Three budding Kenyan Muay Thai fighters landed in Phuket, Thailand on Thursday morning ready to live, train and fight at the home of the sport in the bid to secure a ticket to represent their country at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Hailing from disadvantaged backgrounds in the sprawling slums of Nairobi, Brian Serete (18), Martin Achebi (18) and Javan Buyu (20) departed Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Wednesday evening to Thailand where they aspire to get battle-hardened for the forthcoming Tokyo 2020 qualifiers.
The trio who train locally at the Ultra Fitness Gym under the guidance of seasoned martial arts coach, Maurice Odera received a huge boost when leading local technology and entertainment business firm facilitated their trip and stay in Thailand as part of their expanded sports development agenda.
“I have no other means of earning a living. I turned to this sport since I come from a family of little means. I started training at a gym called Coliseum every Saturday but we were chased away.
“A friend of Maurice, Kevin Muruka a fighter introduced me to the coach who picked me up and started sharpening my skills and got me my first fight. I became interested in sport and I want to use it to get my family out of Kibra,” Selete who has roots in the biggest slum in Sub Saharan Africa said ahead of departure.
“I started engaging in martial arts for self defense in kick boxing aged nine. I had no means to access good training facilities and I competed for the first time when I turned 11.
“I started watching and being interested in Muay Thai after watching YouTube and I wondered where I would get the chance to engage in the sport. When I heard there was Muay Thai in Kenya, I was excited when I got the opportunity to join Ultra Fitness,” Buyu who hails from the low income small village of Kayole that is located close to Donholm, Komarock and Umoja estates offered.
On his part, Achebi who also grew up in the same crime-infested estate is relishing his breakthrough in the sport that has taken him from Kayole to his first trip alongside his colleagues out of Kenya as he shares in the dream of donning his nation’s colours at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
“It’s unbelievable that I have come this far. I had a lot of hardship growing up and through Muay Thai, I have a chance of doing something for my country and I hope to make the Olympics with my colleagues,” Achebi underscored.
Coach Odera believes such initiatives will go a long way in developing the sport locally.
“We are delighted with this sponsorship as these young men represent the future of the sport that is gaining wide popularity in the country. Our vision is to expose them to the best fighters out there since locally, they have no competition. If we want them to fight here, we can only use fighters from Uganda and Tanzania and through them, we can encourage more youngsters to take up Muay Thai,” coach Odera emphasised.
“We want to make them stars and national heroes like Fatuma Zarika, who has inspired many from the slums that they can make it count in sport and with our sponsor on board, we believe they will make such an inspiring journey,” Odera added, in reference to the rise of Kenyan boxing queen from Majengo slums to the prestigious female World Boxing Council Super Bantamweight title.
This discipline is known as the “art of eight limbs” as it is characterized by the combined use of fists, elbows, knees, and shins.
Muay Thai became widespread internationally in the late 20th to 21st century, when westernized practitioners from Thailand began competing in kickboxing, mixed rules matches, as well as matches under Muay Thai rules around the world.
The professional league is governed by The Professional Boxing Association of Thailand (P.A.T) sanctioned by The Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT), and World Professional Muay Thai Federation (WMF) overseas.
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