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Para-rower Asiya Sururu Mohamed in Tunisia when she booked a ticket to Tokyo's Paralympic Games. Photo/Asiya

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Paralympics bound Asiya recounts Qualification ordeal

MOMBASA, Kenya, Nov 13 – Donning national team livery at the fabled Olympic and Paralympic Games is an opportunity all and sundry would savour in a lifetime.

But for 28-year old para-rowing competitor Asiya Sururu Mohamed it’s a different story.

Having footed all her expenses to the qualifier in Tunisia  in October 2019 where she surprisingly made it to Tokyo Paralympics, Asiya claims her appeals for help and refund appear to have fallen on deaf ears.

“Since I qualified for Paralympics I have just had to contend with endless problems. We were preparing for Tunisia and were all in high spirits going forward. Sadly, two weeks before the event we were told we couldn’t travel because of lack of Government funding. So, I asked for support from friends and family and they managed to contribute towards my trip to Tunisia,” Asiya, who is also a wheelchair tennis player, revealed to Capital Sport.

She added, “When we were boarding the plane, I was actually shocked to see able-bodied people being part and parcel of the trio, yet my genuine colleagues were refused the opportunity to travel. They told us they were sponsored by the Ministry of Sports. The Competition was tough but thanks to God I made it. At one point I was almost disqualified from the qualifier because I did not have the correct rowing kit, I had donned the tennis kit, but luckily, I got some good Samaritans who helped me out.”

For Asiya, the clock is ticking on her preparations. What this means is that her fairytale and maiden Paralympic qualification is not only in jeopardy, it’s turning out to be a nightmare of sorts and may as well become a mission impossible.

For now, she’s incensed by the way para officials have treated her case, thus failing to address her plight in the run up to the Tokyo extravaganza.

In a thread of emails seen by Capital Sport, Yihuan Chang, the Development Manager at the World Rowing Federation (FISA), wrote to the Kenya Rowing and Canoe Federation informing them to collect the boat.

“Dear Interim Secretary, Thank you for your message. We have purchased a para rowing boat for Asiya to train for Tokyo. This boat is still in China. Kenya National Paralympic Committee (KNPC) agreed to pay the transport and clearing costs and will get the boat after lockdown. Please follow up with KNPC and let us know if you still want the boat and how you will proceed to get it. If not, we will allocate it to another federation,” Chang wrote the email on July 27, 2020.

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Asiya, who has promised to bag a medal for Kenya when the postponed Games will be held in 2021, is optimistic all her troubles will be sorted out.

“When you qualify for the Paralympics, you get two boats, one of which is taken to the Games venue well in time and the other to your country for training purposes. Up until now there is nothing. The training boat is sitting idle in China. No one seems to care yet time is not on my side.

“I started with our Rowing Federation, but they told me my case is with the Kenya Paralympic body. The para officials told me they would follow up on the matter.”

“It’s my first Paralympic qualification for heaven’s sake! yet I have gone through a lot thus far. I’m appealing to CS Amina Mohamed to look into sports for disabled people. We tend to concentrate more on able bodied athletes and then end up not attending to Paralympic sports. We have many who can qualify for the Paralympics, more so on Rowing, yet they have lacked the opportunity to realise their potential in sports. Sadly, my fellow Paralympic colleagues have not taken up the issue and haven’t talked about it publicly.

Asiya is now demanding for action from relevant ministry authorities. “If I get a boat in good time, I will be in a good position to compete well because our opponents are busy doing the same and has their boats ready.”

National Paralympics Committee of Kenya (KNPC) President Agnes Aluoch said they had already taken up the matter with the Ministry of Sports, but the government is yet to respond.

“I can confirm that I received communication from china who offered Asiya the two boats; one for practice and another to be sent to Japan for competition, we have written a letter to the Ministry of Sports with invoice to assist so that the boat is shipped. We did one letter early this year and did another one a month ago as a reminder, but we have not gotten a response,” Aluoch, who confirmed that so far five athletes have qualified for Paralympics, said.

National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOC-K) acting Secretary General Francis Mutuku said though not their mandate, they will take it up in Tokyo as an agenda.

“Even if it’s not our responsibility it’s still team Kenya. Athletes need to be treated with dignity the Ministry should collectively look at Team Kenya.”

Asiya, who has won the Standard Chattered Nairobi Marathon severely, has gotten some help from a Mombasa hotel; PrideInn Flamingo Beach Resort & Spa that has provided free training facility for her.

“Our sports people are our pride, so as PrideInn we will do whatever we can to support them. We will offer our support to Asiya, he will be training here and should be free to acess our facilities,” Victor Shitakha, the PrideInn Flamingo General Manager, who met Asiya over the weekend said.

Her life changed the day she was involved in a train accident in 1994 in Ganjoni, Mombasa and lost her two legs. The same time his dad also passed on. “Mum died when I was in Class 2. But my cousin who is also my current guardian has been of immense help and has supported my sporting endeavors.”

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Asiya started sports at Port Rietz Special School in Mombasa, then proceeded to Thika’s Joytown for secondary education where she played all games. After High School, she ventured into marathon and tennis. In 2018 she was introduced to rowing.

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