"I jump into a sand pit for a living"
Anne Wafula-StrikeVerite Sport was delighted to hear that UK Athletics had appointed Anne Wafula-Strike as a non-executive director to the board of UK Athletics.
Anne Wafula-Strike, the former GB & NI Paralympic wheelchair racer, who previously competed for Kenya at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games, has been appointed to the role. In recent years Wafula-Strike has concentrated on charity work, fundraising and motivational speaking. She was awarded an MBE in 2014 for her services to disability sport and charity.
Wafula-Strike said: “It was a big honour to be asked to join the UK Athletics board. I’m passionate about contributing to the sport and giving back in a different way. “It’s a privilege, and a challenge but I am willing to learn. The next few years are very exciting with the London IPC and IAAF World Championships on the horizon, and it’s important that we put the sport onto the map so come 2017 it’s at the forefront of everyone’s mind.”
Ed Warner, Chairman of UKA said: “We are delighted to have Anne join us on the board of UK Athletics. As a performance athlete she competed at the highest level, whilst her wide experience in charity and ambassadorial work gives her a unique viewpoint on the development of our sport. “I am sure her contribution will have a significant impact on the way British Athletics builds momentum towards the 2017 London Games”.
Stuart first met Anne more than three years ago.
Anne Wafula Strike was born in Kenya and contracted polio aged two. Her early life was very difficult. “When I was struck down by polio it was very devastating for my family. Because I was in a village and the villagers did not understand what it was. I came from a very deprived background. Most people around us believed in witchcraft and were very superstitious. People thought it was witchcraft. Others thought it was a curse from God. That God must be so angry with my parents that he decided to punish them by striking me down with polio”.
After a life walking with crutches and callipers, she got her first wheelchair when she was pregnant. She discovered wheelchair sports and competed for Kenya in the 2004 Paralympics, making the 400 metres final in the T53 classification 400 metres – the first East African to compete as a wheelchair racer in the Paralympics.
Anne says of the experience, “Being in Athens was like a new chapter in my life, one that I was going to live and celebrate for a long time. When I was on the starting line and heard the announcement, “Anne Wafula, representing Kenya”, I was so proud to be there representing my nation on the world stage.
“What made me more proud was there I was on the world stage. And that was a girl who had been cast out by the community. This was a girl – the community had looked at me and I was good for nothing. At one stage they wanted me dead but here I was flying the flag it was a blessing. That was just incredible. It was a blessing”.
In 2007 she won a bronze in the Paralympic World Cup and fourth place in the World Championships. In 2008 she missed out on selection for Team GB – where she now lives – for the Beijing Paralympics by 0.1 seconds. “After having such a great year in 2007, I was confident of making the team. It was so hard not to make the team after working 4 years. But as a Christian, I believed that God had a purpose for me – whether to win a medal or not get to the start line. And when I missed out on selection, my faith supported me. The experience made me a stronger person”.
Her relationship with Jesus is central to who she is: “Having Jesus in my life puts a smile on my face every day. It is a smile that is from within. When people see the smile on my face, it is the glory of God. People don’t just see Anne. They see Anne who is covered in the glory of God.”
See my review of Anne's autobiography: In my dreams I dance