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Daughter of fate Andiego eyes London

NAIROBI, Kenya, June 27- As the adage goes, only those who pursue their dreams catch them, a saying that aptly describes surprise Team Kenya London Olympics competitor, Elizabeth Andiego.

Hers is a journey of faith that has taken the female middleweight boxer from the back estates of Nairobi to the British capital to represent her nation in the biggest sporting event of them all.

Andiego’s voyage started at Nairobi’s Daima Primary School where she used to participate in ball games just like any normal pupil only that through the years unlike her peers, she was glued to television following past Olympics events.

“I always wanted to be at the Olympics, although I never fully understood what was going on, the images of glamour lingered in my mind at all times,” she revealed after a training session at the Moi International Sports Centre Kasarani gymnasium.

Her life changing moment came on last Wednesday when the middleweight was granted late entry to London by the International Boxing Association (AIBA) who ruled she was unfairly adjudged during last month World qualifiers’ in China.

“When I received the call from our coach, I thought he was just trying to prank me as always until he went to great lengths to convince that the decision was arrived at by AIBA.

“It was a phone call I will always cherish since it opened up my world in a way I can’t express in words,” added the ecstatic pugilist admitting that the events in China had deeply distressed her.

AIBA review of her last bout against Norwegian Lien Lotte where she lost 17-14 is a verdict the fourth born in a family of five feels was fair in view of the proceedings.

“When I left the ring, even other foreign coaches and boxers were in agreement with what was going through my mind that I had won but by then it was water under the bridge,” the 26 year old who did not make it to high school due to financial constraints confided.

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Andiego began pursuing her love for sports by participating in Taekwondo classes in Nairobi’s Huruma Estate where she was residing in 2002 before she crossed over to the neighbouring Kariobangi in 2007 where her pathway into the ring started.

“I walked up to a coach known as Dalmas at Kariobangi Social Hall and told him I had the desire to enrol for boxing lessons but he laughed me off.

“His reason was that many girls my age came with the same zeal only to take off after few days of training citing the tough routine but I stood my ground and never looked back,” she disclosed.

Andiego continued with training until she took part in her first bout months later against Ruth Ebole who has since turned professional, trouncing her easily to give her the urge to push her talent to the greatest heights.

In the face of the various challenges in Kenyan boxing that at one time saw her contemplate quitting, she got her breakthrough in 2010 when she was among other nine Kenyan ladies at the World Championships in Barbados.

While she was edged out in the preliminaries, her performance was enough to grant her an opportunity to join a training camp in Wales conducted prior to this year’s World Championships cum Olympic qualifiers.

“I learnt a lot from the coaching besides discovering that the reason international boxers have an edge over us was due to their wide exposure,” the pugilist who has fought 24 bouts affirmed.

This feat has seen many locals dread to be in the same ring with her though she has no rush to turn professional as she embarks on a mission to develop amateur women boxing in the country through the Boxing Girls Kenya Organization that she joined in 2008.

“I’m part of the local group that has over 650 girls from the Huruma, Kayole, Korogocho and other low income areas where besides boxing training, we also impact on them life skills

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“I have been the head coach and will not rest until the talent I interact with daily in my free time is able to make a better living from the sport than I do,” she adds of the club that has its head office in Kariobangi.

The pugilist who greatly admires World champions, Irish lightweight Katie Taylor and British middleweight Savannah Marshall acknowledges that its going to be a long shot but her role model figure at the organisation will keep her battling even in London.

“I will be definitely going for a podium finish at the event although I understand that I carry a lot of responsibility in my hands

“It’s my dream come true to be at the Olympics and will carry my childhood memories with me in this quest,” she said.

Andiego will join Commonwealth silver medalist Ben Gicharu for intensive training in Cardiff from July 5 ahead of the games where for the first time in history, Kenya will be represented by a female boxer.

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