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SPORTS

Athletes who pride in flying Kenyan flag in different sports

ATHLETICS By Washington Onyango | April 18th 2021
Captain Gilly Okumu in Africa Cup of Nations Test match against Uganda at Sikh Union on Sunday, March 21, 2021. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Representing your country in international sporting competitions is a rare achievement, which a player could earn. However, to do it in two different sports is close to a masterclass.

Standard Sports looks at players who are or used to play two different sports disciplines both locally and internationally.

Gilly Okumu-Hockey and Football

It is her agility, her reading of the game, and her supreme attention to detail that marks out Gilly Okumu as one of the best hockey players of her generation.

Currently the Kenya national women’s hockey captain, Okumu keeps shining. And a shining star she is after she was called up to the provisional 30-member squad of the national women’s football team, Harambee Starlets.

Fresh from guiding Kenya to victory against Uganda in Africa Cup of Nations test matches, Okumu says she is ready to hit the ground running with Harambee Starlets.

Speaking to the Standard Sports, Okumu said she was surprised to be called up to the national team in such a short period of time after switching to football earlier this year.

Okumu, who plays for Strathmore University as a forward in the Kenya Hockey Union Women’s Premier League, said she switched to football to maintain match fitness.

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“It came as a surprise as I was playing football to gain fitness since hockey has been off,” said Okumu who plays for Mathare United Women as a striker.

Though yet to score a goal for Mathare United, Harambee Starlets technical bench enlisted Okumu among the forwards alongside Thika Queen's top scorer Mwanahalima Adam, Mercy Airo of Gaspo and Faith Machora of Zetech.

Nevertheless, Okumu promised to give her best if selected to face Zambia in the upcoming international friendly on April 24.

“Football has always been my passion since high school so I asked myself why not play this year especially with no hockey league for the past one and a half year.

“It is always a pleasure to play for the national team and to feature and play for Harambee Starlets will be a dream come true and an inspiration to others.

“I am ready to give it my all when the opportunity arrives,” said Okumu who scored five goals for Kenya during their Afcon test matches against Uganda in Nairobi last month.

Elizabeth Okama-Hockey and Rugby

Elizabeth Okama’s multi-sporting talents are compounded by her striking physique and youthful beauty.

Whether she is firmly holding a hockey stick at City Park or perfectly fitting her headgear at the RFUEA Grounds, Okama is a sight to behold.

Hockey giants Blazers are always confident when Okama is marshalling their defence, just the same way Northern Suburbs are when she is in command at the back row playing as a hooker.

Born in Lugari, Kakamega County, Okama, who began playing hockey in 2007 when she joined Form One at Lugulu Girls High School has been the mastermind of two sports; hockey and rugby.

Kenya captain Gilly Okumu dribbles the ball past Uganda's Faith Achom during an Africa Cup of Nations Test match at Sikh Union, Parklands on March 20, 2021. [Jenipher Wachie, Standard]

In 2019, she decided to try her hand in rugby and after sharing her newfound interest with a confidant in the hockey circles she joined Northern Suburbs Ladies RFC.

“I play at tier-one women’s league. I am not yet in the national team but working towards it. I am a utility player who can play as a center or as a hooker,” said Okama

On balancing between playing hockey and rugby to ensure you perform at your best level, Okama said her coaches from both sides are very supportive and makes it easy for her to maneuver.

“The two sports are demanding in terms of fitness and skills and therefore complement each other. So I make sure I attain my fitness from rugby because it’s hard training then make sure I don’t miss the hockey skill session so that am not left behind,” she said.

Hockey and Rugby players Elizabeth Okama. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Okama is still on a rugby course and she would also want to do strength and conditioning course later. As for hockey, Okama is an FIH certified level 1 umpire.

“I might be hanging my boots soon to concentrate on officiating,” said Okama who chose rugby because of its discipline.

Vivian Onyango-Hockey and Floorball

Vivian Onyango is an upcoming hockey star currently playing for Kisumu’s Lakers Hockey Club in the KHU Women’s Premier League.

A utility player full of energy, Onyango excels in not only hockey but floorball. Floorball is a type of floor hockey with five players and a goalkeeper in each team.

Kenya Harambee Starlets' Vivian Odhiambo during their first leg of Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualifier match against Zambia at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani on Friday, Nov 8, 2019. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

She decided to try her hand in floorball in 2019, joining Silver Queens football club.

“At first I even thought of quitting hockey to settle for floorball, but then hockey is still the reason I do well in Floorball. It wasn’t easy, but through training, everything was a success,” she said

Months after turning out for the Nairobi-based Silver Queens, Onyango was called up to the Kenya national floorball women’s team.

In September 2019, Onyango made her debut for Kenya who were playing against Burkina Faso, a match she helped Kenya win 2-1.

“Both require fitness, handling of the stick is almost the same so if you work on one you give it your all because at the back of my head I know what am working for; success,” Onyango said.

Onyango, a student at Kisumu Polytechnic said she is planning to play both sports after the resumption of sports.

Seth Oburu- Hockey and Golf

Kisumu golfer Seth Oburu at Nyanza golf club in Kisumu on July 22nd 2020. (Collins Oduor, Standard)

Seth Oburu, who is arguably the greatest hockey midfielder in perhaps Strathmore University’s modern history meets both definitions.

His touch, be it with a hockey stick or golf club, is magical. Oburu has won four Kenya Hockey Union (KHU) premier league titles and is currently handicap 20 in golf.

Currently featuring for defending champions Butali Sugar Hockey Club, Oburu, is not stopping anytime soon with his eyes set on becoming a professional golfer and perhaps representing Kenya at the Kenya Open, a European Golf Tour event, in the near future.

“I want to remain competitive just as I was in hockey and that is why I chose golf. It is a very skillful and competitive game that is not only physical but also professional,” he said.

Oburu is also optimistic of playing for Butali Sugar in the KHU league for one more season as he eyes a long future in golf.

Niger Flicker Muazu Maraz(l) and Butali Seth Oburu fight for the ball when they played Eastern during Africa Cup Championship at City Park. ON 11/01/2017 PHOTO

“I missed many games with Butali because of injury for the past two seasons but I believe I still have the energy to surge past markers for a season or two. I want to win my fifth title before I retire,” he said.

Pauline Naise-Hockey and Football

National hockey team star Pauline Naise grabbed the headlines in 2016 after being called up to the Harambee Starlets squad.

Elizabeth Okama is a multi talented athlete who plays both rugby and hockey at the highest level. She is also a farmer. [Courtesy]

Playing for Vihiga Leeds in the FKF Women’s Premier League back then, Naise represented Kenya in a series of friendly matches against local teams in Rabat including a high level friendly against Morocco in 2016.

Currently featuring for Amira Sailors in the KHU Women’s Premier League, Naise is still going strong with the two sports.

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