In the late 1960s and early 1970s, an excellent student at the prestigious and rigorous School of Medicine at the renowned Makerere University in Kampala established himself as one of the best triple jumpers in Africa and the Commonwealth of Nations. Abraham Kwadu Munabi, born December 19, 1940, was like the 1960 Ugandan champion sprinter Amos Omolo, apparently a late-aged entrant in major sporting competitions. Munabi was the biggest name and medal hope in Ugandan field athletics during that time. The national record that Munabi set in the triple jump still stands four decades later.
But no, it is not because of his athletic achievements that most of the world has come to recognize Munabi. Dr. Munabi moved to the US in the late 1970s for advanced study, where he was involved in specialized reproductive experimentation and research. In the space of more than thirty years, Munabi’s name has appeared in a number of research papers. Munabi is recognized as a fertility expert, reproductive endocrinologist. A board-certified gynecologist, Munabi founded and is director of the Institute for Reproductive Sciences in suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Munabi jumped to a personal best of 16.11m and a triple jump national record in September 1969. Here Munabi won triple jump gold at the Central and East African Regional Games. The annual Games were held in the capital, Kampala, in Munabi’s native Uganda. Munabi’s victory in the 16.11m jump far outshone the competition. In the same tournament, Munabi won gold in the long jump with 7.24 m. Munabi would win triple jump gold again at these 1972 regional Games, held in the Tanzanian capital, Dar-es-Salaam. The winning length was 15.40 m.
The next major international sporting gathering for Munabi would be the 1970 Commonwealth of Nation Games which were held in Edinburgh, Scotland. On July 24, twenty-eight international competitors would jump, jump, and jump indiscriminately in the qualifying round for the finals to be held the following day. Munabi, with a jump of 15.51 meters, placed ninth of the thirteen finalists. The top five finishers were Australia’s Mile McGrath (16.09m), Nigeria’s Samuel Igun (16.08m), India’s Mohinder Singh Gill (15.90m), Australia’s Phil May (15.87m) and England’s Tony Wadhams (15.80m). Despite his ninth place in the standings, Abe felt that he would handily win a medal for Uganda. The final saw Phil Gray (Australia), with a length of 16.72m, take gold; Mike McGrath (16.41m), also from Australia, took silver; and Mohinder Singh (India) was third after a jump of 15.90m. Uganda’s Abraham Munabi placed, not too disappointingly, fourth (15.73m).
These 1970 Commonwealth of Nations Games witnessed the rise of Uganda, with an impressive collection of medals, becoming the Commonwealth boxing champions. Boxing gold medals were won by Mohamed Muruli (light welterweight), James Odwori (light flyweight), and Benson Masanda (heavyweight); and the silver medals went to flyweight Leo Rwabwogo and lightweight Deogratias Musoke. In athletics, Ugandans William Koskei (silver medal in 400m hurdles) and Judith Ayaa (bronze medal in 400m) were the winners. John Akii-Bua (400m hurdles), 20, was like Munabi, beaten to fourth place.
At the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Munabi, aged 31 (out of 6 male and 2 female athletes competing) was the oldest participant from Uganda. At 5’11 (180 cm), Munabi weighed a relatively 154 pounds (70 kg). There were 36 internationals for the triple jump competition that took place from September 3 to 4. Munabi finished with a rather mediocre best length of 15.82m and she placed 22nd overall. Munabi’s foul in the Third Round halted her progress. For convenience, Munabi had won a third of the field. The Olympic medal winners were, respectively, Viktor Saneyev of the Soviet Union, Jorg Drehmel of East Germany, and Nelson Prudencio of Brazil.
Munabi was determined to win gold at the next Pan African Games to be held in August 1973. Munabi was beaten for second by Mansour Mamadou Dia of Senegal. But of importance Munabi had jumped three times to 16.26 meters, a national record that stands to this day. Gold medalist Mansour Dia had jumped 16.53 meters while bronze medalist Moise Pomaney of Ghana had jumped 16.09 meters. Dia also won a bronze medal in the long jump at these African Games. Furthermore, Mansour Dia had not only represented Senegal at the previous three Olympics, but had also achieved the personal best and national record at the previous 1972 Olympics (16.77m), a national record that would stand. for more than 3.5 decades. At the Olympics, Dia, who is just a week younger than Munabi, was ranked 13th overall in 1964, 8th in 1968, and 6th in 1972.
Uganda’s overall performance at the African Games was excellent, with boxers and athletes winning an impressive number of medals that Uganda has never come close to winning at the African Games since the 1973 performance (8 gold, 6 silver, 6 silver). bronze). Uganda was sixth overall. The following year, Munabi would have competed for Uganda at the Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, New Zealand. One of his handicaps was the difficult final exams he had to attend in his Medicine program at Makerere University.
Munabi finished sixth in the triple jump at the 1976 Montreal pre-Olympic meet. Joshua Owusu (also a Commonwealth of Nations Games champion) of Ghana won gold here. In the magazine “Africa” (1976: 142) Munabi, now 34 years old, is described as having little hope of winning an Olympic medal for Africa, but as a great inspiration for the future of field athletics in Uganda. In fact, at the time, it was Munabi who was the biggest success of Ugandan field athletics. In the same pre-Olympic match, the Ugandan boxer, Mustapha Wasajja, who would later turn professional and be one of the best boxers in the world, won Uganda’s only gold. Unfortunately, Uganda, like many other countries, boycotted and withdrew from the Olympic Games soon to take place in Montreal.
The tradition of athletic and academic excellence prevails in the Munabi family. Son Tunji Adrian Munabi was a student and all-around athlete at the prestigious Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Tunji was one of the leading scorers for the Stanford Cardinals, also a triple jump and long jump champion. But the son has not broken the triple jump and long jump family records set by his father. Naikhoba, another excellent student and athlete, Tunji’s sister, recently joined Stanford and competes in the triple jump.
As for Uganda, the recent praise and hope in triple jump competition comes from Sarah Nambawa (track and field athlete) who in recent years became African triple jump champion (Nairobi, August 2010), established a record in Uganda (13.95m), and placed 5th at the 2010 Commonwealth Games which were held in New Delhi. Previously, at the 2010 IAAF/VTB Bank Continental Cup held in Split, Croatia, in early September 2010, against formidable international competition, Uganda’s Nambawa finished sixth with her jump of 13.78m. Additionally, previously competing for Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, in June 2010, Nambawa’s vault of 13.66m at the NCAA Outdoor Championships held in Eugene, Oregon placed her in second place overall.
There is plenty of room for Nambawa to deftly displace “Abe” as Uganda’s best triple jumper. Nambawa is certainly the most appropriate athlete to rekindle our memories of Abraham Munabi’s sporting achievements.