On the Saturday of October 9th 1971, precisely on Uganda’s eighth Independence Day Anniversary celebration from the political gropes of the British, John Akii-Bua broke Uganda’s national decathlon record. Akii-Bua is most renowned for his Munich 1972 summer Olympics gold medal in world record time (47.82), but it escapes most people that his decathlon performance on Independence day still officially holds as the national decathlon record. Akii’s 6933 decathlon points on that day also became Africa’s decathlon record. The record is validated by the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF)
The decathlon is a 10-event competition spread over two days. The events are the 100 and 400 meter sprints, the long jump, shot put, high jump, 110 meters-hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin, and the 1500 meters metric mile.
Larbi Bouraada of Algeria established an Africa record (8332 points) in 2012 in Ratingen. He was stripped of that record when he tested positively for a banned substance. But his earlier African record (8302 points) in the same city on July 17th 2011, still stands recognized as the Africa record. The latest decathlon world record (9039 points) was established on July 23rd 2012 by the Oregonian Ashton Eaton in Eugene in his home state at the USA Olympic trials.
Akii-Bua was an enthusiastic and versatile athletic jack-of-all-trades who delved in a variety of sports. Apart from the track and field events, he also played soccer; and did not even start hurdling until he was 17 and was in the national police force at Nsambya near Kampala. Jorem Ochana, a police officer who held the 440 yards-hurdles Africa record was the police coach. A year later Akii impressively ran the 110 meters-hurdles in 14.3. He was soon placed under the guidance of the new national coach Malcolm Arnold from Britain. Arnold encouraged Akii-Bua to concentrate on the hurdles where his niche seemed to be and partly because of his stamina was advanced to the 400 meters-hurdles.
In the era of Akii-Bua, the decathlon was meagerly and rarely contested or trained for in Africa. Though he started seriously competing in sports during his late teens, multi-talented Akii-Bua and well-built Akii established a trail-blazing lead of inspiration for many athletes of Uganda and beyond. His record-breaking decathlon performance on the Kampala grass track in October 1971 included 100 meters in 10.9, 400 meters in 47.2, the long jump in 6.65 meters (21′ 94/5″), and the high jump in 1.90 meters which is 6′ 24/5″ (Editions Rencontre S.A. : 1978). In the previous year at the Commonwealth Games (1970) in Edinburgh, his fourth place finish in the 400 meters-hurdles while injured, had given Akii a dose of confidence. In 1971, John Akii-Bua would establish the world leading time of 49 seconds in the 400 meters-hurdles. He seemed to be unstoppable! And it was a major improvement from the previous all-Africa record of 49.7 that 20 year-old Akii had established in June 1971.
The next notable Ugandan performer in the decathlon is Teddy Sondota-Ruge (Teddy Sondota) who had studied at the University of North Texas and established a personal best of 6809 points in Dallas on June 1st 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 Uganda national record in the pole vault: 4:57 meters established in Abilene in Texas on May 15th 1997.
At the eighth All-Africa Games held in Abuja in Nigeria near the end of 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 (110 meters-hurdles), 39.72m (discus), 4.00m (pole vault), 51.82m (javelin), 5:33.56 (1500m).
Editions Rencontre S.A. (1978) “For J. Akii-Bua (UGA), Hurdles are no Obstacle to Continuing Success”: Lausanne Photos Werek Syndication International, Italy.