Anne Wafula Strike: An athlete to know

Anne Wafula Strike is a Paralympic wheelchair racer and athlete to know.

Anne Wafula Strike: An athlete to know

Anne Olympia Wafula Strike is a Paralympic wheelchair racer and Paralympic World Cup Medalist.

In 2004 (Athens), she competed for Kenya and reached the T53 400m finals. She is the first Kenyan wheelchair racer to compete at the Paralympics.

In 2006, she became a British citizen in order to stay with her husband and son. That year, she was on the rise in the T53 category and was on track to medal at the world championship and 2008 Paralympics for Team Great Britain.

But she was suddenly moved to T54, a competition class of athletes with more physical ability and function in their body.

At the time, Wafula Strike said she knew the decision was unjust. She’s also said it “effectively ended” her career.

“I came into the sport late, at the age of 30. I loved it so much,” she said. “But because of what happened to me I was never allowed to reach my potential as an athlete. What might have been had I not been treated unjustly haunts me every day.”

Years later, it was revealed that the revaluation of her classification was suggested by the husband of another Team GB athlete – and acted upon by UK Athletics – because he believed Wafula Strike was cheating and had too much body movement (and increasing success) for someone in her classification. So then, she was “reclassified into a more able-bodied category, despite her medical records going missing before the test.”

Officials now describe the move as unacceptable, a mistake, and says it ignored evidence. One official even noted the reclassification cost Wafula Strike funding and sponsorships.

The Guardian wrote, “Having taken podium positions in T53 races in the months leading up to the world championships, Wafula Strike finished second-last in her T54 200m heat. In the same competition [the other Team GB athlete] competed in the T53 200m and won gold.”

From then, Wafula Strike continued to compete for Team Great Britain. She won bronze at the 2007 Paralympic World Cup in the T54 category. She did not qualify for the 2008 Games in Beijing or the 2012 Games in London, narrowly missing out both times.

Anne Olympia Wafula Strike was born in Mihuu, Bungoma, Kenya. She contracted polio at two years old, resulting in a later diagnosis of below T7 paralysis.

She moved to the UK in 2000, and while looking for a sport to take up, was introduced to wheelchair racing in 2002.

She told the BBC, "I was sitting at home, looking after my child, and I was going through the TV channels. I settled on a BBC channel. And what captured my mind, my eyes, was I saw these amazing women racing in their wheelchairs.”

"The more I stared on the screen, the more I locked eyes with one lady. And I was captured, I was like... 'This is what I want to do'.

Wafula Strike has described wheelchair racing as the equivalent of Formula 1. While training to qualify for the 2012 Paralympic Games, she trained six days a week between the gym, road, and track.

“My track sessions usually last between one and a half to two hours. I spend some time on the rollers and some time in the gym,” she told The Guardian. “I also spend a fair amount of time on the road. My usual week will consist of two days with two sessions, usually on the track and in the gym, and the rest featuring a mixture of road, track and gym, depending on my schedule.”

Anne Wafula Strike is now an advocate for accessibility, charity, disability in sports and sports venues. She also frequently writes for news outlets and offers public speaking about the issues she cares most about.

"As a disabled black woman, I'm not crying for sympathy, I do not want a pat on the head or a pat on my shoulder, what I want is opportunity,” she said. "When you are given the opportunity, you thrive, you grow, then you're able to give back to this life, to this world. And I think that is what life should be about - it should be about giving opportunities."

Learn more about Anne Wafula Strike

Video: Anne Wafula Strike: Paralympian, author and role model

Anne Wafula Strike on journey from Kenyan outcast to wheelchair racer

Even for a Paralympian, the tale of Anne Olympia Wafula Strike is truly astonishing

London Olympic hopefuls: Anne Wafula Strike

Strike for Gold! Q&A with Paralympic athlete Anne-Wafula Strike

Her Book: 'In My Dreams I Dance'

Read her articles in The Guardian

Connect with Anne Wafula Strike

Her website