Health & Fitness

Wild card athlete vows to prove her mettle in London Games


Mercy Obiero during training at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, in July 2007. Photo/File

After landing a wild card in weightlifting, Mercy Obiero wants to prove a point at the London Olympics — that she is worth the slot.

Ms Obiero knows that it will not be easy for her in a competition that has seasoned weightlifters from Eastern Europe who often take home most of the medals at stake.

But she says that she will give her best shot at the games and if possible bring home Kenya’s first medal outside athletics since 1988 when boxers led by Robert Wangila Napunyi won medals.

“When you talk of Kenya at the Olympics, the first thing that comes to mind is athletics. But this time I want to leave a mark. I want to show the world that it is not only in athletics that Kenya shines,” she says.

The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) awarded Ms Obiero, the reigning women’s national champion, a slot to represent Kenya in the games.

IWF was satisfied by her performance at the Africa Weightlifting Championship hosted by Kenya in February.

The last time Kenya was represented in weightlifting at the global games was in 1996 in Atlanta when Collins Okoth Nyawalo participated in the 100kg category.

“She is a great competitor and I do believe that she deserves the chance to represent the country at the Olympics,” said Kenya Weightlifting Association chairman Pius Ochieng.

Ms Obiero, whose elder brother David was also a national team weightlifter, started weightlifting a decade ago. At first she had a problem going to the gym because people would taunt her for engaging in a sport dominated by men.

Family support

But she got support from her family. “They told me not to listen to what other people say.

‘‘Now I am happy because I am going to represent Kenya in the greatest event of them all — the Olympics. It’s a dream come true for me,” says Ms Obiero who is ranked 13th in Commonwealth countries and 29th in Africa.

Weightlifting, she says, is not considered a major sport in Kenya because it is not professional.

Ms Obiero, who is also a gym instructor, says that she plans to be a good ambassador who will attract more women to the sport.

She says some women fear being weightlifters because of the misplaced notion that the sport is a men’s preserve.

“If I go to the Olympics and manage to bring a medal, I am sure more women will venture into the sport. That is my mission.”

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