Sports

National team call up pulled me out of a bad place, says Lionesses guard ‘Mimah Queen’

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 03 – A national team call up is often a dream come true for most sportspeople; the joy and prestige of being called to serve your nation for the very first time is often unmatched. Add on that such a call up comes when you are at your lowest, the you have a cocktail of unimaginable joy.

This is the story of Kenyan basketball rising star Jemimah Omondi, known to most in the basketball circles as ‘Mimah Queen’.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mimah had just finished her undergrad program in University and had ventured into a small business as she figured out the next place to set foot in the job market.

Basketball was her source of joy and relief when the pressures of life built a brick wall around her.

WATCH THE VIDEO INTERVEW HERE

Jemimah Omondi. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

But, her business took a slight hit, and her source of refuge, basketball was nowhere close. The league was halted as the country took measures to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

In the midst of all these, as she struggled to remain afloat, a silver lining shot through her dark sky; she was handed her first ever call up to the national team for the Zone Five FIBA Women’s Afrobasket Qualifiers that were staged in Kigali, Rwanda.

“Personally, I hadn’t expected to be called up to the national team. That moment that I was called up to the national team, I was at my lowest. I was excited and I had to sit down and think of how far I have come from and I told myself I had to work hard to make the final team,” Mimah says, speaking to Capital Sports.

She adds; “I have just finished my undergrad and I was in the moment of trying to get something to do and looking for jobs and also I had started a small business and because of COVID, it started going down. At that time there was no basketball and I was just staying at home and for a long time, I didn’t have motivation for anything,”

Jemimah Omondi. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

“But being called to the national team really lifted my spirits and really motivated me. It pulled me out of the hole I was in. At the same time, it made me busy because I was concentrating on training and preparations and honestly it was a good thing to happen to me.”

The guard, who was in her first season with Storms in the Kenya Basketball Federation (KBF) Women’s Premier League managed to make the final team for the qualifiers in Kigali, where Kenya booked a ticket to the final tournament in Cameroon after beating Egypt in the final.

She continued with her hard work and the input she had in Kigali was enough, as a debutant, to hand her a place in the final 12 that headed to Cameroon for the Afrobasket.

“It was an amazing moment for me to be honest getting to play at two high profile tournaments and getting to meet with different players from different regions. It was amazing to learn and to improve myself,” said the 25-year old.

Jemimah Omondi. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

This was the second time in her career that she was playing in national colors, and the first time for the senior team.

In 2012, she was selected into the national Under-18 team that played in the Junior Zone Five Championships in Kigali before they qualified for the Continental tournament in Dakar, Senegal. It is from these two junior tournaments that her hunger of pursuing a career in basketball grew.

“Playing for the Under-18 national team showed me that actually basketball can take me places. I was just a small girl in High School but it gave me some motivation to try and use the sport to develop myself and also realise my dreams,” explains the guard.

Mimah was always a sporty person from primary school, where she competed in athletics and football. “I would always win from the lower levels until the nationals where I would meet very good competitors,” she joked.

But, she started picking up basketball interest from her elder sister.

Storms and Kenya Lionesses guard Jemimah Omondi during a training session. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

home and tell us stuff about basketball and their tournaments and I started becoming curious about this game,”

“So, I got interested and told my mum that I would like to go to a High School that had a basketball court. I passed my KCPE and was called up to Parklands Arya and that is where my basketball career really took off. My coach convinced my mum to enrol me in boarding school so that I can have more time for training and playing,” she explains.

Mimah continued her growth in basketball and was the pillar of the Arya team that dominated the Nairobi region, but unluckily, the team never quite managed to break into the national level.

After High School, she joined Zetech University where she continued playing basketball for the school team, then went to the University of Nairobi. However, she could not manage to continue her growing basketball career here due to her classes that would usually run from 8am-5pm, leaving her with little room to train and play.

Jemimah Omondi all smiles during a gym session. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

“My elder sister used to play basketball in High School and during mid-term she would always come

But, the basketball bug kept itching and it is from this scratch that she made her next move.

“A friend of mine approached me and told me I could play for USIU under a scholarship. I applied and by God’s grace I got the scholarship and that is how I started playing at USIU, where I am currently studying,” she says.

She then moved to Storms after all sporting activities were halted at the University, as she needed to keep her passion flaming.

The move to Storms, Mimah says, was a masterstroke.

“I had more time to train and more time with the coach (Abel Nson). He helped develop my skills very much as I would work with him during the day and also go to the gym, on top of continuing with my classes. Storms has really moulded me to be the player I am today and it is through Storms that I was able to be called to the national team. Storms keep giving me challenging opportunities and I have really grown as a player,” explains the guard.

Jemimah Omondi. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

They managed to finish fifth in the regular season and qualified for the play-offs, where they swept UoN’s Dynamites 2-0 in the best of five series, MImah putting up a player of the match performance in Game Two with a 25-point haul.

“I am really proud of the team and what we have achieved. Being in the semi-finals is a huge thing for us and we want to go all out and give our best. We are facing a very tough KPA side in the semis but we now that we can push them if we do our best. That is our ambition,” Mimah quipped.

Apart from her targets with Storms, to get to the final in her first year with the team, she also wants to do more with the national team and become a more frequent call up, after enjoying the fruits of her maiden sojourn in 2021.

“It is my dream to be a permanent figure in the national team and I want to put more effort to represent my country. It is an honor for me and donning that national team jersey is the best feeling. I have to keep working and keep improving to remain there,” she adds.

Jemimah Omondi in action against UoN Dynamites during their kBF play-offs. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

Mimah looks up to her seniors, Natali Akinyi of KPA with whom she played with during the Afrobasket tourney as well as former national team captain Samba Mjomba who is currently captaining Equity Bank.

“I love the way they play and they motivate me every day. I also look up Mercy Wanyama and Rose Ouma in the post level because of their attitude and the way they encourage young players. At the Afrobasket I got to play with Victoria Reynolds and the way she plays is just unbelievable. She really motivated me and I want to follow in her footsteps,” she said.

Adding; “This year my target is just to improve myself and try become a better player every day.”

Jemimah Omondi. during a past match PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

A chilled person, calm and quiet, Mimah loves to trade in Forex, watch movies and also gyming as part of her feel-good routine.

With her career taking a positive injection in 2021, she can only aim at the moon and land on the stars in 2022.

Jemimah Omondi prepares to take a shot during a Storms league match. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

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