Faith Ogallo loves nature just as she loves sports. Her long and winding journey has taken her through two major disciplines before she finally found acceptance in Tae Kwon Do, a Korean martial art that fosters the right mind through mental armament.
The 27-year-old is set to get into the annals of history as only the second woman to fly the Kenyan flag at the Olympics in this discipline.
Her story is that of faith and resilience; a true Kenyan spirit of never giving up. She tried her hands in basketball but failed, moved to football but failed yet again.
She was on the verge of joining rugby when she received a call-up to the Kenya Tae Kwon Do team, an opportunity that she grabbed with both hands.
In between, she developed an interest in the environment, her other love.
“It’s discipline and commitment that pushes me to carry out my training and focus on my studies. When I am not training, I do my studies,” said Ogallo.
“I study a lot about the environment and I believe if we come together as a country, then we can achieve the vision 2030,” said the University of Kibabii student.
Ogallo, whose love for the environment was positively influenced by the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, the late Prof. Wangari Mathai, is pursuing an undergraduate Degree in Social Works.
Twelve years have passed since the last time Kenya sent a female Tae Kwon Do player to the Olympics.
But Ogallo is set to follow in the footsteps of pioneer Milka Akinyi who opened the Olympic sojourn in Beijing in 2008 Beijing.
“The journey hasn’t been easy. Thankfully, I have reached this far and ready to compete in the Olympics.”
Ogallo will begin her campaign on July 27, where she will face-off with 16 opponents.
Despite the eminent challenge that lies ahead, she remains upbeat that Kenya will pick her maiden medal at the Summer Games.
“I am ready to meet any opponent after slotting in different weight categories.”
Meanwhile South Korea once again dominated Olympic taekwondo in Rio de Janeiro, winning two gold medals and three bronze that gave the Asian country a record 19 medals since the sport first became a competitive event at the 2000 Games.
But fighters from Africa, Britain and Azerbaijan showed how quickly the sport has spread beyond its South Korean home and is developing champions in other regions.
“Our sport was really dominated by the Korean team and nowadays it’s such a different sport that anyone stands a chance,” said Jackie Galloway, a bronze medal winner from the United States in the women’s over 67kg category.
“More people internationally are involved in it,” she said of the rapid growth of taekwondo around the world.
The bout of the tournament electrified viewers late Friday when Cheick Sallah Cisse, of the Ivory Coast, with a last-second spin kick wrested the gold medal in the under 80kg category from Briton Lutalo Muhammad.
The victory, the first ever Olympic gold medal for Ivory Coast, was also the African country’s second medal of the tournament after a bronze for Ruth Gbagbi in an earlier fight in the women’s under 67kg category.
It was also part of a strong showing for other athletes from Africa. A silver medal in the over 80kg category for Issoufou Alfaga Abdoulrazak of Niger completed a haul of five medals for fighters from the continent, including a bronze each for Egypt and Tunisia.
Meanwhile, Azerbaijan and Britain both scored big at the tournament, with three medals each.
The British team, who at past Olympics had won a combined three medals in the sport, won gold, silver and bronze, with Welsh fighter Jade Jones finishing atop the women’s under 57kg category for the second consecutive Games.
Athletes from Azerbaijan, who had never before secured a taekwondo medal despite a strong record in other Olympic combat sports, scored two bronze medals.
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