Anne-Wafula Strike was born in Mihu, Kenya, and became disabled after suffering with polio at age two. After a childhood dealing with personal tragedy and having to fight against prejudice, Anne-Wafula has found success in athletics. She was the first wheelchair athlete from East Africa to compete at the Paralympics in Athens in 2004, and is now training for the 2012 Paralympics Games to represent Team GB. She took a little time out from her rigorous training schedule to answer a few questions for Disability Horizons.
What is life often like for people with disabilities in Kenya?
Life is very tough, full of prejudice and stigma.
What were you doing before you became an athlete?
I was a teacher, housewife and mother.
How did you get into athletics? Was it a lifelong dream or random occurrence?
A random occurrence, I took it up to lose weight after my son was born.
To those unfamiliar with wheelchair athletics, how is your racing wheelchair adapted for sport?
It’s custom built, with two large rear wheels and one at the front which is smaller. The funny thing is that when you are in it kids say things like; “Mummy, I want a buggy like that one.” But, it costs a fortune. If I wasn’t already disabled it would cost an arm and a leg!
What other sports do you like?
Badminton, wheelchair basketball and shooting.
How are you preparing for the 2012 Paralympic Games this year?
I train 6 days a week in the gym, on the road and on the track.
As an athlete are you still allowed to eat junk food or chocolate?
I eat what I want but in moderation. Being born in Africa I was fortunate not to develop a ‘sweet tooth’.
What was the funniest moment during your career? Do you have any funny anecdotes?
I met Prince Edward a few years ago and, as he crouched down to speak to me, my hand slipped off the brake and I almost ran him over!
Have you ever run anybody else over in your wheelchair?
I recently went out for a meal with a friend and ran over his toes as he was trying to open a door for me. He was hopping mad!
What do you do to wind down?
I play the piano, read, and spend time with my family and friends. I enjoy cooking, too.
What is your favourite film?
What athletes have inspired you?
Cheri Blauwet (USA Paralympian).
What tips would you give to any aspiring young athletes out there?
Work hard and never give up. Enjoy your sport.
What more do you think could be done to get more young disabled people involved in athletics and sport generally?
Disability sport needs a lot more media attention to let young disabled people know what they can aspire to.
Where was the best place you have travelled to for a competition?
Where did you last go on holiday?
Outside of athletics, can you tell our readers about your work to improve the lives of disabled people in developing countries? What particular projects or campaigns are you working on and how are they going?
Outside sport I work with a number of charities such as ADD International, Results UK, Right to Play, AbleChild Africa. They all help to promote awareness of disability issues and campaign to persuade governments to make disability issues a priority.
What does the future hold for Anne-Wafula Strike, are there any other things you plan to do?
I love life at the moment and the challenges it brings. Every day I learn something new. Who knows what the future holds?
Anne, thank you very much for your time and all the best!
Want to see more Q&A sessions? Check out our interview with model Shannon Murray, actor David Proud and MP Anne Begg. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and join us on Facebook to keep up to date with all the latest articles.