Sport

At 57, Mary Wachira is Kenya's oldest tennis player

At 57, Mary Wachira is Kenya's oldest tennis player
  • When she’s not on the tennis court, Wachira manages Graceland Girls High school in Nyeri, where she also doubles as a tennis coach.
  • She also dedicates her free time to baking and meeting up with the junior players to teach them the importance of keeping fit and maintaining good health.

Exercise, proper diet and involvement in any sporting activity top the list when it comes to maintaining good health and fitness regardless of your age.

These three factors have been part of 57-year-old Mary Wachira’s life as she continuously engages her muscles while playing tennis for the last 25 years.

This has immensely contributed to her physical, mental and social wellbeing as she puts the lessons of discipline, hard work and persistence into her daily life.

The naturally athletic mother of two was introduced to tennis in 1993 by current Kenya women’s coach Peter Wachira and former Tennis Kenya chairman Patrick Gichira while working at an office machine distributing company known as Copycat Kenya, where she was employed between 1988 and 1999.

This is after she had left Kenya Power Limited, where she worked immediately after high school between 1981-1983 actively participating in the 100 metres and 200 metres inter-branch athletics competitions.

Mary Wachira during her training session at Nairobi Club on September 18, 2019. PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Mary Wachira during her training session at Nairobi Club on September 18, 2019. PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT | NATION MEDIA GROUP

“Tennis was exciting for me because it was a sport that both my husband and children could join in on and make it a family bonding activity. I understood the health benefits that playing tennis would have on my family, hence I intentionally had them practice at least once in a week.

ITF WOMEN'S TOUR

Although they later dropped out, I cherish the moments we spent on the court together," said Wachira.

According to coach Peter Wachira, Mary showed great potential due to her athletic nature and drive of always wanting to try out something new and she was willing to learn the ins and outs of the game during their training sessions at the Public service Club in Nairobi, where they were both members.

Wachira, who is 5 feet tall, was first introduced to the sporting world through hockey, while in high school at Precious Blood, Riruta, but found a haven in tennis while in her mid-20s.

She has over the years featured in different tournaments within the country including the Kenya Open, Karen Open, Nairobi Club Open and Parklands Open, where she plays against players almost 20 years her junior.

Mary Wachira during her training session at Nairobi Club on September 18, 2019. PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Mary Wachira during her training session at Nairobi Club on September 18, 2019. PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Wachira says her main aim is never to compete fiercely with the young players, but to encourage them on the opportunities available if one is healthy and fit.

In her most recent attempt at playing against the juniors in Kenya, she lost 6-1, 6-1 to 15-year-old Roselida Asumwa ranked 1704 in the world during the 2019 International Tennis Federation (ITF) Women’s tour held at Peponi School, Kiambu County.

In 2005, Wachira was honoured by Tennis Kenya with an award dubbed “For the love of the game”, as she continued holding the title of veteran tennis player making this one of her highest achievements in tennis, which is closely followed by the birth of her granddaughter who was named after her.

ZUMBA ON TUESDAYS

“I play tennis because it’s fun and I get to maintain my health and fitness at an age where almost every part of the body starts to slow down, but getting recognised by Tennis Kenya over the years has been a great motivation,” said Wachira.

However, her lowest moment in tennis has been losing people to other sports or other interests and also having to cut out certain categories in a tournament due to insufficient number of players.

Wachira also stated that losing her sister seven years ago was top of her lowest moment in life.

For a sports woman, she has maintained a clean plan on what she can eat and what she can’t with the aim of maintaining her fitness and good health.

Mary Wachira during her training session at Nairobi Club on September 18, 2019. PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Mary Wachira during her training session at Nairobi Club on September 18, 2019. PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT | NATION MEDIA GROUP

She also makes a point of exercising at least every day, specifically allocating three days of exercise to tennis.

“I intentionally stay away from fatty foods, curbs, caffeine and alcohol. My number one rule is to never overeat and always have a balanced meal consisting of fruits and vegetables and always taking at least more than 2 litres of water in a day.

“I do jogging and walks on Mondays, Zumba on Tuesdays and salsa dancing on Fridays and Saturdays, just to keep all my body parts in sync," said Wachira.

When she’s not on the tennis court, Wachira manages Graceland Girls High school in Nyeri, where she also doubles as a tennis coach.

She also dedicates her free time to baking and meeting up with the junior players to teach them the importance of keeping fit and maintaining good health.

Wachira, who plays well with her backhand stabs using double fists, insists that everyone should strive to keep fit because 'you’ll maintain reasonable weight and avoid unnecessary illnesses, you have enough energy to engage in physical activities and you are able to maintain good hormonal balance and can easily engage in the youthful activities.'

“Through my interactions with the young people, I hope that my story remains an inspiration to them knowing that tennis has no cut off age and they can play for a long time and I encourage them to be involved in at least two sporting activities at a time to fully explore their potential,” concludes Wachira.