Last updated 1 month ago | By Elizabeth Mburugu
The clock ticks as hockey fans eagerly wait for the season’s top of the bill clash between bitter rivals Blazers and Strathmore University Scorpions.
Anxiety and excitement engulf City Park Stadium in equal measure as the two sides emerge from the changing rooms onto the pitch.
Players rush to take their respective sides and begin warming up for the match, but one player on Blazers side remains calm as she takes her position for the warm up exercises. Humble and reserved she passes as an ordinary girl to those unfamiliar with her.
However, she is no ordinary girl. She is Audrey Omaido, a superstar, an accomplished career woman in the banking sector and the daughter of Safaricom Sports Personality of the Year Awards (Soya) 2016 Hall of Fame inductee Jackson Omaido.
Keen to make history like her father and late uncle Walter Omaido, Audrey though modest in every aspect of her life is one of the few female hockey players who have excelled in the sport both at club and national team level.
The apple didn’t fall far from the tree and Audrey is without a doubt her father’s daughter having inherited the old man’s sporting genes.
While Omaido succeeded in rugby, his daughter will certainly be in hockey history books as one of the most prolific strikers this country has ever produced.
Just like her father who started playing rugby in his teenage years at Lenana School, she also ventured into sports while in primary school.
Her mother Ruth Ongachi was also an athlete and played hockey in high school. She was also top in walk race while in college. Academically, she was also a top achiever and is currently an Electrical Engineering lecturer and will be completing her doctorate soon.
After high school her father played for the University of Nairobi's Mean Machine, Kenya Harlequin and the national rugby 15s team and was also in the 1975 East Africa Tuskers team among other select sides.
He is regarded as one of the best fly-half Kenya has ever produced. Motivated by her father’s success and heeding his counsel Audrey is a holistic individual who has worked hard and currently enjoys the fruits of her efforts in sports, academics and career.
Audrey says she was made for hockey even though it was the last sport she ventured into having played several in primary school.
“I had played football, netball, tennis and tried athletics but I was destined to play hockey because I believe I could have never gone beyond secondary school with any other sport. I was a good short distance runner and even though I still compete in athletics at interbank games, hockey is my passion,” she said.
It is at Maryhill Girls High School that Audrey who boasts of winning seven Africa Cup of Club Championships (ACCC) gongs and 12 Kenya Hockey Union women Premier League titles honed her hockey skills.
“I started playing hockey in 2004 when I joined Form One. We had inter-stream competitions which were very competitive and the winners would advance to inter-class challenge and so I joined the hockey team because I wanted to be in the games as a player and not in the cheering squad,” she added.
She adds that it was the patience of their school coach George Odlla that her love and passion grew as they learned to play alongside former Blazers and national teammate Margaret Rotich.
“He (Odlla) was a very good coach, he was patient with us and it made it easy for us to learn the basics of the game, we worked so hard that by the time we got to form three in 2006 we qualified for the national games.”
Audrey was so good at the game that many coaches saw her potential on her national games debut.
“While playing in Mombasa we had printed our names on our kits and I had my father’s name on mine. Coach Tony Raposo of Vikings saw my name and he approached saying he knew my father and they had played rugby together before inviting me to join his club.”
At the school games, she got offers from scouts of different clubs among them Strathmore University and Telkom which has rebranded several times and is now Blazers after Telkom Kenya withdrew their sponsorship last year.
After months of soul searching, she settled for Telkom and joined the club in 2008 having completed form four the previous year.
“Straight from high school I joined the top club in the country and it required that I work very hard. I trained everyday and it made my transition from high school hockey to club hockey easier. I, however, had to be patient as well as work hard for a place in the team, I got a chance to play in the second leg of the 2008 and I gave my best.”
Audrey said her first match was memorable as she got to play with her role model the late Betty Tioni.
“I admired how she (Tioni) played a lot and I always looked up to her, she was a forward who could also play well in midfield and I strived to emulate her. When I got a chance to play I was fortunate to start with her and it remains a memorable match for me,” she said.
Later that year Orange played in the Africa championships staged in Nigeria finishing second behind home girls Heartlands.
Audrey would taste continental glory the following year when Kenya hosted the annual event in Nairobi. Since her brilliance in attack and midfield has been instrumental for Blazers locally and internationally.
She said her father’s exploits in rugby inspired her to work hard and also succeed in sports. “I read many articles written about my father and in all those stories he has been portrayed as being a successful sports man and that has pushed me to work hard. My father has also been part of my journey mentoring me and urging me to ensure I succeed not only in sports but in academics and life in general” she adds.
Senior Omaido must be very happy because his parenting and mentorship have been very successful. His daughter has indeed lived up to his expectations.
“My father always taught me not to take anything for granted in academics, sports and work. It is through his guidance and endless support that I have succeeded in sports, academics and have grown in my career.”
She holds a masters degree in Business Administration (Strategic Management option) from the University of Nairobi.
She is also a certified accountant having achieved a CPA K certification and is currently assistant branch manager in a city bank. She said it has not been easy balancing school, work and hockey.
“It is tough to strike a perfect balance, when I joined university for my undergraduate degree I had to adjust and learn how to effectively manage my time. I had to make up for training over the weekends because I had less time during weekdays. I had to be in class by 6:15am for my accounting lessons then dash to work, I must say that it takes patience, discipline and passion because it is not easy.”
Apart from her family, she also had a great support system at her club with coach Jos Openda, senior players who have now transitioned to coaching like Josephine Ataro, Rose Mbulo and Jackline Atieno all helping her to grow in the sport.
She is also grateful to coaches Tom Olal, Wycliffe Ongori and Fidhelis Kimanzi who also mentored her while playing for the national team.
Sports runs in the family and her younger sister Brenda Omaido has followed in her footsteps and currently plays for Premier League side Amira Sailors.
Brenda previously played for Kenyatta University Titans while she featured for University of Nairobi in the Kenya Universities Sports Association games.
To upcoming players Audrey says they need to be disciplined and love the sport so as to last long in the game and succeed while at it.
“You must be very disciplined and love the game to grow in it and also excel, patience is also very important because without it one can easily give up especially when success delays.
"I never won a title in high school and at that point it was very easy to quit but I remained patient and I have no regrets," she added.