German-Born Kenyan Alexandra Ndolo to Represent Kenya in Sports
Alexandra Ndolo: When you mention Fencing, not many Kenyans will associate it with a sport. Many would look at it as the process of putting up a structure to enclose an area. But, German-born Kenyan Alexandra Ndolo is keen to sway the thought and help grow the sport in the country, one that most only see during the Olympic Games.
According to Wikipedia, Fencing is a combat sport that features sword fighting. The three disciplines of modern fencing are the foil, the épée, and the sabre (also saber); each discipline uses a different kind of blade, which shares the same name, and employs its own rules.
Ndolo, born of a Kenyan father and a German mother switched allegiances from Germany to Kenya in 2022, and is now keen to grow the sport in the country of his father’s birth.
She had represented Germany for 15 years, until November 22 when she decided to fence for Kenya.
Not only did I make history as the first Kenyan woman to ever compete in a major @FIE_fencing event, but I also ended up 10th out of 271 participants ???????????????? pic.twitter.com/KEM71CjLl3
— alexandra ndolo (@NdoloAlexandra) November 13, 2022
She had already been an integral part of setting up the Fencing Federation of Kenya since 2014, which was recognized by the National Olympic Committee of Kenya in 2019.
It was at the 2022 World Championships in Cairo, where she won a silver medal in the women’s apee event that she fully considered the thought of switching her representation to Kenya.
“I was born and raised in Germany and I consider myself German. But, through my father, I also consider myself Kenyan,” Ndolo told Capital Sport in an interview from Germany where she is based.
“Last Summer at the World Championships which were held on African soil, I won a medal for Germany but I also saw a Kenyan flag, which was the first time at the World Championships and it was a mix of emotions. I saw the flag raised and I felt I could be part of it and win medals for Kenya, to put the country on the World map,” Ndolo notes.
From there, she started her journey to switch allegiances and from November, she was officially allowed to fence for Kenya.
Isaac Wanyoike was the first Kenyan to fence Kenya at the World Championships in Cairo, and this was made possible by the World Fencing Federation which sponsors new Federations who are required to send one athlete at every major championship.
Ndolo’s first competition for Kenya was in Tallin, Estonia, at a World Cup Epee event and she also proceeded to Canada, where she also competed at a World Cup event, in Kenyan colors. She has also competed in Qatar in January.
In Tallin, the 36-year old says the feeling and emotion of seeing the Kenyan flag raised and her name called out was massive for her.
“It was so emotional for me. Seeing the Kenyan flag in the hall, and they had to buy it and raise it because of me was massive. It was so cool hearing the announcer saying my name and that I represent Kenya. It was so emotional for me,” Ndolo further explains.
After her first three events in Kenyan colors, her biggest dream now is to become the first woman to represent Kenya in fencing at the Olympic Games and her target is Paris 2024.
To qualify for Paris, she needs to attend all the 10 qualification events lined up between April 2023 and April 2024 and accrue enough points to enable her become top ranked in Africa. If she is ranked top in the continent by April 2024, she will get a direct qualification to Paris.
There are eight World Cup events, one Zonal Championship and one World Championship which comprise of the 10 majors she has to compete in and accrue ranking points.
“It would be hugely immense for me. I love being a trailblazer. Before switching to Kenya, I was the first black woman in the German national team and it was huge for me. I love making people see that something is possible. Just showing that Kenya can do it and Kenya can send an athlete to the Olympic Games would be massive for me,” Ndolo further said.
She adds; “Of course in my career I want to win and get medals but the second part of it is that I want to leave a legacy. If you have some kid watching me on TV at the Olympics and then 20, 30 years we have a World Champion coming from Kenya and saying she was inspired by me, that would be immeasurable.”
Ndolo, now 36, started the sport at 21, training at Germany’s best centres and growing up to win medals for her country of birth. At 10, she started off by competing in the modern pentathlon, which is a mix of fencing, running, horse riding, shooting and swimming.
“At 16, I had to stop because the training was dissolved and the coach had left the region. When I was 21, I moved to the city of Bonn, that is where the national team trains, and I started training with them. I had once been invited for a youth training camp at 13 and the coach had seen my talent there,” explains Ndolo.
She started competing from then and has won numerous medals for Germany.
And now, she wants to inspire the next generation from Kenya to pursue the same dream as her.
“I want to establish a Fencing club in every county. I know it is ambitious but possible. I also want us to have a string national team and I want to see more people competing. Also, we can make this a huge recreational sport as well,” she says.
Ndolo is a founding member of the National fencing federation and she has also helped start a training centre in Huruma, where she constantly donates the expensive fencing equipment to see to it that more kids can embrace the game.
“Most people see fencing as an elite sport and that is why I love the fact that the centre is in Huruma. We can have more people from less fortunate areas embrace the sport and I see a lot of talent there. It is just that we need more exposure. We need to have more regional competitions around East African countries to ensure we have competitive exposure,” explains Ndolo.
She says the biggest challenge as at now is the financial bit, but remains confident that they can keep working and earn more trust from sponsors and partners.
“It has been a challenge of course trying to introduce the sport because not many people know about it. I always see comments on social media like ‘wow okay so when is she coming to fence my area’ and I just laugh. But I have tried to do much in introducing the sport through social media and talking about it and we have more people expressing their interest,” she notes.
Her ambition is to also grow the Federation, whose trajectory was slowed down by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ultimately, she would love to move to Kenya and be more hands on. Before then, she wants to do the next two Olympic Games.
“At the moment I can’t move because in Germany the facilities and the level is quite high and if you want to remain on top, you have to be at the best facilities and attend the best competitions. Ultimately, I would love to move to Nairobi because I am a bit more hands on,” she notes.
She dreams of one day having the best fencers from Africa and the world at large coming from Kenya and she knows that one day, her dream will turn into reality.
German-Born Kenyan Alexandra Ndolo to Represent Kenya in Sports