- Through a grievous error of miscommunication and, somewhat, the doctors’ negligence, Wacuka lost her two legs.
- ‘‘I participated in Commonwealth Games in India in 2010 where I was fourth overall, which motivated me to put more in more work in training.
- Like every athlete, her dream has always been to take part in the Olympics. But her best chance ever went up in smoke in 2016, following the woes that bedevilled the Kenyan team in Brazil.
At Kasarani Aquatic Stadium, Ann Wacuka, 30, takes to water like duck, gliding across the swimming pool and giving her opponents a tidy run for their money. Watching her thrust forward and kick in water, it is difficult to imagine that she might have any physical disadvantage, until she emerges from water; Wacuka is a double amputee.
The only child of a single mother, Wacuka was born with polio, which caused limb disability on her arms and legs. This however has never kept her from excelling in life, particularly in athletics.
‘‘My legs were conjoined at birth. They were later separated in hospital where I was able to attend school at Joy Town Primary School in Thika,” she narrates.
Until 1996, Wacuka was leading a pretty normal life. Then tragedy stuck.
‘‘I was in Standard Four when I went for an operation. My right leg had been operated on to straighten it but it did not heal. It had a large wound which was not healing. It had to be amputated,’’ she recalls with an air of deflation.
“They erroneously cut the fine left leg. When they discovered their mistake, they proceeded to cut the spoilt right leg.”’
Through a grievous error of miscommunication and, somewhat, the doctors’ negligence, Wacuka lost her two legs.
‘‘While I was psychologically affected, my mother was terribly devastated. Her health deteriorated for months. It was a trying moment for us,’’ she recollects.
Today, Wacuka uses prosthetic legs to walk, and, except for her mild gait and the stiffness of the artificial legs, it is barely possible to notice her abnormality.
‘‘I can walk for a 100 metres without the help of crutches. But beyond that wears me down. With crutches though, I can walk for miles,’’ she says.
Kasarani Safaricom Stadium is her other home, where she commutes from her home in Kariobangi North every Tuesday and Thursday, to train with other athletes like herself.
‘‘This has been my routine for seven years now. Nothing gives me more fulfilment than the feeling of being in water,’’ she says.
Wacuka began swimming as a Standard Seven pupil at Joy Town School in 2000. But her breakthrough in swimming came in 2010 when her friend proposed her name to a swimming coach.
But to prove her talent, she had to compete with other swimmers.
“I had not trained for more than three years and here I was, competing against swimmers who had regularly been training. I thought I would lose the chance. But when the whistle went, I dived into the water and swam so fast that I had to wait for the others on the other end.’’