Meet Kenya’s 19-year-old Female Weightlifter Gunning For Olympic Medal

 

While numbers of Natasha Wandere’s  peers may still be uncertain about what to study in college or University, Natasha has effectively focused on what she wants to do with her life ,she want to end up distinctly a weightlifter, rather, she is as of now one.  and with a medal to tell the story.

In 2015, she represented Kenya in the Africa Youth and Junior Weightlifting Championships in Entebbe, Uganda, winning a silver medal in the 58kg category. She was only 15 years then.

At the moment, she is training for the upcoming Commonwealth Games, which will be held in Australia in April 2018.

Interestingly, Natasha made the decision to become a weightlifter when she was only 11 years old.

“My mum is a professional weightlifter. She has represented Kenya in international competitions such as the 2012 London Olympics,” she says.

Her mother, Mercy Okoth, who is also her mentor and coach, is also training for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Says Natasha, “Seeing her lift weights when I was younger piqued my interest in the sport. She saw this interest and decided to train me. When I won my medal, everyone was so proud of me, especially my mum.”

Her two younger siblings, now eight and 17, were so impressed, they decided to follow in her footsteps. “Although they’re still in school, they want to join mum and I,” she says.

SCIENCE TO THE SPORT

The podium finish and the Sh50, 000 she took home as prize money for coming in second motivated her to continue working hard. To prepare for the Commonwealth Games, Natasha trains for two hours three days a week, and unlike her age mates who can freely indulge in fast food, Natasha gives such foods a wide berth.

“I have to eat food rich in energy and protein, such as fish. I also take supplements. Eating right and staying hydrated helps you avoid injury and have enough energy all the time.”

For a person who can lift a barbell twice her 58kgs body weight, you would expect her to be heavily built, yet she is not.

Natasha Wandere lifts 30Kg’s of weight at Steel City Gym located in Pumwani Secondary School on 15th February 2017. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU

Natasha Wandere lifts 30Kg’s of weight at Steel City Gym located in Pumwani Secondary School on 15th February 2017. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU

“Weightlifting is unlike bodybuilding whereby you train to build muscle. There’s a science to weightlifting, that is why you will see skinny weightlifters competing in tournaments,” explains Natasha’s mother.

After training, the 19-year-old spends the rest of the day running the family shop in Kayole Estate, in the outskirts of CBD. She plans to enroll for an IT course sometime this year, though she is quick to add that this is not a backup plan in case her dream career does not pan out as she envisions.

“I am in this for the long-run,” she says.

To relax, she plays Kabaddi, a contact team sport that originated from India.

Should Natasha win gold, silver or bronze in Australia, she will take home Sh750, 000, Sh500, 000 and Sh300, 000 respectively. She tells us she has her eye on the prize, and is determined to bring a medal back home.

“I also want to make the cut for the 2020 Olympics which will be hosted by Japan.”

The career she has chosen comes with its fair share of challenges. Chief among these is the risk of injury. Injuries associated with weightlifting mostly afflict the wrist, back and knees. Natasha has avoided serious injuries so far, but once dislocated a kneecap after it buckled under pressure while lifting a barbell.

“We have to wear thick belts to prevent pressure on our backs, wrist bands for preventing wrist injuries, knee wraps/supports and the right kind of shoes and attire. One has to also maintain a certain posture when lifting a weight to avoid injuries.”

She also has to strictly adhere to a certain diet. For instance, besides the three recommended meals a day, she also has to snack three times in between meals.

BODY FUEL

“If I don’t eat a balanced diet every day, I will flop, I will be out of career – a weightlifter’s diet is expensive, if I might add.”

Natasha says that those in this field are discouraged by the lack of funding and recognition from concerned authorities.

“Sometimes, we don’t get enough financial backing when taking part in competitions, there is also the fact that Kenyans haven’t been sensitised enough about this sport, contributing to the disinterest with which this sport is viewed.”

A young woman to watch? Definitely.

*****

Natasha’s diet

Breakfast:

Three eggs, a glass of milk, tea and bread. After her morning workout, she snacks on either yoghurt or a smoothie.

Lunch

Ugali with green vegetables and meat. After her afternoon workout, she eats a fruit or a cup of tea and an an accompaniment.

Dinner

She will eat a carbohydrate and protein combination that can either be made up of ugali or spaghetti with either fish or beans.

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