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Thika’s Unsung Heroes - The Kenyan Olympian Very Few People Know About.

Kenyan James Omondi lifting a weight during the just concluded Rio 2016 Olympics in Brazil.

Between the 5th and 21st August 2016, sports enthusiasts all over the world were glued to their television to watch Summer Olympics, commonly known as Rio 2016, a major international multi-sport event held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Kenya sent a 50-strong team of athletes to compete at the games which featured all seven of Kenya’s world champions: David Rudisha, Asbel Kiprop, Ezekiel Kemboi, Nicholas Bett, Julius Yego, Vivian Cheruiyot and Hyvin Kiyeng.

But did you know that one of the athletes who participated Rio 2016 was actually from Thika? James Omondi Adede, a resident of this town actually emerged 19th overall in the just concluded 2016 Rio Olympics weightlifting Finals in his category.

Omondi will easily pass for just any other bouncer in town due to his broad and muscular figure, the physical characteristics associated with these guys.

Born and brought up in a family of five in Kitengela, Kajiado County, Omondi got hooked into lifting weights after high school in the year 2006 where he could lift weights made from locally made materials. A year later, his close friend officially introduced him to the sport.

In the year 2009, he qualified to represent Kenya for the junior championship in Kampala Uganda where he won a bronze medal. This success that inspired him to stay in the sport that has shaped eight Kenyan Olympians before him. 

“I trained consistently, I got stronger and in 2010, I qualified for the Commonwealth games in India, my first major international event. I finished in tenth position. My dream though was then to represent Kenya in the 2012 London Olympics but unfortunately I suffered an injury that kept me away for a while,” said Omondi.
In the year 2014, he was again in the Kenyan team that participated in the Commonwealth games in Scotland. A year later, he was in the Kenyan delegation that was in Congo for the All African Games where he was placed seventh after returning a total of 261kg, snatching 115 and jerking 145 kilos.

The following year, he was in the African Championship in Uganda where he won the bronze medal. Early this year, he managed to make it to the Olympics in Rio Brazil after emerging fourth in the ‘94 category’ during the qualifiers in Cameroon. He was the only Kenyan participating in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Omondi reckons that there is very little support for the sport in Kenya. He suggests that the county government through its youth and sports ministry should come up with a sports complex or centre where the youth can benefit from training in any sport.

Basically, Omondi spends about sh. 3,000 weekly to attend training sessions in Nairobi, an amount he admits kills the sport in Kenya as not so many athletes will afford.

“Apart from during the Olympics where the government, through National Olympic Committee (NOC), caters for our expenses and training, weightlifting receives no attention from the authorities, leaving weightlifters to struggle on their own to qualify. So much talent goes to waste during this period. Nothing is easy but you must give it your all,” he says.
The Kenyan Olympics team receiving the Kenyan flag from President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House Nairobi before leaving for Rio Brazil. See James Omondi (extreme left).

Omondi is currently training one girl in the sport but has a big dream to train a bigger number as in this way, the sport will grow and get the attention it deserves from the authorities.

The athlete targets to win a medal in next year’s Commonwealth Games in Australia, and if possible, a gold medal to be precise. He able lift 130kg (Snatch) and Clean and Jerk of 170kg and hopes to improve on his personal best and boost his overall ranking in the sport.

Other than being a weightlifter, Omondi also doubles up as a fitness trainer at Thika Gymkhana and a food nutritionist where he works with Neha Beauty Spa in Zuri centre among others. He is currently the brand ambassador for Broadways Bakeries Ltd in their campaign to eradicate diabetes in the region.

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