By Agnes Kasemiire
The latest and biggest achievement for Halimah Nakaayi is a gold medal in the 800 metres race at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar.
In just 1:58.04 record time, Nakaayi was $60,000 (about Shs 219million) rich.
Consequently, she became the first Ugandan to win a middle distance gold medal on the world stage.
Being the smallest of the eight finalists, she was not afraid to take on the crowd’s favorites and renowned stars including Kenya’s Eunice Jepkoech, America’s Raevyn Rogers and Ajee Wilson. These almost double her height.
The Ugandan middle-distance runner previously competed at the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in the women’s 800 metres. She was the flag bearer for Uganda in the closing ceremony.
This has not come on a silver platter. It has taken Nakaayi hard work, endurance, a positive attitude and perseverance to shine.
Unlike many sports stars who put all their might on career at the expense of education, she has balanced both.
She holds a Degree in Computer Science and Information Technology from Kampala University.
Nakaayi’s talent has taken her places and won her several medals.
“I started earning while still a child. By 15 years, I had built a decent house for my parents. At the same time I was paying school fees for my three siblings,” Nakaayi says.
Nakaayi, who hails from Lugazi village in Buikwe district was lucky that her talent was discovered during childhood.
At about seven years, her teachers had discovered something special about her speed.
At home, she occasionally provoked her mother into the dog- cat chase.
“Mom would chase me around the entire neighborhood in vain. However much she tried she would never catch me. I enjoyed seeing her sweat and pant,” she says.
It was then that her mother realised she had taken over her talent.
Having been an athlete before, Nakaayi’s mother dropped out of school after she conceived her. Sadly, she did not develop her talent.
While at Mukono Children’s Home, she was given a bursary because of her talent.
The teachers got her a coach and also endeavored to take her to different competition venues. For weeks, she would stay in training camps.
By the time she was in primary six, Nakaayi was competing in national and East African athletics championships; winning medals and cash prizes.
However, her father made attempts to block her from pursuing her talent, fearing for her education but because of the strong support from her grandfather and mother, she succeeded.
She says: “My parents are not educated; so, they really wanted me to graduate. Dad feared that sports would hinder me from fulfilling this dream.”
At 25 years old, Nakaayi is not married although she says she is in a relationship with someone.
She is, however, cautious about the men who may get close to her for her money.
She keeps at heart Christiano Ronaldo’s quote: “I think I am able to distinguish between those who love me and those who love my money”.
Nakaayi says: “I have seen fellow stars lose their fortune in love games.”