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Record-breaking Muteti is at home in the swimming pool

Jason and David Dunford, arguably two of the greatest swimmers ever to come from Africa, are reported to have skipped competitions last year to concentrate on the Commonwealth Games slated for Glasgow this July.

The brothers’ performance has been outstanding at major events and they keep getting better from the time they won Kenya’s first international medals during the 2006 Dakar African Swimming Championship.

However, it was not all gloom for Kenya without the brothers. Their absence was a blessing in disguise as other swimmers got a piece of the limelight.

One of them is Emily Muteti, who at 15, has won a number of national and international titles, broken records and set tongues wagging.

The petite student at Visa Oshwal Academy in Mombasa was voted Most Promising Sports Personality during last month’s Sports Personality of the Year awards in Nairobi. She has dominated competitions since she began swimming in 2010.

Paul Tergat hands over a trophy to Most promising Sports personality Emily Muteti (left) on 10th December 2013 during Safaricom Soya Awards Dinner at Kenya Wildlife Services Headquarters.Photo/CHRIS OMOLLO
Paul Tergat hands over a trophy to Most promising Sports personality Emily Muteti (left) on 10th December 2013 during Safaricom Soya Awards Dinner at Kenya Wildlife Services Headquarters.Photo/CHRIS OMOLLO

“I started swimming for fun when I was nine-years-old; it never occurred to me that it could become my favourite sport,” said Muteti.

At 12, she set five new records in the girls’ 12 to 13 years 400m freestyle, 200m individual medley, 200m freestyle, 50m breaststroke and 50m backstroke.

Muteti clocked 5mins 17.16 seconds, 2mins 52.87, 2 mins 33.47, 41.34 and 37.47 in the respective races during the Coast Open and Age Group Swimming Championship.

“I had practised hard for my first competitive event. I wanted to put on a good show and I was excited about the results in spite of being nervous before the races,” she said.

At her first international assignment during the South Africa Invitational Level Two Swimming Championship in 2011, she bagged three gold medals.

Later that year, she broke six national records in the 4x100m Individual Medley, 200m Butterfly and 200m Backstroke.

In February 2012, Muteti erased her national record of 21.25.01 set the previous October with a new time of 21.20.35 in the girls’ 12 and 13 years 1,500m freestyle.

“She is an amazing, young talent and a sensation in the pool. I pray her talent is nurtured and she is guided well,” said her coach Abdulmalikl Abdulkarim.

Muteti said she took every race seriously and prepared well as if it was a final. “I have disciplined myself to prepare for all my races thoroughly as if it were my last; I give it my all,” she said.

Muteti said 2013 was her most successful year because she dominated at the national and continental level.

She was part of the team that represented Kenya at the African Swimming Championship in Zambia last year and won seven gold medals and three silvers, besides breaking seven national records.

“That was my best moment in my career because I beat some of the leading swimmers on the continent under intense pressure,” Muteti said.

But it has not always been a bed of roses. She has suffered bad races with poor results and received criticism. A case in point is the Fina World Youth Championships in Dubai and the World Championships in Barcelona when she failed to click held last year.

“I got a lot of criticism because I think people expect me to win every competition. I am only human, there are times when I’m beaten. I cannot win all the time,” she said.

Muteti, however, said that the disappointment she felt motivated her to work hard and correct her mistakes.

“You don’t give up just because you have had a bad day at a competition. As a competitor, you will live to fight another day,” said Muteti.

She is back in training and aiming for better fortunes this year. Muteti is hoping to continue with her domination and achieve her dream of becoming one of the best female swimmers Kenya has ever produced.

“I am aware of the challenges I face. My competitors are working hard to beat me. I will not rest on my laurels but engage the top gear because I enjoy winning races. I hope to do Kenya proud at the Commonwealth Games,” said Muteti.