Team Kenya made history when it bagged four medals; three gold and one silver to finish top in Africa in the medal standings ahead of South Africa as the 19th FSKA World Karate Championships came to a close in London over the weekend.
The youngsters, majority of whom hail from Thika slums, beat all odds to fly the Kenyan flag in a competition that brought together 600 competitors from around 24 countries including America, Russia, France and the host UK.
Twelve-year-old Monica Wangari and eight-year-old Emanuel Kamenchu each won gold in the individual ‘kumite’ category. Elizabeth Rukwaro, who doubles up as the team’s coach, won a gold medal in ‘kumite’ and silver in ‘kata’.
Speaking to the press on the team’s arrival from the UK, Rukwaro was very ecstatic of the kids’ performance despite all the challenges they had to overcome prior and during the championships. “We were unable to field team events because of financial constraints.
These children lacked the basic training facilities despite the fact that they were facing competitors who have everything working for them,” saidd Rukwaro. Though the coach reckons that Kiambu County government has been very supportive, the financial aid from the devolved government has not been enough.
“Kiambu County Government supported us with Sh300,000 but that money was not enough to cater for all the expenses. Subsequently, the extra money we raised from the kids’ parents was merely enough to cater for just a few competitors, forcing us to leave behind other competent athletes,” she said.
She appealed for more assistance from well-wishers and sponsors from any quarters so that they could be in a position to nurture this raw talent while young. “We need sponsors to support us with uniforms and training equipment.
We also have a challenge with a venue to train.” she said. While collecting the team from the airport, Thika Town MP Patrick Wainaina congratulated the team and promised to use the available resources to support them.
“On behalf of the Mheshimiwa (Thika Town MP), I take this opportunity to congratulate you for the fantastic performance in London and for the great pride and joy you have given to Kenyan,” said John Mwangi, the personal assistant (PA) to the area legislator. Mwangi assured the team that the MP will make provisions in the CDF kitty to support the team and promised to buy them a set of uniform.
The Thika karate kids have been training at Kenyatta Primary School in Makongeni since 2009. Though they started as a self-defence training, Rukwaro took it a notch higher and later started training karate as a sport. Last year, they participated in the world qualifiers in India cementing their place in the just-concluded World Championships in London.