Last updated 16 days ago | By Elizabeth Mburugu
Back at St Joseph’s Girls High School Kitale, Stella Sikhila remained adventurers and did not take a second thought whenever an opportunity to try out something new crossed her mind.
She was brilliant, a multi-talented athlete that would excel in any sport she ventured into while performing well in class. From attempting to dunk on the basketball court, to hard hitting short corners on the hockey pitch and the tough tackles in football, Sikhila was indeed a fearless girl ready to showcase her talent.
She would, however, sustain injuries and this troubled her mother who had to get her treated. After paying several bills Sikhila’s mother felt that sport was unsafe and discouraged her from playing.
As an obedient daughter, Sikhila quit playing after high school to save her mother the agony of hospital bills. “After secondary school, I never played again for over two years because I never wanted to burden my mother again. I understood her fears of medical bills whenever I sustained an injury playing in school,” Sikhila said.
Despite not being actively involved in sports, she keenly followed what was happening in various disciplines locally and internationally. Skater Joyce Omwanda’s achievements on the skates impressed her and she became her ardent fan.
“I admired her (Omwanda) a lot, she was very successful and in a unique sport because it was a new to me so I developed interest,” she added.
She wanted to excel and win just like Omwanda, but the fear of getting injured and troubling her mother haunted her every time she thought of returning to action.
While at St Joseph’s, Sikhila featured in sports like handball, basketball, hockey, football and racquet games. However, after completing school in 2010 she took a break. In 2012, she joined Kenyatta University still stayed away from any sporting activities even though the institution was vibrant in sports.
She met Joan Mumbi who asked her to attend a roll ball training in 2013. “When Mumbi realised that I loved what Omwanda was doing she told me that I could also learn how to skate and play roll ball.”
Even so, she could not resist the desire to do what her idol Omwanda was doing. And as George Addair once said that everything one ever wanted was on the other side of fear, Sikhila made a bold decision to return to sports and with it came success after success including a World Cup trophy.
“When I asked my mother to buy me roller skates she told me to stop because playing because the game was risky. She did not buy the skaters, but later supported me after seeing that it was not that risky and I was doing well.”
She accompanied Mumbi to the national team training two weeks to the 2013 World Cup that Kenya hosted at Kasarani. “The team was very warm towards me and gave me chance to learn. It was very difficult at the start because I could not even balance on the skates, but whenever I got the ball I could score,” she said.
Sikhila adds that the skills she learned in basketball and handball made it easier for her to play rollball. “I dribbled well and whenever I was given the ball I could easily shoot because I had mastered the basics of both basketball and handball.”
The then national team coach Jacob Nyaudo saw potential in her and immediately gave her a slot.
“She was struggling on the skates, but was very good in shooting and dribbling so her abilities made me believe that she could be an asset to the team with proper training and so to boost her confidence I gave her a place in the team,” Nyaudo said.
Place in the national team meant that Sikhila had to put in more effort and she did.
“I worked very hard every day I refused to let anything stop me from becoming a better player not even the fact that I could not afford the roller skates and so I had to borrow in order to train,” she added.
Without roller skates training at night was her only option. “I really wanted to become a better skater and so I had to put in extra hours. Sometimes I could train until 9:30pm or 10pm. I’m very grateful to Omwanda who taught me the skating skills and Mumbi because she was very helpful and allowed me to use her roller skates and also helped me train even at night.”
Her success was almost instant as Kenya finished second behind India to win the 2013 World Cup silver medal. She earned the captaincy in 2015 and has led Kenya to several titles. Last year she guided Kenya to World Cup glory after they beat their hosts 3-1 in the final held in Chennai, India.
Sikhila and Mumbi together founded a women’s Roll ball club at Kenyatta University. The girls in the national team would join hands to take the sport to other universities.
Together with Mumbi they founded the Glory Outreach Assembly (GOA) ladies team which is funded by the church after completing their studies at Kenyatta University.