Swimming on opposite ends of the world, a pair of 20-year-old Ugandans combined to take down four national records over the past two weeks.
At last week’s Hungarian National Championships, sprinter Tendo Mukalazi clocked a 52.62 in the 100-meter freestyle prelims to lower his own Ugandan record of 52.91 from the Commonwealth Games last August. He’s the only Ugandan man ever to dip under the 53-second mark, with Atuhaire Ogola Ambala the next fastest at 53.89.
Mukalazi added another national record in the 50 breaststroke, where he became the first Ugandan man under 30 seconds with a 23.93 in prelims. He reset his own mark of 30.03 from last year’s World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, but failed to make it out of the heats in either the 50 breast or 50 free.
Last year, Mukalazi was a member of the Stipendium Hungaricum Scholarship Program’s inaugural class along with Iran’s Ali Jafari. Mukalazi studies Communication and Media Studies at Corvinus University while Jafari is a Nursing and Patient Care student at Semmelweis University. The program aims to offer more opportunities for international students in competitive university sports in Hungary.
Two weeks ago and nearly 5,000 miles to the west, fellow 20-year-old Ugandan Jesse Ssengonzi also broke two national records at the Pro Swim Series stop in Westmont. The University of Chicago junior crushed his own records from prelims with a 24.99 and 54.06 in the 50 and 100 fly finals, respectively.
Before Westmont, Ssengonzi’s personal bests stood at 25.51 and 54.98 in the 50 and 100 fly, with both times coming in August of 2021. He went 25.23 and 54.06 in prelims, respectively, prior to becoming the first Ugandan man under 25 seconds in the 50 fly later that day. He’s now only a few tenths away from the Worlds ‘B’ cut in the 100 fly (53.78) and about half a second off the Worlds ‘B’ cut in the 50 fly (24.35). Ssengonzi has competed at the past two Short Course World Championships but has yet to appear at a long course edition of Worlds.
Ssengonzi trains in the United States at the University of Chicago, where as a sophomore in 2022 he was the NCAA D3 National Champion in the 100 yard fly. More recently, in March, he was the D3 runner-up in the 100 yard fly (46.68) and finished 3rd in the 200 yard fly (1:45.68).