THE TOUCHLINE COLUMN

Kenya's pride Okutoyi deserves more from government

As we speak, Okutoyi lacks a stable sponsor and merely depends on meager funds provided by Tennis Kenya.

In Summary

•Bouyed by her unprecedented success in Melbourne, Okutoyi shifted focus to the French and Wimbledon Open tournaments where she pledged to target masterstrokes.

•The government must swing into action soonest given she is set to play in the US Open later on in September.

Angela Okutoyi during the 2022 Junior Australian Open
Angela Okutoyi during the 2022 Junior Australian Open
Image: Australian Open

On April 25, Kenya’s tennis sensation Angela Okutoyi vowed to cap off her glittering career with a dream maiden Grand Slam title.

Okutoyi spoke during a fundraising event organised by Tennis Kenya, weeks after she had awed the world with her sublime performance at the Australia Open in Melbourne.

There, she made history as the first Kenyan to win a girls’ junior singles Grand Slam match.

Buoyed by her unprecedented success in Melbourne, Okutoyi shifted focus to the French and Wimbledon Open tournaments where she pledged to target masterstrokes.

And on Saturday, her wish became a reality when she made history as the first Kenyan to win a Grand Slam title at the girls’ juniors Wimbledon event, partnering with Dutch tennis player, Rose Marie Nijkamp.

After surviving an early scare, the duo rallied from behind to upset the Canadian pair of Kayla Cross and Victoria Mboko 3-6, 6-4, 11-9 on their way to the historical feat.

Okutoyi disclosed how a pep talk with world number one, Iga Swiatek of Poland inspired her to the feat.

Undoubtedly, her scintillating form at the Wimbledon Junior doubles has earned the country immeasurable pride.

Okutoyi needs a firm support system from the government and the corporate world to enable her to maintain her rightful status in high-profile tennis circles.

As we speak, she lacks a stable sponsor and merely depends on meagre funds provided by TK.  But all said and done, her coach Francis Rogoi remains optimistic about her prospects on the global stage despite the raging tides.

Rogoi, who has been training Okutoyi since 2014, concedes it's quite hectic to prepare for tournaments without proper facilities and funding.

TK head of marketing Rose Meghas reckons that Okutoyi has her whole life ahead of her but needs a lot of support in her journey towards greatness. Born on January 29, 2004, Okutoyi has experienced a meteoric rise to stardom.

At the tender age of 14, she stunned three-time former champion Shufaa Changawa 6-1, 7-6 at Nairobi Club to clinch the Britam Kenya Open Tennis Championship (Women) held in September 2018.

She boasts the singles and doubles titles at the East Africa Zonals Under 14, the singles at ITF Kigali Junior International Open, singles AJCCC Under-14 in Algeria, and doubles at the ITF Kigali Junior International Open.

Okutoyi attended Mbagathi Road primary school up to Grade Five, before earning an ITF scholarship to study at the prestigious Kings International School in Burundi on the strength of her excellence in tennis.

Currently, in her final year homeschooling programme, Okutoyi must juggle a very tight schedule between her studies and sports. A far-much novel model must now be adopted to propel her to dizzy heights.

Unfortunately, even after meeting with Sports CS Amina Mohamed upon her return from the Australian Junior Open in Melbourne in February, Okutoyi has not received any backing from the ministry.

One wonders what became of the government's lofty dream of setting up a national tennis training centre at Kasarani.

Five years down the line, nothing has moved after ITF president David Haggerty met with President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The government must swing into action soonest given she is set to play in the US Open later on in September.

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