On Saturday, October 9, 1971, precisely in celebration of the eighth anniversary of Uganda’s Independence Day by British political groups, John Akii-Bua broke the Ugandan national decathlon record. Akii-Bua is best known for his gold medal at the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics in a world record time (47.82), but it escapes most people that his decathlon performance on Independence still officially holds as the national decathlon record. Akii’s 6933 decathlon points that day also became Africa’s decathlon record. The record is validated by the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF).
The decathlon is a competition of 10 events spread over two days. The events are the 100 and 400 meter sprints, long jump, shot put, high jump, 110 meter hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin and the 1500 meter metric mile.
Larbi Bouraada from Algeria set an African record (8332 points) in 2012 in Ratingen. He was stripped of that record when he tested positive for a banned substance. But his previous African record (8302 points) in the same city on July 17, 2011, is still recognized as the African record. The last decathlon world record (9039 points) was set on July 23, 2012 by Oregon’s Ashton Eaton in his home state of Eugene at the US Olympic Trials.
Akii-Bua was an enthusiastic and versatile athletic trainee who performed in a variety of sports. In addition to track and field events, he also played soccer; and he didn’t even start hurdling until he was 17 and he was in the national police in Nsambya, near Kampala. Jorem Ochana, a police officer who held the African record for the 440-yard hurdles, was the police trainer. A year later, Akii impressively ran the 110m hurdles in 14.3. He was soon put under the management of the new Great Britain national team manager Malcolm Arnold. Arnold Akii-Bua to focus on the hurdles where his niche seemed to be and partly due to his stamina he advanced to the 400m hurdles.
In Akii-Bua’s era, the decathlon was rarely contested or trained in Africa. Although he began to seriously compete in sports during his teens, the multi-talented Akii-Bua and the well-built Akii set a pioneering path of inspiration for many athletes in Uganda and beyond. His record decathlon performance on the Kampala grass track in October 1971 included 100 meters in 10.9, 400 meters in 47.2, long jump in 6.65 meters (21’94/5″) and jump height at 1.90 meters, which is 6′ 24/5″ (Ediciones Rencontre SA: 1978). The previous year at the Commonwealth Games (1970) in Edinburgh, his fourth place finish in the 400m hurdles while injured had given Akii a dose of confidence. In 1971, John Akii-Bua would set the world leading time of 49 seconds in the 400 meter hurdles. It seemed unstoppable! And it was a vast improvement on the previous all-Africa record of 49.7 that 20-year-old Akii had set in June 1971.
The next prominent Ugandan in the decathlon is Teddy Sondota-Ruge (Teddy Sondota), who had studied at the University of North Texas and set a personal best of 6,809 points in Dallas on June 1, 2003. 11.84 in the 100 meters, 6.20 meters in the long jump, 11.53 meters in the shot put, 1.92 meters in the high jump, 52.19 in the 400 meters, 15.09 in the 110 meters hurdles, 37.94 meters in the discus, 4.37 meters in the pole vault, 58.01 meters in the javelin, 4:57.42 in the 1500 meters. Ruge still holds the Ugandan national record in the pole vault: 4:57 meters set in Abilene, Texas on May 15, 1997.
At the eighth Pan African Games held in Abuja, Nigeria, in late 2003, Teddy Sondota finished fifth in the decathlon (6476 points). His performances were: 11.74 (100m), 6.48m (long jump), 12.50m (shot put), 1.85m (high jump), 53.52 (400m), 15.09 (110m hurdles), 39.72m (discus), 4.00m (pole vault), 51.82m (javelin), 5:33.56 (1500m).
Editions Rencontre SA (1978) “For J. Akii-Bua (UGA), obstacles are not an obstacle to continued success”: Lausanne Photos Werek Syndication International, Italy.