Leah Chelangat
Leah Chelangat (Photo: John Batanudde)

In 1997, a little known young girl from Vurra village in Arua district surprised the nation when she run barefooted to win the National Athletics Championships (Juniors) at the event that was held in Tororo district.

Her venture to glory didn’t yield instant reward as she finished sixth at the 1999 All African Games in the 5000m and eighth at the World Youth Championships. Like many sportsmen, the toughest barrier comes when it’s time to turn promise into medals.

However, when Dorcus Inzikuru made the transition by winning Gold at the 2000 World Junior Championships in Santiago, Chile, she never looked back and went ahead to have the world under her feet winning several other medals including gold at the World Championships in 2005 (Helsinki, Finland) and the Commonwealth Games in 2006 (Melbourne, Australia).

In 2019, another little known young girl, Leah Chelangat seems to be reading from Inzikuru’s script and her story feels like a déjà vu.

Like Inzikuru, Chelangant also made her mark in Tororo when she ran barefooted at the National Athletics Championships to qualify for the 2019 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Aarhus, Denmark.

A small, slender dark skinned Chelangat does not give you an impression of a potential athlete when you meet her for the first time and that’s how many despised her before hitting the track in Tororo.

How Chelagant went to Tororo

According to Team Uganda manager Francis Demayo, Chelangat was identified by Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) coach Raphael Kasaija in Sosho village, Bukwo district.

Demayo concedes no one gave her a chance but because she had the recommendation from Kasaija, they allowed her to participate in the National Athletics Championships an event that acted as a qualifier to the 2019 IAAF World Cross Country Championships.

“Coach Kasaija brought her to Tororo but we all didn’t give her a chance. She was very shy but surprised us when she got onto the track finishing fourth in the junior category,” he says.

Demayo also reveals that prior to going on the track, they availed Chelangat with shoes but refused and run barefooted.

“When they were going to the track to start, we gave her shoes but she refused and decided to run barefooted.”

Who is Leah Chelangat?

Chelangat was born on 10th May 2003 to Rogers Simotwo and Joan Simotwo in Sosho village, Bukwo district.

She is a pupil at Rwander Primary School in Primary six class.

Team manager Demayo states that Chelangat comes from a poor family and has struggled to keep in school because the parents struggle to raise school fees.

“Now that Chelangat is a national treasure, we call upon the government to help her study. She comes from a very poor family and the parents struggle to keep her in school.”

Chelangat is one of the 27 athletes who will represent Uganda at the 2019 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Aarhus, Denmark on 30th March.

She will compete in the Women’s Junior category (6 kilometers).

Joel Muyita is a senior staff writer at Kawowo Sports.

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