Girl with disability feted for winning gold

Faith Nyagaki suffered a mental condition when she was barely one year old but that did not stop her from achieving her dreams and exploit her swimming talent. When her name was called out at Kariti Stadium during Mashujaa Day celebrations in Mukurwe-ini, Nyeri county, everyone was curious to hear what Governor Mutahi Kahiga was about to announce about her.

But when she stood up the crowd cheered after Mutahi praised and awarded her for the determination she exhibited during Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi in Dubai and brought home a gold medal in swimming. Looking at her you would easily disregard her but Nyagaki’s name will be inscribed in world’s history as a superb swimmer.

“She has made us proud as a county and a country for beating all odds and overcoming her disability to win a gold medal. She is an inspiration to people with disabilities and we thank the parents for not giving up on her,” said Kahiga.

The 24-year-old champion suffers septicemia, a mental and physical disability that affected her functionality since childhood but despite that, Nyagaki was among the 71 swimmers who qualified to represent Kenya in the Special Olympics in March.

She participated in three categories and out of 7500 athletes with intellectual disabilities from 190 countries, Nyagaki won the Gold Medal for being the best swimmer in the Breaststroke swimming category. Nyagaki who hails from Karoki village in Chinga ward also won two Silver Medals for Freestyle Relay-M03 and Freestyle-508 swimming categories.

“It was really challenging to compete with different people from all over the world but I managed.I did a lot of practice back at home and my parents were very supportive, I used to swim daily to improve on my skills,” she said. Her mother Rahab Gichohi teasingly refers to her daughter as a ‘fish’ for her exemplary swimming skills which she said have been consistent since childhood.

“We started taking her for swimming lessons when she was one year old and she would use swimming floaters. We discovered she had a talent when she was 15 years old and all through she had a very passionate willpower in whatever activity she is doing,” she added.

However, Mrs Gichohi said they had a difficult time in bringing up their daughter among two sons. “She did not have an easy childhood because she had had a slow development unlike other children because of her disability,” said the mother. She said her daughter was born normally and a misdiagnosis led to her disability when she was only three months old.

“We were in and out of hospital for four months after she developed some complications as a result of the wrong diagnosis which led to serious calcium deficiency that really affected her growth milestones. Doctors also said she had rickets,” she said.

Going forward, Mrs Gichohi said they are preparing her to participate in the world Golf Championship that will be held in Beijing, China in 2021.