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Pregnant at 12, Ongare now headed to Olympics

By Amos Abuga
Monday, March 2nd, 2020
An emotional Christine Ongare after beating Catherine Nanziri of Uganda in Dakar, Senegal on Saturday to secure her ticket to the Tokyo Olympics. Photo/PD/AMOS ABUGA

When you get pregnant at 12, you think your life has come to an end most of the times.

That is what Christine Ongare felt 14 years ago when still a child, she  became a mother.

Her mother would be forced to bring the two of them up and to date, her 14-year old teenage daughter has grown up referring to her grandmother as ‘mum’.

But unlike many who may give up, that setback acted as the fuel to fire Ongare’s dream and on Saturday, she reached the pinnacle when she qualified for the July 24 to August 9 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

Heading to the Africa Olympics qualifiers in Dakar, Senegal two weeks ago, Ongare had one thing in mind.

Qualifying for the Tokyo games as the monetary gains will uplift her life and her family.

She delivered just that as the 26-year-old beat Uganda’s Catherine Nanziri in a unanimous decision in the flyweight box-off on Saturday night to become the first Kenyan woman boxer to qualify for the Olympics through a competitive qualifier.

The Kenya Police Service boxer scored 30-27, 29-28, 29-28, 30-27 and 29-28 respectively to claim bronze.

“This is legit! This is happening! I am happy to be living my dream. I want to give my family a decent life in the right way,” an emotional Ongare, the 2018 Commonwealth bronze medallist, told People Sport after the fight.

“I have been to hell and back and today has to be my resurrection. Being here to witness the historic achievement is something I will never forget.

I thank God for those who have sacrificed for me to be here,” added Ongare who, had previously tried playing football as well as martial arts.

Before departing for Dakar, the Kariobangi native had also wanted to surpass the achievements of her mentor and team vice captain Elizabeth Andiego. 

Andiego made history as the first Kenyan woman to make the Olympics after she was handed a wild card for the 2012 London Games and while she was not successful in Dakar, Ongare says she had already broken the glass ceiling for the country’s female boxers. 

“Kenyan boxing will always be indebted to Andiego for what she achieved eight years ago.

I am very grateful to have joined this special class of women,” said Ongare, who last Wednesday lost to Moroccan Rabab Cheddar in the semis.

She went on: “I know my triumph will be celebrated in the Ghetto as well. I want to be a source of inspiration that no matter what life throws at you, everything is possible with God, self believe and hard work.” 

Ongare will join skipper Nick ‘Commander’ Okoth in Tokyo after only two of the 13 boxers Kenya sent to Dakar qualified.

Okoth, who will be making his second appearance at the Olympics after a 12-year hiatus, settled for silver with Zambia’s Everisto Mulenga wining gold.

The 13 boxers (eight men and five women) ended the qualifiers with one silver and three bronze medals. Okoth took silver while Ongare, Elizabeth Akinyi and Elly Ajowi settled for bronze.

With the African qualifiers over, attention now shifts to the World Olympic qualifying tournament due from May 13-20 in Paris, France where Kenya has a chance to qualify more boxers especially with Olympian Rayton Okwiri expected to compete.