2020 Tokyo Paralympics: From cheating death to rowing in gold pursuit

Asiya Mohamed after finishing her Rowing training at The Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo, Japan, on Wednesday, August 25, 2021. [Robin Toskin, Standard]

It would take a cold-blooded and cruel-to-the-bone fiction writer to script Asiya Mohamed’s life starting with a train accident at the age of two.

And to cause you to experience a painful chill down your spine, the writer would paint a picture of a train mowing Asiya’s limbs and three fingers from the left arm, but still let her live through the pain.

And five years later, the kid would then be orphaned. Such a tale would make for a callous script, one that even the fiction writer’s readers would disapprove like many feel Chinua Achebe did wrong to ‘kill’ Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart.

Yet this is the case of Kenya’s Paralympian in Women Rowing Single Sculls – Asiya Sururu Mohamed.

The difference is that Asiya is alive, 27 years since she was left for dead by the train, ready to write a script of triumph and infinite possibilities of human endeavour in sports.

She will go down in history as a pioneer Paralympic woman rower in Kenya when she takes to the water in Tokyo on Friday during the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.

Sporting gold-dyed hair, Asiya is seen powering her boat to the finish line during training yesterday at the Tokyo Gate Bridge waterway, the venue of rowing at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.

Interestingly, what is left of the double-amputee are scars incredibly hidden by Asiya’s free spirit wrapped in an infectious smile.

Proud to be representing Kenya at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, Asiya insists everything comes down to individual willpower.

Asiya Mohammed at her home in Likoni, Mombasa County on Tuesday 7th July 2020. [Kelvin Karani, Standard]

“I took up this sport three years ago and our target with the coaches was to qualify for the 2024 Paralympics in Paris. But look, here I am in Tokyo,” Asiya said with confidence that makes you forget she is in a wheelchair.

It is the kind of single-mindedness she approaches life that drives her on. “There many Kenyans living with kind of disability. I am asking them to step forward. Look, it is only the other day that I started and see where I am. Come forward and let us make this sport big in Kenya,” she said.

Her attitude has won the praises of her coach Joshua Kandagor, a naval officer with Kenya Navy.

“Asiya was introduced to the sport sometime in 2018 and has developed rapidly. She has a positive outlook on life and approach to the sport. I am confident she will do well. As coaches, we will see how we can make her utilise her energy so as to go as far as possible,” Kandagor said.

“If we will sail along with the wind, it will be ok. But if we will be up against the wind then it will be a struggle,” Asiya said.

Asiya Mohammed Sururu plays wheelchair tennis, badminton and para-rowing. Last year she qualified to represent Kenya in para-rowing at Tokyo Olympics in 2020 [COURTESY]

Apart from training for endurance and technical aspects of the game, her preparation also includes aligning her body to the boat.


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