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How former Malindi FC midfielder, Lewis Atieno ditched football to bag continental silver in judo

Kenya's Lewis Atieno fights Yacine Djiba (left) of Senegal in their under 78kg category during African Judo Championships at The Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani. July 23, 2022. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Lewis Atieno had high hopes of making it big with football. She dreamt of being a professional football player with some top club in Europe.

But that dream came crashing when Fifa suspended Kenya from all football-related activities citing government interference

This was further compounded when her former Football Kenya Federation (FKF) Women Division One side, Malindi Action FC, lost their training ground.

The team, which is now competing in the FKF Coast Regional Women League, was forced to secure a new training ground which was far away from where Atieno resides.
Due to lack of allowances since the club is self-sponsored, Atieno could not make it for training and the numerous league games her club took part in.

The desire to keep her athletic figure intact saw Atieno embark on various ways to improve on her fitness and stamina. It was during this journey that she met a Judo coach, Sensei James Mashobo of Malindi Judo Club. Mashobo introduced her to the sport and from then on, she’s never looked back since her first training session in March.

“I immediately fell in love with the sport. The fact that Malindi Judo Club was just a stone throw away from our home made it easier for me. I had no excuses for not to attend training sessions,” Atieno told Standard Sports. After stepping up her exercises, Atieno earned her first call up to the national team where she represented the country at the African Junior

Judo Championships that ended yesterday in Kasarani, Nairobi.
The 18-year-old Form Three student at Ngala Memorial Girls Secondary did not disappoint at the weekend when she stepped on the mat at the Kasarani Indoor Arena for her first competitive duel.

She won her preliminaries matches in the hotly contested women’s U-78kg before meeting Daina Carinnna Kemadjou from Cameroon in the semis.

She destroyed Kemadjou with an ippon that helped her sail to the final where she lost to Yacine Djiba of Senegal.

“I’m happy to have won a silver medal in my first competitive judo contest, especially at the continental level. This can only mean that the future is bright. I won’t give up. I will continue to press on. I will be consistent in my training sessions,” Atieno said.

Ahead of the African showpiece, Atieno could not relent as she trained every morning.
“I attended gym sessions, did road runs and perfected judo skills,” she said.
Some of the benefits Atieno says she has reaped from the combat sport are total discipline, endurance and consistency.