Kenya’s sole female boxer and national team captain Elizabeth Adhiambo

Kenya’s sole female boxer and national team captain Elizabeth Adhiambo

At the London Olympics in 2012, Kenya’s sole female boxer and national team captain Elizabeth Adhiambo, made history when she stepped into the ring against Marina Volnova of Kazakstan.
This was the first time women’s boxing was featuring at the Olympics and for Adhiambo, who fought in the middleweight division, that arena was an opportunity to join the ranks of Kenya’s legendary Hit Squad who made boxing history on the international stage.
“Fighting Marina was, for me, the most challenging bout of my life. Although I lost on points in round one, I gave it my all. I bowed out a winner because she was ranked number three at that time. The experience was amazing,” recalls Adhiambo who played Taekwondo before switching to boxing in 2007.
But her dreams to represent Kenya at the 2016 Rio Games were shattered when she broke her left shin in a traffic accident when a taxi hit a boda boda on which she was riding on in April 2015 on Kangundo Road. She was on her way from the gym.
The accident ended the boxing career of a single mum who started boxing as a way to keep fit and later fell in love with the sport.
“Since I was involved in the road accident, neither the government nor the boxing federation have supported me. It is only a few coaches and boxers who have helped me at some point, and that is when I decided to do something to earn a living. So, I started selling fruits and training kits at Penthouse Gym where I was a trainer before the accident,” says Adhiambo, whose Sh70,000 hospital bill was paid by nominated MP Johnson Sakaja, according to Nairobi News.
The former boxer stays in Saika along Kangundo Road. She makes between Sh500 and 800 a day from her business. Adhiambo, however, still can’t walk and the little she earns is spent on transport, food and rent. She has not given up hope in life though.
“In three years time, I see myself as a certified coach so I can inspire young girls and women to take up boxing as a sport or as a way of self defence and keeping fit. My dream is also to own a boxing gym in the future,” says Adhiambo.
The single mum of a 12-year-old son says it is tough for a woman to raise a family while involved in boxing — because there is hardly time to bond with the children. Describing her own experience as a mother as a “long journey”, Adhiambo says things became even more difficult for her after the accident.
“My son now understands that I have to work. The accident affected him so much because I am the breadwinner and things were not working out for us when I was bedridden,” says Adhiambo.
In the run-up to the Commonwealth Games, Adhiambo told sportanddev.org that it is difficult to be a sportsperson in Kenya without a formal job.
“We encourage girls who are involved in boxing to look for work as well, so that they can continue with the sport. You can’t train without knowing where you are going to sleep and what you are going to eat. That’s the main challenge,” she said.
The boxer who was described in her heyday as ‘stylish’ and who still requires a second surgery, may not be on her feet, but she retains big dreams for women’s boxing.
“Women boxers need support so that the sport can grow, and that is why I don’t want to give up until I see more female boxers in Kenya. It is not the sort of thing one can do alone. We need motivation and sponsors to encourage more young girls join the sport. Boxing needs to pay so that more women get encouraged to take up the sport,” says Adhiambo.

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