Who is Jackisaack Mundia Ndale?
Well, for starters, my friends and swimming fans like to call me “Bigfish”. I am 15 years old and I go to The Nyali School in Mombasa county, although my home is in Mtwapa, Kilifi county. I’m in Standard Eight, preparing to seat my final primary school exam, KCPE. I am the fourth-born in a family of six. I have three sisters and two brothers. We also live with my orphaned cousin, who was adopted by my parents.
How did you lose your leg?
It was on December 24, 2005, when I was only two years nine months old. We had a road accident along Mombasa-Nairobi highway, at an area known as Man Eaters of Tsavo. We were all travelling in our family car. The accident led to a below the knee amputation of my right leg.
What was that like?
At first, as a small boy, I was only dealing with the extreme pain I was going through. My father tells me that I was very strong. It is when the pain was gone that I realised I could not walk as I used to before the accident. Unfortunately, I was too small to use the pair of crutches my dad bought me. It was challenging to see other kids my age going about their playing activities as usual, while I couldn’t. My parents sought to introduce me to prosthesis, but again, it was not possible to do that immediately, as we had to wait until the stump was totally healed and properly formed. After a long anxious wait, I was eventually introduced to it.
How did you get into swimming?
I had never swum before the accident, apart from playing in the baby pool for fun. When I joined kindergarten classes at The Nyali School, I discovered that swimming was one of the sports I could participate in, even with my new condition. I started training with coach Austine Ayieko at the age of five in 2008. I was taking it as part of fun at school, and was surprised when the coach selected me to be part of our house team during the school inter-house swimming gala. I surprised many, including myself, when I won several medals in the gala. From then, I became a household name in the inter-house galas at our school.
What has it been like?
The coach introduced me to Coast Amateur Swimming Association (CASA) championships in 2010 when I was seven years old, at Aga Khan Academy in Mombasa. I competed against able-bodied boys of my age, who looked down upon me, but this did not deter me. They were shocked when I beat them in several events, clinching a gold medal in backstroke, silver medal in breaststroke and a bronze medal in freestyle. Later in the year, he introduced me to Kenya Swimming Federation (KSF) championships. My most memorable moment was June 2017, when for the first time, I took part in the World Para Swimming Championships in Indianapolis, US, where I won a silver medal in the men 100m backstroke and a bronze medal in the men 100m breaststroke. I also got to interact with other people with disability like me. Some of the cases were much worse than mine, and this lifted my spirit of acceptance. I also participated in the Mexico World Para Swimming Championships in November 2017, where I recorded my personal best times. In February 2018, I was voted as the best para swimmer in East and Central Africa by the International Para Swimming Committee at the Kasarani International Sports Centre.
What are some of the challenges you have faced?
Finances. This is an expensive sport in terms of training/coaching fee, swimming pool access fee, swimming gear and equipment, transport to and from the training venue and international travel to take part in global championships. Also, balancing classwork with the training programme.
Who do you look up to when it comes to swimming?
My role model in para swimming is Daniel Dias of Brazil. He is the reigning champion in most of the strokes. I was lucky to meet him in Indianapolis and again in Mexico where I competed against him. We became friends and exchanged our branded swimming caps as souvenirs.
What do you plan to do in future?
After my KCPE exams, I plan to train hard and improve on my time and endurance, as I want to represent Kenya in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. At this juncture, the major challenge I face is that I need to join a secondary school that appreciates and nurtures talent. In the past, I have seen my swimming friends losing the talent when they join government schools, since facilities are not available in such schools. They are often available in private schools that are expensive. I hope to go to a school where I can nurture my talent.
What do you think about children in Kenya and swimming?
Swimming in Kenya generally needs to be improved. The few times I have participated in world championships, I have realised international swimmers are just too fast for us. They have better facilities and specialise in talent nurturing. We need to up our game in order to match their standards. This is why it is important for me to continue competing at international championships, in order for me to match the competition at the Olympic level.