Kenyan Athlete Achieng Ajulu Reveals Suffering After Switching Loyalty to Britain

Kenyan Athlete Achieng Ajulu Reveals Suffering After Switching Loyalty to Britain
Kenyan Athlete Achieng Ajulu Reveals Suffering After Switching Loyalty to Britain

A retired Kenyan athlete Rebecca Achieng Ajulu has come out to share the pain and suffering that followed her change of nationality in the international swimming championships.

Rebecca Achieng Ajulu-Bushell initially represented Kenya as a professional swimmer – including the 2009 World Championships in Rome where she won medals for the country, at a tender age of 15 years.

She also won the Kenyan Sports Personality of the Year, African Games medalist, World School’s Champion while in her teen years.

However, in 2010, her mother decided that she was better placed to represent Britain – a decision that made the first black woman to swim for Britain – even being picked to represent the European country in the 2012 Olympic Games that were held in London.

The decision drew controversy – with the Kenyan sports fraternity disappointed that the promising talent had opted to change nationality just as she was about to make Kenya proud in the swimming competitions where the country has not had much success – when compared to its fortunes in other athletic events.

After all of these achievements, she left the world of sports in 2012, just months before she was to compete at the Olympic Games – drawing negative coverage from the British press.

Now retired, Achieng, has come out to express regret at the turn of events that followed her decision to change nationality – saying it exposed her to racism and bullying which had an effect on her mental well-being.

“What I achieved as an elite athlete I should have carried with pride for the last 10 years, maybe not straight away, but after the depression and the loss and sadness faded, I wish I had been able to celebrate it all for what it was.

Instead, I felt ashamed, I didn’t talk about it, I recreated myself, again and again, let it fade into the background until it felt like a different lifetime. I was embarrassed,” the 28-year old recounted her teenage years.

The retired swimmer noted that she had little control over the decision made to move her from the Kenyan team to Britain. Her mother, who is British, had in 2010 attributed the decision to the need to expose her to better training facilities.

“I realise it was all a shame. Shame about how I was treated, by coaches. My performance was a commodity and how fast I could swim was more important than my well-being. Embarrassed about the way the press wrote about me when I failed to live up to expectations, that I couldn’t talk about the pressure because you couldn’t show weakness.

Shame that my change of sporting nationality, a decision I was barely a part of, was pulled apart, and people said the most horrible things about me; I was 14. But most of all that my black, mixed-race, multi-national identity and developing female body was picked apart, debated and subject to racism,” she narrated.

Her post was received with a lot of messages of support and encouragement. Some of which called her brave for sharing her story.

After retiring as a swimmer, the daughter of renowned Kenyan academician Prof Rok Ajulu has become a film-maker.

She recently made a film documentary called Breakfast in Kisumu based on her late father’s experiences during the apartheid period in South Africa.

“The film made me understand the weight of my blackness and how I’ve come to terms with my identity in a very white rural area. Making this film gave me a real sense of purpose,” Achieng told the BBC.

Prof Ajulu was a renowned critic of the Apartheid regime and was married to the current South African Minister of Tourism Lindiwe Sisulu – until he passed on in 2016.


How millions are changing hands as media personalities switch loyalties

Kenyan Athlete Achieng Ajulu Reveals Suffering After Switching Loyalty to Britain

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