Posts Tagged ‘Judith Ayaa’

The 1971 US-USSR-World All-Stars Track Meet at University of California, Berkeley: John Akii-Bua, Steve Prefontaine, Pat Matzdorf, Judith Ayaa, and Other Athletes

March 10, 2015

The US-USSR-World All-Stars Track and Field Meet took place on Saturday, July 3rd 1971, in Berkeley at the Edwards Stadium of University of California.


Very recently, on May 30th 1971, John Akii-Bua had commendably reduced the 400 meters-hurdles African record to 49.7 seconds in Kampala, and thereby gained a reasonably significant level of attention. But there was some skepticism about the timing and the track conditions, given that the event was contested on a somewhat unknown and unrecognized African track. Nevertheless, in Berkeley, 21 year-old policeman Akii was considered a major contender for the gold medal. The other two favorites were Wes Williams who was regarded as USA’s top contenders, and Russia’s Vyacheslav Skomorokhov. Williams had at the recent national AAU championships finished second in the 440 yards-hurdles  (which is four yards longer than the metric lap) in an impressive 49.3; while  Skomorokhov who finished fifth in the foregone 1968 Olympics had a 49.1 personal best in the intermediate hurdles.

Eventually, Akii-Bua of Uganda, representing  the World, won (50.1), second was University of Washington’s Jim Seymour (USA) in 50.5, Roger Johnson (World) was third (50.9), Vyacheslav Skomorokhov (USSR) was fourth (50.9), fifth was Wes Williams (51.0) of USA, followed by Yuriy Zorin (USSR) in 53.3.

Akii-Bua’s remarks are mentioned (AP 1971: 19).

“I have been practicing hurdles with both…right…and left leg. I think those who hurdle with only one leg aren’t versatile enough…. I don’t have any set plan to run so many steps in between the hurdles. I just go over them when I get there.”

In the men’s 4x400m relay the USA team (Edesel Garrison, Frederick Newhouse, Tommie Turner, Darwin Bond) triumphed (3:02.9); the World’s team (Alfred Daley, John Akii-Bua, Laighton Priestley, Garth Case) was second (3:08.4); while the USSR team (Boris Savchuk, Yuriy Zorin, Dimitriy Stuklaov, Semyon Kocher) was last.

Judith Ayaa of Uganda, representing the World, participated in the women’s 4x400m relay. This time, the USSR team won (3:36.0). The Soviet runners were Lyudmila Findgenova, Lyudmila Aksenova, Natalya Chistyakova, and Nadyezhda Kolesnikova.  Second an in 3:38.1 was the USA team (Esther Stroy, Gwen Norman, Cheryl Toussaint, and Jarvis Scott). Finishing third in 3:44.1 was the World all-Stars team of Ayaa, Penny Werther, Allison Ross-Edwards, and Yvonne Sanders.

Major highlights at the international track meet included the setting of a new world record in the high jump (7 feet, 6.25 inches) by University of Wisconsin’s Pat Matzdorf (USA); and a new national record in the 5000m (13:30.4) by USA’s Steve Prefontaine (University of Oregon).

Overall in points, the USA won, USSR was second, and the World All-Stars team was third.

Works Cited

AP (July 14, 1971) “For America-Russian Track Duel: U.S. Runners Weren’t Ready,” in “Odessa American.”

Jonathan Musere

Judith Ayaa: Outstanding Progress in the Breaking of the 400-Meters East Africa and Africa Record

March 10, 2015

Judith Ayaa was the dominant female sprinter at the East and Central African Athletic Championships from 1968 to 1972. During the same span of time, she was not only the 4-time 400m champion, but she also often competed in and won in the 100m and 200m. She won the gold in the 100 meters in 1968 in Dar-es-Salaam. In the middle of August 1969, in the same ECA championships this time in Kampala, she was victorious in the 100 and 200 meters and was part of Uganda gold-medal winning 4x100m relay team. Her victory in the 400m was a new Africa record–53.6. By virtue of this personal best time in 1969, Ayaa was in 1969 ranked amongst the world’s top 10 female 400-meters sprinters.

Because there were a relatively low number of women competing in the 400m at the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, only a semi-final and a final would hereby take place. Ayaa was on July 22nd 1970 lined up in the second of the two heats of the semi-final . She won in quite an astonishing time–52.86–a new Africa record. The time ranked her as eleventh best in the world in 1970.

The final would take place on the next day. But having been the fastest among the semi-finalists, Ayaa had perhaps ran too fast. She perhaps ought to have ran in relaxed stride, just fast enough to be among the top four of either of the semi-final heats that would ensure their qualifying for the finals. In this first semi-final heat, Sandra Brown of Australia finished second in a full second behind Ayaa. The first semi-final heat in which Marilyn Fay Neufville of Jamaica won in 53.05, was apparently one of more tactfulness and relaxation.

In the final, diminutive 17 year-old Neufville won in a world record–51.02. Neufville won by an astonishing over two seconds ahead of silver medallist Sandra Brown of Australia who finished in 53.66. Neufville thereby shaved of by nearly a second the previous world record of 51.7 set in 1969 by Frenchwomen Colette Besson and Nicole Duclos. Judith Ayaa, overtaken after slowing down near the end of the race, likely due to fatigue after her unnecessary exertion in the semi-finals, was third (53.77) in a photo-finish behind Sandra Brown and captured the bronze medal. The fatigue had likely cost her at least the silver medal; but the Commonwealth bronze would be one of Ayaa’s most cherished international possessions!

In 1970 at the East-Central African Championships held in Nairobi, Ayaa won in the 100-meters in 11.8, the 200-meters in 24.1, and the 400-meters in 54.0.

Ayaa was a competitor at the USA-Pan African Track-and-Field Meet held from July 16-17, 1971 at Duke University in Durham. She won the gold medal after finishing in 54.69.

Still in 1971, at the ECA Championships in Lusaka, Ayaa won in the 400-meters (54.7); and she was part of the Uganda gold medal victorious teams in both sprint relays.

Ayaa competed in Dante Stadium at a Pre-Olympic Meet in mid-August 1972 in Munich, a build-up for the forthcoming Olympics in the same city of West Germany. Also called the “Hanns-Braun Memorial International Pre-Olympic Invitational,” this track-and-field meet spanned two days.

20 year-old Ayaa, participated amongst the 3 heats of the women’s 400 meters. The top overall finishers would be signified. Altogether Ayaa’s time was second best–52.68–a new Africa record. In early September 1972, in Munich at the Olympics, Ayaa was again timed in 52.68 seconds when she finished third in the quarter finals and advanced to the semi-finals. She thereby equaled her personal best and Africa record. Ayaa would be eliminated  from advancing to the Olympic finals when she finished 7th (52.91) in a semi-final heat.

At the pre-Olympic meet in Munich, on the second day of the meet, Ayaa additionally competed in the 200-meters and finished fifth. Results were (AP 1972: 66):

1. Marina Sidorova (Soviet Union), 23.78; 2. Karollne Kaefer (Austria), 23.99; 3. Vilma Charlton (Jamaica), 24.04; 4. Una Morris (Jamaica), 24.11; 5. Judith Ayaa (Uganda), 24.12.

Judith Ayaa would fade away from the international competition limelight after 1973. The President Idi Amin Dada handed her the Uganda flag in her capacity as team captain for the national team that was bound for Lagos for the All-Africa Games in January 1973. She was expected to win in the 400m. But possibly due to injuries, sickness, or inadequate training, she did not compete in any of the individual sprints in Lagos. But she possibly competed in the women’s 4x400m relay in which Uganda won gold.

Much more had been expected of this young elite African athlete, one of the few African women to reach such a pinnacle during that time of the dawn of women power athletes. It would take three decades for Ayaa’s Uganda national record in the 400m to be broken. After more than four decades, the present Uganda record (52.48) by Justine Bayigga, established in 2008, is only 0.2 seconds lower than the national and African record that Judith Ayaa set in 1972.

Works Cited

AP (August 17, 1972). “Second Day of the Sports Festival,” in “San Bernardino County Sun,”  page 66.

Jonathan Musere

Vitus Ashaba, Judith Ayaa, John Akii-Bua: Presence at the 1972 Hanns-Braun Pre-Olympics Invitational Meet in Munich

December 23, 2014

A Pre-Olympic Meet in 1972, a tune-up for the upcoming Olympics, took place in Munich in West Germany in mid-August. Elite athletes from many countries, arrived in Munich approximately ten days before the 1972 Olympics, to participate. The track-and-field meet that spanned two days is also dubbed the “Hanns-Braun Memorial International Pre-Olympic Invitational.” The Ugandan athletes that would commendably perform well were hurdler, sprinter and former decathlon athlete John Akii-Bua; sprinter Judith Ayaa, and steeplechaser and middle-distance runner Vitus Ashaba.

The competition began. 22 year-old Akii-Bua, perhaps relaxing and bidding his time in cautiously avoiding the dangerous hurdling in which athletes are quite injury-prone, settled for the 400m flat, other than his 400 meters-hurdles specialization.

Most of the top results at the Invitational were published in the “Oakland Tribune” (1972: 44)

The men’s 400 meters’ lap involved four heats, and the best overall times were signified. Overall in performance, Akii was placed third (46.18) behind top finisher Fred Newhouse of the USA (45.47), and second-placed was Kenyan legend, Charles Asati (45.77). Fourth overall was Horst Schlbske (West Germany) in 46.25, and fifth was Leighton Priestley (Jamaica) in 46.30.

Surprisingly, up to this time, although he had longed to, Akii had never competed with 400 meters-hurdles USA champion and national record-holder Ralph Mann. The barrier race involving the two was inevitably eagerly anticipated. Ralph Mann was slightly ahead of Akii-Bua in terms of personal best performance in the intermediate hurdles. Akii-Bua was reasonably familiar to the track community in the USA where he won in all the numerous 400mh events that he had so far competed in during 1971 and 1972. Akii was regarded by the Americans as Ralph Mann’s main rival at the 1972 summer Olympics. In the August 1972 issue of “Sports Illustrated,” it was predicted that at these forthcoming Olympics, Akii would win in the 400mh, Ralph Mann would be second, and that Kenya’s William Koskei who had won a silver medal for Uganda at the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh (Akii finished fourth) would win the Olympic bronze.

Eventually, in the 400 meters-hurdles at this meet, Ralph Mann won in 49.85, James Seymour (USA) finished second (50.02), third was William Koskei (Kenya) in 50.46, fourth was Mike Murey (Kenya)  in 50.42, and fifth was Richard Bruggeman (USA) in 50.63.

Judith Ayaa, aged 20, competed among the three heats of the women’s 400m at this pre-Olympic invitational. The best overall performances were signified. Overall, Ayaa’s performance was second best and she posted 52.68 which equaled the Africa record that she had established during the semi-finals of the event at the Edinburgh Commonwealth Games in 1970.

Yvonne Saunders (Jamaica) was the fastest 400m sprinter (52.34), third after Ayaa was Nadeshda Kolesnikova (Soviet Union) in 52.90, fourth was Karoline Kaefer (Australia) in 52.98, fifth was Penny Hunt (New Zealand) in 53.31.

The other Ugandan who performed quite well at the invitational was 29 year-old Vitus Ashaba. He finished fifth in the 3000 meters-steeplechase and his time of 8:50.08 was a new Uganda national record. In an event that has for decades been dominated by Kenyans, legendary Benjamin Jipcho (Kenya) won in 8:27.43, 1968 Olympic champion Amos Biwott (Kenya) was second in 8:30.70, third was 32 year-old legendary Kipchoge Keino (Kenya) who was quite new to this event (8:32.70), fourth was Werner Schuman (West Germany) in 8:45.89.

Weeks later, the ever versatile Keino would win the steeplechase gold at the Olympics, ahead of Jipcho and Biwott, in a new Olympic record. Ashaba would improve on his Uganda record by five seconds

Other elite competitors at the sports meet included sprinters Valeri Borzov (Russia) and Lennox Miller (Jamaica), and middle-distance runner Mike Boit (Kenya).

Works Cited

Associated Press. “U.S. 400 Quartet Eyes 38.5,” in “Oakland Tribune” (August 16, 1972).

Jonathan Musere

Judith Ayaa: East and Central African Championships, the Commonwealth and Olympic Games, and the USA vs Pan Africa Meet

November 18, 2014

Judith Ayaa was born on July 15, 1952 in the sub-county Koch Goma in Nwoya District in Uganda. During an era when African women participation in athletics was in its prevalently nascent and amateur stages, young Ayaa became a resounding name amongst African women track stars. Ayaa became the first Ugandan woman to win a Commonwealth Games’ medal. The female Ugandan Commonwealth Games’ medallists who followed in her footsteps are three: Ruth Kyalisiima (Kyarisiima/ Kyalisima) in Brisbane in 1982 where she won the silver in the 400 meters-hurdles (57.10), gold-medallist Dorcus Inzikuru in the 3000 meters-steeplechase in Melbourne in 2006 whereby she established a Games’ record (9:19.51), and bronze-medallist Winnie Nanyondo who was third in the 800m (2:01.38) in Glasgow in 2012.


Judith Ayaa’s career on the track would be short-lived, though of significant fulfillment.

The record of Judith Ayaa in the East and Central African Athletic Championships is amazing. In 1968 (Dar-es-Salaam), Ayaa won gold in the 100 meters sprint, finishing in 11.5. The following year in mid-August 1969, Ayaa cemented and confirmed her formidability by in the same championships (Kampala) winning in the 100 meters (11.8), the 200 meters (25.0), and the 400m (53.6). Jane Chikambwe, considered an athletics legend in Zambia won silvers behind Ayaa in the 100m and 200m. Here in Kampala in 1969, Ayaa was part of the Uganda 4x100m relay team that won in 49.5. In the same year, based on her personal best time of 53.6, Judith Ayaa was ranked amongst the world’s top 10 female 400m runners.


In 1970 at the same ECA Championships (Nairobi), Judith Ayaa did not slip behind. The slim young woman with the “Mercedes-Benz” body again won in the 100m (11.8), the 200m (24.1), and the 400m (54.0s).


It was at the Commonwealth Games held in Edinburgh in Scotland in 1970 that Judith Ayaa established herself as an international female athlete to be reckoned with. At these Games, Judith Ayaa notably competed in the 100m and the 400m. On July 17th, Ayaa was placed in the first of the five 100m preliminary heats. He performed reasonably well, finishing in second place, behind Jenny Lamy of Australia, in 11.92 seconds. But the semi-finals, the next day, were not as fruitful for Ayaa. She was placed in the second of the two semi-final heats, and was beaten into sixth place (11.93) and eliminated from advancing to the finals. The finals, later in the day, were won by Raelene Boyle of Australia, followed by legendary Alice Annum of Ghana, and then Marion Hoffman of Australia for the bronze medal.


There were much fewer competitors in the 400m so there would only be two rounds of competition. On July 22nd, Ayaa was placed in the second of two heats of the first round. Ayaa won in a relatively astounding time of 52.86 seconds, a new Uganda and Africa record. The finishing time by Ayaa ranked her as eleventh in the world in 1970. Alice Annum who had been scheduled to compete in the same round, did not start.

Ayaa advanced to the finals that would be contested the next day. But perhaps she had ran too fast instead of running while relaxed but enough to be amongst the top four of each round that would automatically qualify for the finals. Sandra Brown of Australia, was second, and a full second behind Ayaa. The other semi-final heat in which Marilyn Neufville won in 53.05, was of more relaxation and tactfulness.

The finals the next day witnessed diminutive but legendary 17 year-old Jamaican Marilyn Fay Neufville, winning in a world record of 51.02. Neufville won by an astounding more than two seconds ahead of silver medallist Sandra Brown (53.66) of Australia; she reduced the previous world record of 51.7 established (1969) by Colette Besson and Nicole Duclos both of France by nearly a second. Judith Ayaa, overtaken after slowing down near the end of the race, likely due to fatigue after her unnecessary exertion in the semi-finals, was third (53.77) in a photo-finish behind Sandra Brown and captured the bronze medal. The fatigue had likely cost her at least the silver medal; but the Commonwealth bronze would be one of Ayaa’s most acclaimed international possessions!


Marilyn Neufville’s superb career would be short-lived because of physical injuries and inconsequential surgery. At the 1974 Commonwealth Games held in Christchurch in New Zealand Neufville was 6th in the finals of the 400m. And at the Olympic Games of 1976 held in Montreal in Canada, she participated in the first round of the 400m and qualified for the next round, but she did not move forward into the next round because of injuries.


The next major event for Ayaa would be from July 16-17, 1971 at he Wallace Wade Stadium at Duke University in Durham in North Carolina. It was the USA versus Africa and the Rest of the World Meet (sometimes referred  to as the USA-Pan African Track-and-Field Meet). The event that attracted a high capacity crowd of a total of 52000 spectators was of a unified African team together with other nations (fourteen nations altogether) versus the USA team. Perhaps the main attraction was 1500m Olympic gold-medallist Kipchoge Keino who was revered and renowned for his track rivalry with American middle-distance legend and 1500m world-record (3:33.1)
holder Jim Ryun. Here at Duke, Keino intended to break this world record.


Other internationally acclaimed runners in the competition included Kenyan Amos Biwott (steeplechase Olympic champion), and long-distance Tunisian legend Mohammed Gammoudi. Ugandan hurdler John Akii-Bua of Uganda who was hardly known internationally, was also there to compete.


Judith Ayaa won the gold medal at these USA-Pan Africa Games in 54.69. Second was Gwendolyn Norman (USA) of Sports International in 55.42, third was Jarvis Scott (USA) of Los Angeles Mercurettes in 56. 0, and fourth was Titi Adeleke (Nigeria) in 59.52. John Akii-Bua won in the intermediate hurdles, establishing an Africa record (49.0) that would be the world’s best time for 1971. Smooth-sailing “flying policeman” Akii  became signified as a contender for the forthcoming Olympics in 1972 in Munich. Simultaneously, Ayaa  gained international acclaim though not to the level of Akii. Kip Keino failed to break the world record in the 1500m, but he clearly led and finished in quite an excellent 3:34.7.


Other notable competitors at the track and field meet included Americans Rodney Milburn and Ron Draper (high hurdles), Kenyans Robert Ouko (800m) and Benjamin Jipcho (steeplechase); Steve Prefontaine (USA) and Miruts Yifter (Ethiopia) in the 5000m, and John Smith (USA) in the 400m.


Still in 1971, at the East and Central African Championships held in Lusaka in Zambia, Ayaa was the winner in the 400m (54.7). She was also part of the Uganda gold medal winning teams in the relays: 4x100m (48.7) and 4x400m (3:50.5).

The next major challenge for Ayaa, the Olympic Games of 1972 held in Munich in Germany would prove to be interesting. In the first round, Ayaa in lane two came in fourth (52.85s) thereby qualifying for the quarter-finals. In the quarter finals, Judith Ayaa was drawn in lane 7 in her heat two of four heats. The first four finishers of each heat would move on to the semi-final. Ayaa comfortably finished third and established a Uganda and Africa record of 52.68. The Uganda record, Ayaa’s personal best, would stand for more than three decades. Of note, in these quarter-finals, Ayaa beat 26 year-old Colette Besson of France the diminutive surprise winner in the same event at the previous (1968) Olympics in Mexico City. Besson was in lane 3 and her 5th place finish disqualified her from advancing to the next round.

Ayaa moved on to the Olympics’ semi-finals. She was in lane 2, and finished in 52.91 seconds, a 7th place finish. Ayaa had put up quite a commendable performance, but the international competition was formidable, and Ayaa was eliminated in what would be her first and last Olympics competition. The eighth competitor, Christel Frese of West Germany, fell during the race and did not finish.


In 1972, Ayaa became a 4-time gold medallist in the 400m at the East and Central African Championships. This time, in Dar-es-Salaam, Ayaa’s winning time was 55.7. She was part of the Uganda team that won the gold medal in the 4x100m (48.7).


After 1972, Ayaa’s performance record would become lackluster. She got married and started having children in close succession, and neglected sports. The tumultuous regime of Amin made the situation worse. Athletes were far less financially compensated for their toil and injuries, than they have increasingly been in the recent decades. Ayaa’s demise was far from glamorous; it was disheartening. At some point later in her life, while looking after her two young children, Ayaa struggled, and sometimes begged on the streets of Kampala. She would crush stones for a living. Akii-Bua, also a national team-mate with Ayaa at the Olympics in 1972, would be instrumental to the drawing attention to and the intervening in the plight of Ayaa. She was located and a European benefactor helped with expenses. Unfortunately, in 2002 Ayaa would die young at 48 or 49, at Mulago Hospital in Kampala. Ironically, Akii-Bua who was also then not faring well, had died at about the same age of death as Ayaa, earlier in 1997 at the same hospital.


Ayaa’s reign on the women’s track was short but is superb and enduring. Trophies and national and regional competitions in northern Uganda have become commemorated in the name Judith Ayaa.


Jonathan Musere

Marilyn Neufville of Jamaica: World Records, Controversy, and Injuries in the Athletics Career of a Young Woman

June 3, 2013

Introduction

As an elite black Jamaican athlete in the United Kingdom during the tumultuous years of racism and black power movements during the 1960’s and 1970’s, controversy would swirl around slender Marilyn Fay Neufville.

A south London resident who had migrated from Jamaica when she was eight years old, and even competed for Britain internationally, she had “defied British officials and missed a meet against East Germany in order to train with the Jamaican team” (Associated Press: 1970). Neufville had ran for the Cambridge Harriers of southeast London during her teens after she had arrived in Britain in 1961 when she was 8 years old. Four months before the summer Commonwealth Games of 1970, Neufville had represented Britain and won the 400m title for Britain. She was born in Hectors River in Portland (Jamaica) on November 16th 1952. She started as a short-distance sprinter, and it was at the end of 1969, that she started concentrating on the 400m.

1967

Neufville first became significantly recognized at national level when in 1967 she won two Amateur Athletic Association (AAA) of England sprint titles in the under-15 group: the 100 and 150 yards (in 17.3 seconds).

1968

Again as a junior, in 1968, she won in the 220 yards in the AAA under-17 group in 23.9 seconds–a new national record in this category. The AAA, reputably the oldest athletics’ national governing body in the world, was established in April 1880. The championships are regarded as the British National Championships, though they have been open to foreign competitors.

1969

As an intermediate (under-17), Neufville won the English Schools Championships title in the 150 yards, improving her personal best to 16.6 seconds in Shrewsbury. She would progress to the women’s AAA championships in 1969 and was just beaten into second place (24.3) by 28 year-old legendary Dorothy Hyman (23.7) in the 200m; Val Peat, the previous champion, won the bronze medal (24.3). Hyman, a multiple medallist at the European Games, Commonwealth Games, and the Olympics is regarded as Britain’s greatest sprinter.

During 1969, 16 year-old Neufville was ranked 27th in the 400m in the world, courtesy of her personal best (54.2) executed in London on October 9th. Earlier, on August 23rd 1969, running for the track team Cambridge Harriers, Neufville ran a 54.4 in the 400m which time still places her among the top ten British youngsters among the under-17 group. In September, Neufville was part of the winning 4x400m relay team that won in the track meet versus West Germany in Hamburg. Also on September 6th 1969, she won the 300m in London, in 38.3 seconds. This time  is still listed as among the best among United Kingdom youngsters under 17 years of age.

1970 and the Commonwealth of Nations’ Games in Edinburgh

As a British runner, Marilyn’s personal outdoor best in the 400m would become 52.6 achieved when she won the The Internationales Stadionfest (ISTAF) 400m title in 1970. Here, in Berlin, she smashed the British record. The silver and bronze medallists were West Germans Christel Frese (54.3) and Inge Eckhoff (54.5). Neufville’s personal best indoors was her 53.01 world record breaking and winning performance that is mentioned below.

At the 1970 European Athletics Indoor Championships held in Vienna (March 14th to 15th), Neufville, representing Great Britain, won impressively in the 400m (53.01). This, established on March 14th, was a new indoor world record; a timing more than a second below her previous personal best (54.2). The silver medallist was Christel Frese of West Germany (53.1), followed by the previous (1968) Olympic gold medallist Colette Besson of France (53.6). The indoor record would be reduced by Nadezhda Ilyina (Nadezhda Kolesnikova-Ilyina) of the Soviet Union, in 1974.

On May 17th 1970, Neufville participated in the Britain vs. Netherlands Women’s meet in Sparta Stadium. In the 200 meters W. Van den Berg of the Netherlands won (23.7), Neufville was second (23.8), and M. Cobb also of Britain was third (24.1). As for the 4x400m relay, Marilyn ran the last leg flawlessly with ease, and the British (3:45.1) beat Netherlands (3:50.8).

Also early in 1970, Neufville won the 400m title in the British AAA indoor championships in 54.9 seconds, establishing a new national record. Jannette Champion (56.5) was second, and Avril Beattie (57.1) won the bronze medal. Neufville would participate in the same championships during the next year 1971, but this time representing Jamaica. This time the winner was Champion (now Jannette Roscoe) in 56.1, Marilyn was second (57.3), and Maureen Tranter of Britain (57.5) was third.

Still in 1970, Marilyn Fay was a notable fixture at the South of England Championships that were held in London.  Here, she won the 200m and 400m in 23.9 and 52.0 seconds, respectively–both new records in the annual event. She would return to the Championships the next year 1971 as a Jamaican, and would retain the 200m title, winning in 24.2 again in London.

On July 23rd at the Commonwealth Games, the 17 year-old long-legged and slim Neufville established a new 400m world record of 51.02, and then the next day at a press conference refused to comment on the accomplishment in which she had just lowered the record, that had been jointly held by the French women Colette Besson and Nicole Duclos (set in Athens in 1969), by a massive seven-tenths of a second. The 51.02 would endure as Neufville’s personal best. Neufville had won by a full twenty seconds ahead of the runner-up Sandra Brown of Australia (53.66), in a time one second faster than she had ever ran in the event!  The performance was the day’s highlight at the Commonwealth Games. Judith Ayaa of Uganda was third (53.77).

On July 24th, “at a bizarre news conference,” Neufville, “…sat with her Jamaican team manager, Norman Hill…and just silently shook her head at every question” (Associated Press: 1970). In the extraordinary scene, Hill had brought her into the room that was lined with forty newsmen and ushered her into the reserved seat of honor, and then declared that she was not going to answer to any questions and comments. As for her silent passive response, the manager Hill explained that Neufville was warily tense about uttering anything that would possibly jeopardize her future in athletics. Indeed she had ran for Jamaica, though she had formerly ran for Britain to which she was tied under the international rules of athletics.

Would Neufville be in trouble with the British Amateur Athletic Association for which she had competed in world events? She had been allowed by the Association to tour Europe with the Jamaican team, as long as she would return and be part of Britain’s team to be pitted against East Germany. Neufville defiantly stayed with Jamaicans, she did not show up for the European track meet executed two weeks earlier. Hill was even evasive in replying about whether Marilyn Fay, in maintaining silence, was protesting British officials’ attitude. Marilyn would later compete in the 4x100m relay: the Jamaican team finished fifth.

Though the Commonwealth Games were held in Edinburgh, right in the United Kingdom, “Neufville was not jeered or beaten, though her preference for representing Jamaica while she was a resident in London angered many, especially as many [blacks] sought…British [sports] titles but were prevented from doing so by a rule that specified that a…contestant ‘has been resident in the United Kingdom for a period of not less than ten years'” (Cashmore 2010: 242).

It would take two years for Marilyn’s world record to be equaled–Monica Zehrt of GDR on July 4th 1972 in Paris. It would be nearly exactly four years later (July 22nd 1974 in Warsaw) that superwoman Irena Szewinska of Poland broke Neufville’s world record, down by more than a second (49.9) and the first ever below 50 seconds.

Near the end of July 1970, about a month after her Commonwealth triumph in Edinburgh, British track officials convinced that she was bent on competing for Jamaica, declared that they would not include Neufville on the British team that would soon participate in the European Cup competition. They would not object to Neufville’s defection to Jamaica, but would defer the matter to the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) for approval. Neufville even nursed the option of studying at an American college. After he Commonwealth performance, there was jubilation in Jamaica, she was officially congratulated by Prime Minister Hugh Shearer and also accorded a civic reception in her home parish Portland on the north coast of Jamaica. Neufville left Jamaica for London in late August, only days before her athletics’ national affiliation and situation would be decided by the International Amateur Athletic Commission in Stockholm. It would be decided that international athletes could henceforth be able to switch from one country after one year after competing, instead of every three years.

1971

In Toronto, on February 5th 1971, Neufville won in the 300 yards (35.7).

At the 1971 Central American and Caribbean Championships held during mid-July in Kingston, Marilyn Fay won in the 400m and established a course record (53.5). She was followed by Carmen Trustee of Cuba (54.0) and the bronze was captured by Yvonne Saunders of Jamaica (54.3). Neufville was also part of the Jamaica 4x400m relay team that won the silver medal (3:41.0), behind gold medallists Cuba (3:38.6, a new course record), and ahead of bronze medallists Trinidad and Tobago (4:03.2).

Only weeks later, on August 3rd, Neufville won a gold medal at the 1971 sixth Pan-African Games (held from late July to early August in Cali in Colombia) in the 400m–the first time the event was contested at these Games. Her winning time was 52.34 (51.34?), and the team-mate Yvonne Saunders was third (53.13). The two were also part of the Jamaica 4x400m relay team that also included Ruth Williams and Beverly Franklin and won the bronze medal (3:34.05). Jamaica was beaten by the United States (3:32.45) and silver medallists Cuba (3:34.04). Fay’s 400m performance in Cali was her personal best of 1971, and the second best in world annual ranking. Here in Cali, Carmen Trustee of Cuba finished second (52.8).

Neufville left Britain for Jamaica in July 1971, amidst the storm of controversy in which she claimed she had been mistreated and that she would therefore continue to run for Jamaica. She denied that she was leaving London because of racial prejudice. It was argued that under IAAF rules, Marilyn Fay would be eligible to compete for Jamaica in the forthcoming Olympics, but that she would not be eligible to under the International Olympics Committee (IOC) rules.

From September 1971, she lived near Los Angeles with multi-world record-holder Chi Cheng (Chi Cheng Reel) of Taiwan and her husband and coach Vince Reel who also coached Neufville and was the coach at Claremont College.

1972 and the Olympics in Munich

The ninth annual Albuquerque Jaycees Invitational track meet was held in the middle of July 1972. Here Carol Hudson, a native of Albuquerque, ably beat Marilyn Fay and also Karin Lundgren of Sweden in 600 yard run. Hudson’s performance was new American record (1:21.8)

On January 24th 1972, Neufville competed in an indoor track meet in Los Angeles, in the 600 yards. Unfortunately, she fell near the end of the race. She was visibly in great as she was helped up. With a severed tendon, she became scheduled to undergo an operation at Glendale Community Hospital. The officials were pessimistic about her chances at recovering quickly enough to compete in the forthcoming summer Olympics in Munich. The track doctor Jerome Bornstein said that it would depend on how significant the tear was. He said that if the tendon was badly severed, it would incapacitate Neufville for at least six months–a condition that would spoil her regimen of adequately building up for the Olympics.

She was helped to foot her medical bill: “World record holder Marilyn Neufville became the first claimant to receive payment for expenses caused by athletic injury under the AAU’s optional athlete’s insurance program, which went into effect January 1. …a total of $1000 has been sent to Ms. Neufville and Glendale Community Hospital….” (Amateur Athletic Union of the United States 1972: 9).

It became doubtful that Neufville would participate in the Wills-Qantas Olympic fund-raising meetings that were scheduled for mid-March in Sydney, Adelaide, and Melbourne. She was to have been a feature attraction at the meets.

In the middle of July 1972, Neufville was listed in the 27-member track and field team that would represent Jamaica at the Olympics. There were still hopes that she would recover from the snapped Achilles tendon that had disabled her from competing since the fall in January. In the second week of August, it was declared that Marilyn Faye had not sufficiently recovered and so would not compete at the Olympics.

Monica Zehrt of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) had equaled the world record held by Neufville. The latter was injured and unable to compete at the Olympics in Munich in 1972, but 19 year-old Zehrt, “[seemingly] unaffected by the pressure of her opponents or by her role as favorite” (Wallechinsky 2000: 206), went on to win the gold in the event, setting a new Olympic record (51.08).

1973

In the middle of January 1973, in Winnipeg, 18 year-old Joanne McTaggert of Canada won in the 300m (40.2) in the first time she had competed in the distance. She beat the big names Yvonne Saunders, Kathy Hammond, and Neufville.

At the Sunkist International Invitational Indoor Track Meet in Los Angeles, Neufville and Chi Cheng Reel, running for the Los Angeles Track Club, were part of the sprint relay that won in 1:14.3.

At the end of January 1973 Neufville, again representing the Los Angeles Track Club in the Albuquerque Invitational Track and Field meet, won the 300 yard dash in 35.4 seconds.

On February 23rd 1973, the USA Indoor National Championships were held in Madison Square Garden in New York. Neufville, representing the Los Angeles Track Club, finished third in the 440 yards (56.2), behind Brenda Walsh of Canada (55.5), and Kathy Hammond of the Sacramento Road Runners (55.7).

In the first week of June, Neufville set a Kennedy Games record of 55.1, in winning.

Near the end of June 1973, at the Women’s AAU meet held in Irvine in California, Neufville was beaten into second place in the 440 yards. She was second (54.5) and the winner was Olympian Mable Fergerson (54.1).

The Pacific International Games were held early in July 1973. in Victoria in Canada. The winner in the 400m was Charlene Rendina of Australia (52.4). Neufville disappointingly finished sixth.

On July 19th 1973, Neufville together with the other Jamaican world record hold Donald Quarrie were included on the Jamaica Amateur Athletic Association’s team scheduled to participate in the Central American and Caribbean Athletic Championships to be held during July 26th to 29th in Maracaibo in Venezuela. Injuries prevented Neufville from competing.

1974 and the Commonwealth of Nations’ Games in Christchurch

Marilyn Fay at 21, would travel to Christchurch in New Zealand to represent Jamaica at the Commonwealth of Nations’ Games in 1974. The injuries plagued her and she would only afford a sixth place finishing in the 400m (54.04). The gold medallist was her former team-mate Yvonne Saunders (51.67) who had become a naturalized Canadian, followed by Verona Bernard (51.94), and bronze medallist Charlene Rendina of Australia (52.08).

1975

As a University of California at Berkeley student, Neufville finished fourth in the 800 yards, in the AIAW (Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women) Outdoor Championships.

1976 and the Olympics in Montreal

On July 25th 1976, 23 year-old Neufville competed for Jamaica in the 400m at the Olympics in Montreal. Here, in the third of the six heats of the first round and running in lane 3, she finished fourth (52.93) behind Ellen Strophal-Streidt of East Germany (52.56), Christiane Casapicola-Wildschek of Austria (52.65). and Judy Canty of Australia (52.88). Though Marilyn Fay qualified for the next round (quarter-finals) to take place in the evening, this would be the first and end of her Olympic presence as injuries discouraged her from competing any further.  Still, the 52.93 was her personal best for 1976. This timing is the fourth personal best all-time performance among the 400m University of California at Berkeley (California Bears) women track stars. The time is also the oldest only 1970’s PB timing that is among the top ten best in the quarter-mile sprint. The best California Bears’ PB’s were established by Latasha Gilliam (52.53, 1996), Alima Kamara (52.75, 2010), and Marian Franklin (52.90, 1980).

As a student competing for UCB, Neufville’s collegiate personal best was 54.08, also established in 1976. This timing is listed seventh among UCB performances, behind Latasha Gilliam, Marian Franklin, Kim White, Chantal Reynolds, Connie Culbert, and Kelia Bolton. Marilyn attended the University of California at Berkeley between 1972 and 1983.

In Montreal in the Olympic finals of the 400m, 30 year-old Irena Szewinska-Kirszenstein of Poland, also an outstanding short-sprinter and long jumper as well as multiple Olympic gold medallist, established a world record (49.28), ten meters ahead of runner-up 18 year-old Christina Brehmer of East Germany (50.51), and 23 year-old Ellen Strophal-Streidt also of GDR (50.55). In 1974, Irena Szewinska-Kirszenstein had become the first woman to officially run the distance in less than 50 seconds.

The Aftermath

Marilyn Neufville has for many years been employed as a social worker both in the United States and the United Kingdom. She has worked at Local Authority Social Services in London, in a mental health care division. In March 2013, 60 year-old Neufville filled a claim over unfair dismissal in 2010 by the Richmond Council in London (Bishop: 2013). Accused of mishandling a case that involved domestic violence, she had been fired.

In the United States, Neufville lived and worked in and around Haviland and Halstead in Kansas, Martinsville in Virginia, and in Ballwin and St. Charles in Missouri. She lived in Oakland while attending UC at Berkeley. She was also affiliated with Tilastopaja Oy Athletics, St. Columbas School in Kilmacolm (Scotland), and the South England Athletic Association. After he win at the Commonwealth Games, national stamps with her image were issued.

Jamaica women’s 400m record, established by Lorraine Fenton on July 19th 2002 in Monaco, is now 49.30. Neufville is still the only Jamaican woman to have ever held a world record in outdoor athletics. From 1978 to 1982, Marita Koch of East Germany lowered the 400m world record six times, from 49.19 to 48.16 in Europe. Her dominance was interrupted by Jarmila Kratochvílová of Czechoslovakia who in August 1983, lowered it to 47.99 in Helsinki. At 1:53.28, Jarmila Kratochvílová still holds the 800m world record that was also established in 1983. The 400m world record (47.60) was re-established by Marita Koch in October 1985 in Canberra.

Neufville was officially listed as 5’5″ and 125 pounds. She did not have the commonly significant build of a sprinter, and her thinness made her prone to injuries. As a result she was unable to perform at many international competitions and her performance deteriorated. But she was perhaps Britain’s first elite black athlete.

Works Cited

Associated Press: “‘M’ Student Takes First,” (July 24, 1970) in “Michigan Daily.” 

Amateur Athletic Union of the United States: AAU News Volumes 43-46, 1972.

Bishop, Rachel. “Social worker claims unfair dismissal from Richmond Council,” (March 1, 2013) in “Richmond & Twickenham Times.”

Cashmore, Ellis. Making Sense of Sports. London: Routledge, 2010.

Wallechinsky, David. The Complete Book of the Olympics. London: Aurum Press, 2000.

Jonathan Musere

The Best of Uganda’s Commonwealth Games Performances: Edinburgh and Christchurch

April 12, 2011

Introduction
It was at the Commonwealth of Nations Games of 1970 and 1974, that were held in the city Edinburgh in Scotland and in Christchurch in New Zealand respectively, that Uganda’s competitors were most victorious at these quadrennial events.

In 1970, Uganda’s performance in boxing was the most uplifting with Uganda winning three gold medals (James Odwori, Mohamed Muruli, and Benson Masanda) and two silver medals (Leo Rwabwogo and Deogratias Musoke). The other medals won for Uganda were on the track–William Koskei’s silver medal in the 400 meters-hurdles, and Judith Ayaa’s bronze medal in the women’s 400 meters. Uganda performed equally well at the Commonwealth Games of 1970.

Bronze medal wins in boxing, at the Commonwealth Games held in Kingston in Jamaica in 1966, by Alex Odhiambo, Mathias Ouma, and Benson Ocan were indication that Uganda was moving up in international amateur boxing ranks. Uganda’s performance at the Commonwealth Games, four years earlier (1962) in Perth in Australia, witnessed Uganda win her first Commonwealth gold by way of heavyweight boxer George Oywello. Also impressive at the venue were the boxing bronze medal wins by John Sentongo and future national army commander and Olympic Committee member Francis Nyangweso, and the silver medal won by future national boxing trainer Kesi Odongo. To buttress Uganda’s confidence in the realm of boxing were Uganda’s first and only Olympic medal wins, at the 1968 venue Mexico City, by boxers Leo Rwabwogo and Eridadi Mukwanga–a bronze and silver medal respectively. That is in spite of the lofty Olympic judging of 1968 and later 1972 that was seemingly tinged with racial bias and favoritism.

Edinburgh, Scotland 1970
At the 1970 Commonwealth of Nations Games, the teenager James Odwori was Uganda’s boxing competitor in the flyweight division. The beginning was quite easy for Odwori, given that he was not drawn among the four out of the total 10 flyweights that would fight in the preliminary rounds on July 17th. Since the total numbers of competitors in the very low and the very high weight divisions were relatively fewer, many were automatically placed in the next round–the quarter finals. The first flyweight quarter-finals bout was on July 20th. Odwori beat Anthony Kerr of host-country Scotland, on points, and earned his ticket to the semi-finals. In the semi-finals that involved four contenders, Odwori was again scheduled to box in the first bout. By a majority points decision, Odwori impressively beat Mickey Abrams of England, on July 22nd and was through to the finals! Odwori would move on to beat Anthony Davis of Wales by points, to win Uganda’s first 1970 Commonwealth Games gold medal. Odwori had impressively set the standard for Uganda boxers. He boxed for the Uganda Prisons and the national teams for more than ten years to come and later went back to his native Kenya where he became Kenya Prisons boxing coach and later Kenya national coach.

The flyweight division involved twelve contenders at the Commonwealth Games of 1970. Just like Odwori, Uganda’s contender Leo Rwabwogo luckily bypassed the preliminary round of July 17th such that he would first fight as a quarter-finalist. On July 20th Leo Rwabwogo was place in the quarter-finals to fight Leon Nissen (whose identical twin Henry was also a boxer)  of Australia. The referee stopped the contest in the second round, a technical knockout in favor of Rwabwogo, allowing Rwabwogo to move on the semi-finals. On July 22nd, Rwabwogo was placed in the first bantamweight semi-final bout with opponent 18 year-old David Larmour of Ireland who would later become an Olympian and professional boxer. Rwabwogo won by a majority points decision. For the finals, Rwabwogo would battle with future professional and Englishman David (Dave) Needham of Nottingham. Needham ably outpointed Rwabwogo by 4-1, allowing Rwabwogo to settle for the silver medal. The gold medal had eluded Rwabwogo at the Olympic Games in Mexico City where he settled for bronze; and in the forthcoming Olympics of 1972 that were held in Munich in Germany, Rwabwogo would again fall short of the big win after being defeated in the finals. But famed Rwabwogo remains Uganda’s only double-Olympic medallists and the only Ugandan to have captured medals at both the Olympic and Commonwealth Games.

Uganda’s bantamweight contender Eridadi Mukwanga had at the Olympic Games of 1968 in Mexico city cemented history by becoming the nation’s first Olympic silver medallist. At these Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, Rwabwogo was in the very last bout of the bantamweight division scheduled to fight Joe Cooke of Canada. Mukwanga was not able to live up to his fame and expectations, defeated by points by Joe Cooke of Canada on July 18th. Cooke would later on also be kicked out of medal contention, when he was defeated by Stewart Ogilvie of Scotland, after the referee stopped the bout in the first round.

In the featherweight division Uganda’s Deogratias Musoke strutted his feathers. At the preliminaries, on July 18th, Musoke was pitted against unheralded G. Marisa of Tanzania. The bout went in favor of Musoke after the referee halted the contest in the second round. On July 21st, in the quarter-finals, Musoke moved on to the semi-finals after beating Eddie Pritchard of Wales by points. For the semi-finals was scheduled to meet with Pakistan’s Abdul Samad Mir. The fight did not materialize because Samad Mir was unable to fight. It became an easy walkover in favor of Musoke. The consolation for Pakistan was that Mir’s bronze medal was the sole one for the nation at this Commonwealth Games’ venue. Also, Samad Mir remains one of the most famous of Pakistani boxers. In the 1970’s he was declared “Best Boxer of Asia.”  He joined the army and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel. He also coached the Pakistani’s Army Boxing  as well as National teams. Samad Amir passed away in May 2009.

In the finals, Musoke would face Kenya’s longstanding boxing legend Philip Waruinge whose boxing accolades include multiple medals at both the Commonwealth and the Olympic Games. Deogratias Musoke, defeated on points in the finals on July 24th, was awarded the featherweight boxing silver medal.

The preliminary lightweight bout on July 18th, between Uganda’s teenager Joseph Nsubuga and Olympian Kenneth Mwansa of Zambia, resulted in an early farewell for Nsubuga who was defeated by points.

Mohamed Muruli, one of Uganda’s master boxers, had as a lightweight been placed fifth overall at the Olympics of 1968 in Mexico City. This time, Muruli would represent Uganda as a light welterweight. There were twelve competitors in this division and Muruli was lucky to be drawn into the quarter-finals and therefore forego fighting in the preliminaries of July 17th. In the quarter-finals, held on July 20th, Muruli outpointed Reginald Forde of Guyana. Forde remains one of the most famous Guyanese boxers. On September 14th 1978, Reggie Forde was as a professional fighter knocked out in the fifth round by famed Uganda boxer Ayub Kalule, in the quest for the British Empire Commonwealth title.

On July 22nd, in the semi-finals, hard-hitting Muruli defeated future Olympian Odartey Lawson of Ghana when the referee stopped the fight in the first round. Muruli moved on to win the gold for Uganda after outpointing Dave Davis of Wales on July 24th.

The welterweight division witnessed Uganda’s Olympian Andrew Kajjo eliminate Hugo Chansa of Zambia by points on July 17th 1970. The next year Chansa would turn professional and in April 1974 he would die from brain injuries soon after being knocked out by Scotland’s Don McMillan in a middleweight bout. On June 20th, Emma Ankudey of Ghana would mar Kajjo’s quest for a medal by beating him by points in the quarter-finals. Ankudey would eventually win the gold medal and also represent Ghana at the Olympics of 1972 in Montreal.

Uganda’s biracial light-middleweight boxing champion David Jackson was drawn to start fighting in the quarter-finals, and not fight among the eight competitors in the preliminaries. As a teenager Jackson was placed fifth overall in among the light-middleweight competitors at the Olympics of 1968 in Mexico City. This time in Edinburgh, Jackson did not go far, given that on July 20th the referee halted the bout in the first round in favor of Tom Imrie of Scotland. Imrie had won the Commonwealth silver medal at the previous venue of Kingston in Jamaica and he remains a famous Scottish boxer. Imrie would be the eventual gold medal winner this time in Edinburgh, and thereafter move on to professional fighting. His record as a professional pugilist was mediocre. David Jackson would again fight for Uganda at the forthcoming Olympics (1972) in Montreal, and be placed 9th overall in the welterweight division.

The teenager John Opio moved on to the quarter-finals, after defeating future professional boxer Billy May of Wales, by points on July 20th in the preliminary rounds of the middleweight division. But in the quarter-finals, against Samuel Kasongo of Zambia, Opio was eliminated after the referee stopped the contest in the third round. Opio would represent Uganda at the forthcoming Olympics in Munich.

The preliminaries of the light heavyweight division involved the second-round disqualification of Commonwealth bronze medallist and 2-time Olympian George Mathias Ouma at the hands of Johnny Banham of England on July 18th.

Because there were only seven contestants in the heavyweight division, and six were placed in the quarter-finals. It was Uganda’s Benson Masanda, among the seven boxers, who hit the jackpot by automatically being placed in the next level–the semi-finals! The quarter-finals took place on July 20th. In the semi-finals on July 22nd, Masanda defeated Canada’s Jack Meda by disqualification in round 2. In the finals, on July 24th, Masanda won gold by defeating John McKinty of Ireland by points. Compared to all Uganda’s boxing participants, Masanda had won the gold in quite an easy and unconventional way. This would be Uganda’s second Commonwealth Games’ gold medal, following that of George Oywello in 1962 in Perth in Australia.

Courtesy of the final tally of gold medals won by James Odwori, Mohamed Muruli, and Benson Masanda; and silver medals won by Leo Rwabwogo and Deogratias Musoke Uganda had convincingly emerged as Commonwealth of Nations’ boxing championships. This was the first collective international victory for Uganda, and the nation rejoicingly looked forward to more triumphs at the international level. The rest of Uganda’s medals were just two: the silver medal won by William “Bill” Koskei in the 400 meters-hurdles, and the bronze medal won by Judith Ayaa in the 400 meters-sprint. The total of three gold, three silver, and one bronze medal placed Uganda as ninth overall at this Commonwealth tournament with 7 medals. How would Uganda’s boxers fare in the next Commonwealth venue that would be Christchurch in New Zealand in 1974? There had been a military coup in Uganda, commander Idi Amin became president, the regime became notorious for killings and disappearances of nationals and even foreigners. Anxiety loomed as to whether unfavorable social and political factors would translate to disappointing performances in the realm of sports. And yes, many aspects of sports deteriorated during the regime of Idi Amin, and the pool of potential and current athletes was reduced. But how would Uganda fare in Christchurch, two years to the day into the regime of Idi Amin?

Christchurch, New Zealand 1974
Christchurch hosted the Commonwealth of Nations’ Games from January 24th to February 2nd, 1974. The boxing flyweight division saw the returning of the gold medallist James Odwori of Uganda.  In the quarter-finals, on January 28th, Odwori knocked out Tanzanian Olympian Bakari Selemani (Seleman) in the second round. The semi-finals, held on January 31st witnessed Odwori defeat Singapore’s Syed Abdul Kadir by points. Kadir remains one of Singapore’s most renowned fighters, and was named “Sportsman of the Year” after his Commonwealth Games’ bronze medal win.

The finals of the light flyweight division were held of February 1st. This time, Odwori would be pitted against Kenyan Stephen Muchoki who remains one of Kenya’s most famous boxers. The relatively shorter Muchoki outpointed the champion Odwori, leaving Odwori to settle for silver. Muchoki would successfully defend his Commonwealth gold at the forthcoming venue Edmonton in Canada, in 1978. His illustrious career also included the silver medal win at the World Amateur Championships in Havana in 1974, and later the gold in the tournament which was hosted by Belgrade in Yugoslavia in 1978. Muchoki would thereafter move into the professional ranks and even become Africa Boxing Union champion. But he failed in his quest for the European title and the World Boxing Association title, and he retired from boxing during the late 1980’s.

In the quarter-finals of the flyweight division, on January 29th, Ugandan John Byaruhanga knocked-out John Lawless of Scotland in the second round. But in the semi-finals, January 31st, Byaruhanga was defeated on points by Olympian Chandra Narayanan of India. Byaruhanga hence settled with the bronze medal.

Uganda’s bantamweight Ali Rojo was drawn as a quarter-finalist to fight Olympian Habibu (Habib) Kinyogoli of Tanzania on January 28th. Rojo won by points and moved on to the semi-finals. Kinyogoli remains one of the most renowned of Tanzania’s boxer and he is a boxing trainer.

The January 31st bantamweight semi-final was in favor of Rojo, by points, leaving Kenyan Isaac Kuria Maina to go home with the bronze. in the finals, on February 1st, Patrick “Pat” Cowdell of England killed Ali Rojo’s quest for the gold by winning by points. Rojo had won the second boxing medal for Uganda. A famous British boxer, Cowdell would build an impressive boxing career during which he became a European Union champion. But he failed to win in his fighting for a world title.

Uganda’s featherweight competitor was Shadrack (Shadrah? Shadrach?) Odhiambo. On January 29th, in the quarter-finals, young future Olympian and long-time fighter Odhiambo outpointed Colin Flinn of England. Odhiambo would later as a light welterweight fight for Sweden and win her a bronze medal at the World Amateur Championships in 1982 in Munich. Odhiambo also fought for Sweden in the 1980 (Moscow) and 1984 (Los Angeles) Olympics. He did not win any Olympic medals.

In the Christchurch Commonwealth games semi-final, Odhiambo ably defeated Dale Anderson of Canada by points on January 31st. However, the finals, on February 1st witnessed experienced Commonwealth Games’ champion Eddie Ndukwu of Nigeria win the gold medal on a points decision. Odhiambo had won Uganda’s third boxing silver medal! Ndukwu would soon turn professional and even reign as British Empire (Commonwealth) featherweight champion. Ndukwu remains among the more formidable names among Nigerian boxers.

On January 27th, in the preliminaries, a locally popular and heavily promising 20 year-old lightweight lad Ayub Kalule climbed into the ring to challenge Tanzanian William Lyimo who was the same age as Kalule. Kalule won, by points. In 1980, Lyimo aged 27 would fight at the Olympic Games held in Moscow. He commendably passed the second round, but was in the quarter-finals knocked out in the third round by 20 year-old Anthony Willis of Great Britain. He would thus settle for 5th position in the welterweight division. Many African countries boycotted the Olympic venue of Moscow. Heaney later became a professional boxer, but he would soon retire without an acclaimed boxing record.

In the quarter-finals of the Commonwealth Games’ lightweight boxing fight in Christchurch, on January 28th 1974, Ayub Kalule ably out-boxed and bloodily facially disfigured 22 year-old Irishman “Sugar” Ray Heaney. The fight is featured on You-Tube whereby Heaney was allotted two mandatory counts given the formidable punishing from the fast and hard-punching Kalule.

In the semi-finals, Kalule was set to face New Zealand teenager Robert Charles Colley. The outcome involved Colley being outpointed and settling for the bronze medal.

At the quarter finals, Kalule was pitted against 19 year-old New Zealander Robert Charles Colley. Colley would be outpointed (and settle for the bronze), allowing Kalule to move on to the final stage. After being eliminated by Russian Valery Limasov in the first round at the Olympic Games of 1976 held in Montreal (Canada), Colley would turn professional. Though Colley’s professional record is impressive, it is mediocre insofar as his fights were confined to New Zealand and Australia, and Colley retired quite early in life…in 1980. At the finals of these Commonwealth Games, Kalule would outpoint Kayin Amah of Nigeria and therefore win the gold. Kayin Amah, who had in the preliminaries lost to legendary Philip Waruinge of Kenya in the previous Commonwealth Games (1970), would this time be happier with taking home a silver.

Perhaps Ayub Kalule’s most prestigious amateur encounter, would be the inaugural World Amateur Boxing Championships that were held in Havana in Cuba in August 17-30. Here, Kalule, a light welterweight, defeated Bulgarian Vladmir Kolev to win the gold. In November of the same year, Kalule still as a light welterweight, won another gold medal for Uganda. This was at the African Amateur Boxing Championships that were held in Kampala on Kalule’s soil. The next year Kalule turned professional in Denmark, rose rapidly through the ranks. He could go on to become Uganda’s first professional world boxing champion (WBA junior middleweight). His accolades included becoming a European Boxing Union Champion, and battling such renowned boxers as “Sugar” Ray Leonard, Sumbu Kalambay, Mike McCallum, Lindell Holmes, and Herol Graham. Kalule fought in what many regard as the golden era of junior middleweight champions. Kalule is still Uganda’s most famous boxer. In March 2011, Kalule was contracted to coach top junior Danish boxers.

Joseph Nsubuga had been eliminated on points by Kenneth Mwansa of Zambia right at the beginning of the preliminaries at the previous Commonwealth Games venue Edinburgh. There Nsubuga had represented Uganda as a lightweight. Nsubuga, still a teenager, was now back at the Commonwealth Games to fight as a light welterweight. This time, the preliminary first round on January 27 witnessed Nsubuga quickly overwhelm his opponent. The fight did not go far. The referee halted the contest in the first round, dashing the hopes of Philip Sapak of Papua New Guinea. However, two days later in the quarter-finals, James Douglas of Scotland defeated Nsubuga by points and thereby halted Nsubuga’s quest for a medal.

Months later, in August, Nsubuga would win a bronze medal for Uganda at the inaugural World Amateur Boxing Championships in Havana. Nsubuga had moved up to the middleweight division. Quite a skillful boxer, Nsubuga would turn professional and move to Norway, and he would mostly fight in Europe. Nsubuga stopped competing in 1981 when he was knocked out by famous future world champion Davey Moore. Perhaps Nsubuga’s most notable professional fight was his spirited gladiator battle (non-title bout) with legendary Panamanian Roberto Duran. Though Duran seemed to be tiring, Joseph “Stoneface” Nsubuga was knocked out at the end of the fourth round. This fight is available on You-Tube.

Welterweight Mohamed Muruli had won Uganda a gold medal at the previous Commonwealth of Nations Games’ venue Edinburgh. There in 1970, Muruli had boxed as a lightweight. Here in Christchurch, Muruli was representing Uganda as a welterweight. The preliminary round witnessed Muruli outpunch Caleb Okech of Kenya, on January 26th. On January 29th, during the quarter-finals, Muruli beat future Olympian Carmen Rinke of Canada by points. The semi-finals involved Muruli beating Steven Cooney of Scotland, by points on January 31st. On February 1st, Muruli became the first Ugandan to ever win two Commonwealth Games’ gold medals by outpointing Welsh Errol McKenzie in the finals. McKenzie would turn professional during 1975, but he retired after an unimpressive boxing record. Muruli is among Uganda’s outstanding boxers, and he twice represented Uganda at the Olympics.

Uganda’s light middleweight John Langol was rescued by the referee who stopped the preliminaries match-up of January 27th 1974 against Lance Revill of New Zealand. The fight was stopped in the second round. In 1981, Langol moved to Birmingham in England to fight professionally. His professional tenure would last only four years and it would involve an unimpressive record of 6 wins and 8 losses. Revill would fight professionally in Australia and New Zealand, but his boxing record would be average.

On January 29th of 1974, in a quarter-final, Uganda’s middleweight champion Mustapha Wasajja was knocked out in the first round by Les Rackley of New Zealand. At the inaugural World Boxing Championships held on August 1974 in Havana, Wasajja was eliminated by points in the quarter-finals. In November, Wasajja would become Africa amateur champion at the regional tournament held in Kampala. In a pre-Olympic international tournament held in Montreal at the end of November 1975, Wasajja won Uganda’s only gold at the venue. Wasajja is notable for having become the premier WBA light heavyweight contender after he turned professional. He lost the mandatory championship fight to Michael Spinks, in February 1982. Wasajja mostly fought in Europe and his boxing record is quite impressive. After Spinks, Wasajja lost his next two fights and thereafter retired from boxing. Wasajja is one of Uganda’s greatest boxers.

Just as had happened in the previous Commonwealth Games, the reigning heavyweight champion Benson Masanda of Uganda was directly placed in the quarter-finals because there were not many contenders in the class. On January 28th Masanda outpointed Fisi Brown of New Zealand. In the semi-finals, the referee stopped the bout in favor of legendary Nigerian Fatai Ayinla, an Olympian who had won the light heavyweight gold at the previous Commonwealth Games. Masanda was hence made to step down for the bronze medal. In turn, the referee would stop the bout in favor of Neville Meade, in the finals. Fatai Ayinla-Adekunle’s accolades include the heavyweight gold medal at the 1973 All-Africa Games in Lagos, and a bronze medal at the 1974 World Amateur Boxing Championships in Havana. He boxed for Nigeria for many years.

Uganda’s other medals were won on the track. Uganda’s Silver Ayoo (46.07), narrowly beaten by Kenyan legendary Olympic gold medallist Charles Asati (46.04), won the silver medal in the 400 meters. Uganda’s 4 x 400m relay team won the bronze medal, behind Kenya (gold) and England. The relay competitors were William Santino Dralu, Pius Olowo, Silver Ayoo, and Samuel Kakonge.

The Final Tally
At Commonwealth Games of 1970, held in Edinburgh, Uganda’s three boxing gold medals were won by light flyweight James Odwori, light welterweight Mohamed Muruli, and heavyweight Benson Masanda; and the two silver medals were won by flyweight Leo Rwabwogo, and featherweight Deogratias Musoke. Uganda did not win any bronze medals here.

In 1974 in Christchurch, the two gold medals were won by lightweight Ayub Kalule and light welterweight Mohamed Muruli; the three silver medals were won by light flyweight James Odwori, bantamweight Ali Rojo, and featherweight Shadrach Odhiambo; and the two bronze medals were won by flyweight John Byaruhanga and heavyweight Benson Masanda.

Hence, while Uganda won slightly more boxing medals in 1974, the medals in 1970 subtly carried “more weight.” For those eight years, Uganda had the best amateur boxers amongst the Nations of the British Commonwealth. Additionally, at each of the Commonwealth Games venues, Ugandan track athletes finished second and third (William Koskei–400 meter-hurdles and Judith Ayaa–400m, respectively in 1970, and Silver Ayoo–400m and Silver Ayoo, William Santino Dralu, Pius Olowo and Samuel Kakonge–the 4 x 400m relay, respectively in 1974). In 1970 Uganda finished 12th overall in track and field athletics; Australia, England, and Scotland were the top three countries. Similarly, in 1974 Uganda finished 12th overall in track and field athletics; but England, Australia, and Kenya were the top three countries. The overall performances of Uganda at each of the Commonwealth Games venues were hence strikingly similar. Uganda has never performed better than that at the Commonwealth Games, ever since those 1970’s.

Jonathan Musere

Judith Ayaa: Uganda’s Sprinting Superwoman

May 29, 2009

Judith Ayaa established herself as Uganda’s renowned pioneering female sprinter as confirmed by her record on the international track scene. Relatively tall at 5’9″, Judith Ayaa was born on July 15 1952. Ayaa is reported to have died in 2002 amidst poverty (even involving Ayaa crushing stones for a living), and looking after her children that were said to be as many as eight. During the early 1970’s, the names John Akii-Bua and Judith Ayaa were the most prominent among Uganda runners; the two competed in many international athletics meets.

During an era when African female participation in competitive sports was in its nascent and prevalently amateur stages, young Judith Ayaa became a resounding name amongst female African track stars. But her career was short-lived, likely because she got married early and ended up bearing several children and because she was of Acholi ethnicity…a group (for political reasons) on which Ugandan President Idi Amin kept a constant eye on. Similarly, John Akii-Bua was of the Lango ethnicity which was considered strongly averse to Idi Amin. Akii-Bua’s ethnicity, despite his fame and record, is said to have hindered his fully realizing his potential as a hurdle. Akii-Bua would sometimes be put under house arrest and frustrated from competing internationally.

The record of Judith Ayaa in the East and Central African Athletic Championships is astounding. In 1968, Ayaa won gold in the 100 meters sprint, finishing in 11.5 seconds. The following year 1969, Ayaa cemented and confirmed her formidability by in the same championships winning in the 100 meters (11.8 seconds), the 200 meters (25.0s), and the 400m (53.6s). Similarly, in 1970 at the same championships, Judith Ayaa did not slip behind. The slim young woman with the “Mercedes-Benz” body again won in the 100m (11.8s), the 200m (24.1s), and the 400m (54.0s). In 1969, with based on her best time of 53.6s, Judith Ayaa was ranked amongst the top women 400m runners of the world.

It was at the Commonwealth Games held in Edinburgh in Scotland in 1970 that Judith Ayaa established herself as an international female athlete to be reckoned with. At these Games, Judith Ayaa notably competed in the 400m. The finals saw legendary World record breaking Jamaican Marilyn Fay Neufville, aged 17, winning (51.02s) astoundingly by more than two seconds ahead of silver medalist Sandra Brown (53.66s) of Australia, Judith Ayaa (53.77s) coming in with a photo-finish third and thereby capturing the bronze medal. This would notably be Judith Ayaa’s most renowned international performance! Marilyn Neufville’s superb career would be short-lived because of physical injuries and inconsequential surgery. At the 1974 Commonwealth Games held in Christchurch in New Zealand Neufville was 6th in the finals. And at the Olympic Games of 1976 held in Montreal in Canada, she was eliminated in the first round.

The next major challenge for Ayaa, the Olympic Games of 1972 held in Munich in Germany would prove to be interesting for Ayaa. In the first round, Ayaa in lane two came in fourth (52.85s) thereby qualifying for the quarter-finals. In the quarter finals, Judith Ayaa was drawn in lane 7 in her heat. Ayaa comfortably finished third and established a Uganda national record of 52.68s. The national record would stand for many years, and this would be Ayaa’s personal best. Of note, in these semi-finals, Ayaa beat 26 year-old Colette Besson of France the petite surprise winner in the same event at the previous Olympics (Mexico City in Mexico, 1968). Besson was in lane 3 and her 5th place finish disqualified her from getting to the next round. After 1972, Ayaa’s performance record would become lackluster soon after she got married and started having children in close succession. Her demise was far from glamorous, it was disheartening. But her reign in the women’s track was short but is superb and enduring. Trophies and national athletic meets in northern Uganda have become commemorated in Judith Ayaa’s name.

Jonathan Musere