Antonette Achieng just loves being the best.
The 17-year-old swimmer doesn’t believe in playing second fiddle. In whatever race she registers for, victory has always been her goal.
In fact, she won over 40 medals, 16 being at the Nyanza Regional Secondary School Sports Association swimming competition.
While most babies flinch at the sight of bathing water, Achieng would protest every time her mother wanted to dry her after a bath.
Born in Kisumu, Achieng made water her best friend at the age of two.
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She attended Baghini Samaj Nursery School from 2006 to 2008 where she began winning medals at the age of three.
She later joined Jalaram Academy in 2009, where her swimming prowess blossomed.
Dominant in 100m butterfly, Medley relay and 100m freestyle, Achieng represented Nyanza at the Kenya Secondary School Sports Association Term One games for three consecutive years (from 2016 to 2018), before joining Riviera High School, in Rwanda to continue with her A-Levels studies.
The multi-talented Achieng, who can also play tennis, reveals to the Standard Sports how she is coping with school, her dreams of participating in the Olympics and why she admires Olympian Michael Phelps:
HOW DO YOU BALANCE YOUR STUDIES AND SWIMMING?
Swimming is a great workout. It is an all-round activity because it helps someone relax. Swimming requires coordination and multi-tasking, which is useful for students in school. This helps me remain on top during classwork.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE?
Physical exercise makes you sweat. When you overheat, your body wants to cool down. Swimming is no exception; however, most swimmers don’t often know how much they are sweating because they are surrounded by water. This can be dangerous and lead to serious physical consequences. To keep myself hydrated has been a big challenge.
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION OF THIS SPORT?
That swimming is an injury-free sport. While it is true that swimming is a low-impact exercise as compared to other sports, injuries are more common than you might think. Shoulder injuries are the most prevalent, followed by knee, neck and lower back injuries.
YOU ALSO PLAY TENNIS, WHILE REMAINING DOMINANT IN SWIMMING. WHAT’S THE SECRET?
I am a sports girl. I love playing a lot of games, not only do I play tennis, but also play football, take part in athletics and a little of badminton.
WHAT IS YOUR SECRET TO SUCCESS?
It is all about hard work, discipline and putting God first.
WHAT IS THE BEST MOMENT OF YOUR CAREER?
Winning bronze in 2013 during the Kenya National swimming Gala at Kasarani, during my second appearance at the championships.
DO YOU SEE YOURSELF AS A NATIONAL TEAM PROSPECT?
It is a dream that I’m really would like to achieve. I believe I can make it if I keep pushing my limits. Representing my country would be a great honour, especially at the Olympics.
WHO INSPIRES YOU IN SWIMMING AND WHY?
Olympics record holder Michael Phelps. He was an excellent swimmer who conquered the world as a teenager. His six-gold medals at the age of 19 during the 2004 Olympic games inspire me that everything is possible, no matter the age.
WHO IS YOUR MENTOR?
My mum. She is everything to me. The support and encouragement she has given me are unmatched.
WHO HAS BEEN YOUR TOUGHEST CHALLENGER?
That must be Emily Muteti from Mombasa. She was a tough competitor at the national games.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MEAL?
WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE MUSICIAN AND WHAT KIND OF MUSIC DO YOU ENJOY?
I love Sauti Sol and Rihanna. I enjoy listening to Rythm and Blues.
WHICH KENYAN ATHLETE DO YOU CONSIDER THE GREATEST OF ALL TIME?
IF YOU WERE NOT SWIMMING WHAT OTHER SPORT WOULD YOU HAVE PLAYED?
Football or tennis.
WHICH KENYAN SWIMMER DO YOU ADMIRE?
Multiple Commonwealth, All-African Games and Olympian Jason Dunford
WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?
Being an African champion and gold medallist in butterfly and freestyle
GIVEN CHANCE, WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE AT THE KENYA SWIMMING FEDERATION?
Organise more local swimming championships, which would help discover young talent.