“I couldn’t balance my swimming and my studies, so I either gave up on swimming or studies,” said Emily Muteti, 19-year-old swimmer from Mombasa, Kenya. Emily started swimming at age nine but joined the Dolphin Swim Club at age 10. She trained three times a week and decided to change schools when her studies and swim training clashed. It led to her membership in the Mombasa Aquatics Club.
Her career as a professional swimmer started when her coaches sensed her innate talent. “When I started swimming, my coaches thought I would do better if I had a swim coach. I’ve been pushed to some limits I didn’t want to, and I didn’t like it. My coaches are too tough on me but always said he didn’t want my skills to go to waste.”
Emily arrived at Thanyapura after FINA gave her the scholarship after training in Kenya. In Kenya, many swimmers applied for the program. Emily believes luck is on her side. “It helped because it exposed me to people around the world. I meet different swimmers with different abilities. They do it because they feel you can make it. The scholarship helps us to achieve the times for the Budapest competition. They know I’m capable of it if they choose me. I’m grateful for it since I’m the only Kenyan who won it.”
Emily enjoys Thanyapura and values all it has to offer. “The whole place looks beautiful. The pool is a 50 meter pool. It has one of the best diving blocks. It’s the best gym I’ve ever come across. The weather and the pool temperature is good. We have great swimmers who can help me improve with good spirits. I met people I didn’t meet at home. There’s a good team spirit here. I look forward to morning and evening sessions.”
Thanyapura’s coaches has been instrumental to pushing her to be the best swimmer she can be. “I train with David Escolar Ballesteros. He doesn’t listen to any excuses. He doesn’t let me stop, so I have to get used to it. Miguel is all about hard sets. He’s a parent and a coach. He listens to you and helps you with whatever you want. He makes me want to push harder and look forward to training with him.”
Training for the World Championships as a Kenyan differs from swimmers of other countries. “To compete in the world championships, you have to compete in the country at least once. I did nationals this past February and improved in international swim meets in South Africa.”
Training for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is more than just winning a medal. For Emily, perform well in Tokyo is her ticket to maintaining the scholarship. “I can hold onto the scholarship if they improvements in swim meets. What I didn’t have at home, I have here.”
Emily fought through hardships, especially having been raised by a single mother in a family of five. “I have to participate in swim meets outside the country. The parent pays at least 2,200 USD. When I went to the meets, I got medals the first time while other people have to try multiple times. As a family of five, my mom pays for school tuition and rent. She continues to support me, despite swimming being an expensive sport. One of the FINA representatives helped me raise money for international swim meets. I thought I might have to stop swimming.”
Emily loves sports and wants to give back to Kenyan society. She wants to study sports management and give to society what she did not have. She wants to secure sponsorships and help other swimmers get seen and recognised. She will use her education and connections to nurture future talented swimmers.