Ranking the Top 10 Athletes in Uganda who've conquered the world

Joshua Cheptegei (R) celebrates with compatriot Jacob Kiplimo after winning the Men's 5000 M final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games | Photo by Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images via CFP)

PRIDE OF THE NATION: Ranking the Top 10 Athletes in Uganda who've conquered the world

Shafic Kiyaga 15:18 - 29.05.2023

Breaking barriers is what they do; because growing up in the Ugandan setting and reaching the world stage as a top athlete is not your everyday success story.

Uganda has made a name for itself in the world of sports. The nation has produced some outstanding athletes and sports personalities who have achieved great success on the international stage.

Sports have always been an essential part of the Ugandan community, athletes across a wide range of sports from long distance running to track and field, football, basketball and netball, have excelled at the highest level of competition breaking records and winning Olympic medals.

Breaking barriers is what they do; because growing up in the Ugandan setting and reaching the world stage as a top athlete is not your everyday success story.

This story aims to shed light on the top 10 athletes in Uganda currently and explore their journeys to becoming some of the best in their respective fields.

10. Micheal Wokorach (Rugby)

Michael Wokorach at the Rugby World Cup sevens in South Africa (courtesy)

To start off with the top 10 athletes in Ugandan, is a man, a legend whose career is synonymous with the Ugandan fabric in many ways than one, but none more consistent than his ‘not knowing when to give up’.

Both a formidable 15s and 7s player, a leader and warrior, the 32-year-old holds one of the most distinguished and successful careers.

The outside center has also been part of the Rugby Cranes since making his debut in 2009 against Kenya in Nairobi.

He has won six league titles with the Heathens, five Uganda Cups and five sevens circuits. Micheal has also been capped more times with the Rugby Cranes (both the 15s and 7s) than any other current player.

Wokorach also boasts of two African titles with the sevens (2017 and 2019), he has appeared at the Commonwealth games four times (2010, 2014, 2018, 2022) acting as the flag bearer for Uganda in Birmingham 2022.

9. Flavia Oketcho (Basketball)

Flavia 'Flirsh' Oketcho has won the league with Lady Bucks, UCU Lady Canons KCCA Leopards and JKL Lady Dolphins | Photo Credit: Courtesy

Oketcho has made it her ‘crazy obsession’ to prove any doubters who may think that ‘she is finished’, so much that we couldn’t dare leave her out of the top 10 athletes in Uganda.

Starting out in 2001 with the Lady Bucks while still in her O’ Level, Flirsh’s star has been shinning for over 20 years now.

She has won National Basketball League titles with all the teams she has played for including UCU, KCCA Leopards and JKL.

Flirsh has also scooped MVP honours twice as well as USPA basketball player of the year. She also captained the Uganda Gazelles en route to their maiden Afrobasket qualification in 2014.

At 37, she may not be the quickest on the court anymore, and her side may have lost out on the league title to UCU last season, but also carrying the acronym ‘G.O.AT’ helps to raise status.

8. Khalid Aucho (Football)

Khalid Aucho (white) tries to disposses Kenya forward Micheal Olunga during a World Cup qualifier against the Harambee Stars | Photo Credit: FUFA Media

If you were to make a list of the top 10 athletes in Ugandan in 2019, it would be dominated by Uganda Cranes players.

An intended rebuild has not really hit the ground running, as the team’s stock has fluctuated. But Uganda Cranes assistant captain Khalid Aucho maintains the respect and level of performance to warrant a mention among the top 10 athletes in Uganda.

The holding midfielder is one of the most flourishing Ugandan football ambassadors beyond the borders, becoming a quintessential bull for Tanzanian giants Yanga Africans.

He has been handed the nickname ‘Doktari wa mpira’ meaning ‘Football Doctor’ for his significance in helping the club win back-to-back league titles in his two years at the club.

Aucho’s influence has also helped propel Yanga to their first appearance in semi finals of the CAF Confederations Cup. He was also part of the Uganda Cranes team that played at the AFCON finals in 2017 and 2019.

7. Halimah Nakaayi (800m runner)

Halimah Nakaayi celebrates her victory during the Women s 800m Final at the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar | Photo Credit: IMAGO / AFLOSPORT

Halimah Nakaayi’s moment struck many Ugandans like day break at midnight. Not many gave her a chance as she lined up for that 800m final at the World Championships in Doha 2018.

But like her mantle to life ‘if you have a dream, fight for it’. Indeed, she has fought every inch of her journey to this point and why she deserves a place among the top 10 athletes in Uganda.

Nakaayi had slowly built her reputation to that moment, picking small but crucial victories under the radar, like finishing second at the Islamic Solidarity Games in Baku, as well as reaching the semi finals at the World Championships in 2017.

On top of winning gold, she also set a new national record over the distance, which she holds to date. Nakaayi also holds the national 800m indoor record which set as she won bronze at the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade in 2022 as well as the national 1000m record.

She is currently ranked among the top 10 female runners over 800 metres, and is among the top 200 female athletes in the world.

6. Jimmy Enabu (Basketball)

Jimmy Enabu started his career with the Knight Riders basketball team from Entebbe in 2007. Enabu moved to City Oilers in 2013 where he has won a record eight consecutive league titles | Photo Credit: Courtesy

In the Enabu paddock, it is hard to draw out who the toughest bull is. But overtime, Jimmy Enabu, has eclipsed his siblings to join the GOAT conversation plaving him among the top 10 athletes in Uganda.

What he has delivered for the City Oilers is the most dominant era in local sport; winning an unprecedented eight consecutive national championships from 2014, and they are not about to stop.

He is a leader, a competitor, and possess tremendous understanding of the game.

Qualities that have helped him lay up nine NBL titles, two FIBA Zone V Club Championships, two Africa Champions Cup appearances, two Afrobasket Championship appearances and his individual MVP accolades.

And above all, he helped Oilers become the first Ugandan team to qualify for the Basketball Africa League.

5. Peace Proscovia (Netball)

Peace Proscovia was selected as an official ambassador for the Vitality Netball World Cup 2019 | Photo Credit: Courtesy

Nicknamed Warid Tower, the Uganda netball (She Cranes) captain is a trail blazer in the sport, setting set the standard for other players to follow, and towers among the top 10 athletes in Uganda.

Proscovia has established herself one of the best goal shooters in the world, and became the first African to play in the UK's Super League when she appeared for Loughborough Lightning in 2015.

Proscovia has played at two Netball World Cups, playing a central role in helping Uganda end a 36-year wait for qualification in 2015, also playing at the 2017 and 2019 editions.

She also led the She Cranes to back-to-back fifth place finishes at the 2018 and 2022 Commonwealth games in Gold Coast, Australia.

Her other notable victories with the She Cranes include taking bronze at the 2013 Netball Africa Cup of Nations, winning the 2013 Six Nations Cup in Singapore, eventually winning the Africa Cup of Nations for the first ever in 2017, with an aura of invincibility.

4. Phillip Wokorach (Rugby)

Philip Wokorach a passes the ball during a Uganda Rugby Sevens game at the 2018 Commonwealth games at Gold Coast, Australia | Photo Credit: IMAGO / Action Plus

“He is an exceptional side stepper. With his brand of rugby, he will market Ugandan rugby,” fallen rugby legend Robert Seguya aka Soggy described Phillip Wokorach, and you cannot side step his definite selection among the top 10 athletes in Uganda.

And true to that prognosis, Philip has grown to become the biggest ambassador for Ugandan rugby, currently playing in AS Bédarrides - Châteauneuf-du-Pape in France.

He also conquered Kenya in 2016 helpin Kabras Sugar RFC win their maiden Kenya Cup title.

Philip – reated to Micheal – has been dominant especially for the Uganda 7s side, where he has been the team’s top scorer in several tournaments including the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco, USA, where Wokorach scored 30 points, including four tries.

He is a three-time Africa 7s champion and has played at the Commonwealth games in 2014, 2018 and 2022.

3. Denis Onyango (football)

Record Breaker: Denis Onyango became only the second goalkeeper to stop all five penalties in a shootout after German player Daniel Batz | Photo Credit: Courtesy

Denis Masinde Onyango has enjoyed a career like no other, and despite being in the evening of his career, he remains a top athlete and ambassador for Uganda.

The Mamelodi Sundowns goalkeeper, considered the best on the continent has redefined the standards of goalkeeping in Uganda and thus handles very well among the top 10 athletes in Uganda.

Onyango is the most decorated player in the history of South Africa’s Premier Soccer League with eight league titles.

He is also the only Ugandan player to win the CAF Champions League when he helped Masandawana lift the African title in 2016, also lifting the CAF Super Cup the following year.

On an individual basis, he became the first goalkeeper to be voted the African Inter-Club Player of the Year (Based in Africa) at the 2016 CAF Awards.

Onyango would help the Cranes play at both 2017 and 2019 AFCON finals, captaining them to the Round of 16 in 2019, to earn Uganda its second best performance in the competition.

2. Jacob Kiplimo (long-distance runner)

Jacob Kiplimo celebrates and points to the supporters after winning the 10,000m Final in a Commonwealth Games Record time of 27:09:19 at the 2022 CWG in Birmingham | Photo Credit: IMAGO / Action Plus

Jacob Kiplimo has solidified his position as a definite inclusion among the top 10 athletes in Uganda through his exceptional performances and numerous achievements on the global stage.

His breakthrough came in 2017 when he won the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, becoming the youngest ever gold medalist in the event's history.

At the 2019 World Cross Country Championships in Aarhus, Denmark, Kiplimo finished second in the senior men's race four seconds after Joshua Cheptegei's winning time of 31:40.

Kiplimo holds the Half Marathon World Championship with a time of 58:49, set in 2020 in Gdynia, Poland.

At the 2022 Commonwealth games, Kiplimo became only the third Ugandan athlete to win double gold in both the 10000m and 5000m, less than a month after taking bronze at the World Championships in Eugene, Oregon.

He also won a bronze medal in the 10000m race at the Olympic games in Tokyo, Japan.

In February 2023, Kiplimo won the gold medal in the 10-kilometer race at the World Cross Country Championships held in Bathurst, Australia.

1. Joshua Cheptegei (long-distance runner)

Joshua Cheptegei performs his signature celebration after winning the Men's 5000m Gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics | Photo Credit: IMAGO / Xinhua

Joshua Cheptegei, stands unequivocally as the best Ugandan athlete, propelled by his extraordinary performances and an extensive collection of records and accomplishments on the global stage.

One of Cheptegei's most remarkable feats is his reign as the reigning Olympic champion in the 5000 meters, accompanied by a silver medal in the 10,000 meters.

He has also secured the prestigious title of a two-time World champion in the 10,000 meters, emerging victorious in both 2019 and 2022.

Additionally, Cheptegei's accolades include a World silver medal in 2017 and the coveted title of the 2019 World Cross Country champion.

Cheptegei's prowess extends beyond his Olympic and World triumphs. At the 2018 Commonwealth Games, he clinched gold medals in both the 5000 meters and 10,000 meters events.

Moreover, Cheptegei has etched his name in the annals of history by setting world records in both the 5000 meters and 10,000 meters disciplines, elevating him to an elite echelon of athletes.

Remarkably, Cheptegei became the tenth man in history to concurrently hold the 5000 meters and 10,000 meters world records, achieving this milestone in 2020.

Beyond his remarkable performances, Cheptegei exemplifies humility, resilience, and a commitment to his community, making him an exceptional role model.