LONDON, July 30, 2012 - There are many firsts for Kenyans and team Kenya at the London Olympics; there is the pioneer Kenyan Javelin thrower, a Kenyan female boxer and the sole weightlifter qualifier, Mercy Obiero.
Donning a Kenyan T-shirt she may cut a forlorn figure at the Games village with her ripped and toned figure a contrast from the lean runners’ frames who constitute majority of the contingent.
Her qualification too is by no means an easy feat as she goes down in history, as the first female weightlifter and only the third Kenyan in the sport to qualify for the Olympics.
She knows and relishes the significance that would come with representing Kenya in the Olympics, which she hopes will blaze a trail for Kenyan women into the sport.
“It is a big thing for me. Am very excited about competing here. Interestingly there is no tension as am ready to take it on,” she said.
“The Olympics is a special session if not the best of the best and we are all eyeing the coveted Olympic medals, the exposure of competing with World champions.”
Her preparation for her biggest career showcase has been unique.She was among the Kenyans who stayed at the Bristol camp and had a chance to train and prepare using the right equipment, a welcome departure from the under equipped gymnasium at the Moi International Sports Centre Kasarani.
“We had a longer period in camp and I feel I have improved a lot.I got to use similar equipment to what I will use at the competition for the first time, so I am advantaged this time round," said Obiero, 34, who was drawn to weightlifting by her elder brother, David, who represented Kenya at various weightlifting events, but never at the Olympics.
“I got to fully concentrate on my training and perfecting my techniques using the right equipment.”
Her trainer John Ogola believes that Obiero can surpass the achievements of pioneer Collins Okoth who competed at the Atlanta games and Pius Ochieng , who was the contender in Barcelona in 1992.
“Besides the goal of participating in the Olympics she has an individual goal which is surpassing her past achievements in an international competition, which includes a medal,”Ogola said after a training session at the ExCel arena.
“For now she is at 95 percent condition and by Wednesday she should have completed her programme and ready for the challenge.”
Obiero whose best lifts are 115kg in the clean and jerk and 80kg in the snatch is clear about her intentions.
“I want to be in contention for a medal so I am not just here for the experience, so I expect things will be a lot different.”
The seasoned Kenyan weightlifter was granted a wildcard after her sixth place finish sixth at the African qualifiers where she returned a total of 156kg snatching 65kg and a clean and jerk of 91kg.
To boost her chances Obiero, a contender at several continental championships and three Commonwealth Games opted to scale up her weight, to the 69kg category, to boost her medal prospects.
“In the last major competition in India (The Commonwealth Games) I did 110kg. For the qualifiers I did 90kg in clean and jerk and I’ve moved up to 70 in the snatch from 60,”said Obiero who works as a Gym instructor in Nairobi.