondo and Halimah Namakulah in a world athletics meet at their home town of Karlsruhe in  Germany.

The 27-year-old Nakaayi triumphed at the World Indoor Tour Gold meeting in Karlsruhe, Germany in January. During that race, Nakaayi posted 2 minutes and 02: 08 seconds.

Gold for Zittel (middle) in 9:04.99 in the Germany U-21 Steeplechase final last month. COURTESY PHOTO
Nakaayi (right) and Nanyondo celebrate their good performance in Germany recently with Anna Zittel. COURTESY PHOTO


Before Eliud Kipchoge, there was John Akii-Bua

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