Ugandan weightlifter who went missing in Japan returns home

Julius Ssekitoleko, the Ugandan weightlifter who went missing from the pre-Olympic Games training camp hotel in Izumisano city last week, returned to Uganda on Friday, authorities said.

Julius Ssekitoleko (left), a Ugandan weightlifter who went missing on July 16 from the Olympic village facilities in Izumisano City, Japan, has returned to Uganda. COURTESY: Uganda Media Centre

The 20-year-old raised an alarm after he failed to show up for a COVID-19 test and was not in his hotel room. He had left behind his luggage and a note saying he wanted to stay in Japan and work.

Ssekitoleko had recently found out he would not be able to compete at the Tokyo Games, which begin on Friday, because of a quota system.

A statement from the government pledged to help Ssekitoleko, who was received by officials from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Education and Sports at Entebbe International Airport.

“The Government of Uganda is committed to continuous rehabilitation of the athlete to assist him to settle to further develop his career but also help him understand, how such acts of misconduct can not only affect him as an athlete but also other athletes in the sports sector and the nation at large,” the statement said.

This, however, is not the first time Ugandan athletes have disappeared in a foreign country in which they had gone to take part in a sporting event.

In 2017, three Ugandan rugby national team players went missing in Germany at the end of a three-day 12-nation tournament, while a similar incident occurred after the 2014 Commonwealth Games when two players went missing after the event in Scotland.