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The road to the Commonwealth Games

Kenya has produced some of the world’s top distance runners, such as Eliud Kipchoge, a multiple Olympic gold medallist and current world record holder for the marathon. The big question is, could the inexperienced young juniors representing Team Kenya at the Commonwealth Communities Celebrations even dream of emulating the performance of other illustrious Kenyan athletes of the past half-century? This article is brought to you by Northampton Nene Angling Club (NNAC) coach Sue Galloway.

Team Kenya at the National Commonwealth Communities Celebration

How did it all begin?

The United African Association community group sign posted participants to NNAC Fish-A-Bility project at Abington Park fishing lake in June 2022. Two siblings, Zion and Jahreigne Blyde-Njoki and their friend, Blessing Idris, none of whom had ever fished, before turned up to the hour introductory sessions.

The brothers were very keen and quickly learnt the basic techniques of whip fishing. Zion had no problems holding and unhooking fish, whilst Jahreigne wasn't anything like as keen. Blessing also did very well and was soon able to fish independently. All three enjoyed themselves so much that they wanted to do more fishing.

When Coach Sue suggested forming a team to represent the Kenyan Community at the Canal & River Trust's Commonwealth Communities celebrations, their mum showed no hesitation in signing the lads up for the event. Blessing's granddad also gave his consent for her to take part.

Joining the NNAC Club

Once the siblings joined the club, they attended practice sessions at Furnace Lane, Nether Heyford and Dodford Road, Dodford. They were not able to attend the last two practice days due to their mum's work commitments. Despite shortages of meaningful practice time, the siblings worked hard, and their confidence levels and angling skills soon improved. Jahreigne was still reluctant to hold the fish.

I was really impressed with their progress and couldn't wait to see them fishing at the Commonwealth event. Unfortunately, Blessing did not manage to make any of the practice sessions due to other commitments, eventually dropped out of the team leaving a spare slot to be filled.

Team Kenya practicing

The road to the Canal & River Trust Junior National Celebrations 2022

Team Kenya siblings were unable to commit to attending the celebration, but remained keen on taking part in the Commonwealth Communities Celebration. Fellow club member Stanley Lafferty who had not yet been selected for Team Kenya was driven to Shropshire by his mum, who supported him on the day in her unique way. Stanley said, “I was excited when I caught a roach and gudgeon because I would get a Fjuka mug and cap.” He managed a respectable weight of 0.44kg for 50th place and Stanley added, “I felt really proud of myself at the National Celebration.”

Jahreigne lands a fish

Commonwealth Communities Celebrations 2022

When Blessing dropped out, John Ellis set me the challenge of finding a third member of the squad with a Kenyan connection. Thus, it came to pass that Drennan North West's Lewis Kenyon became the technical coaching advisor to the team, with Stanley slotted in as the third participating member. Stanley was very excited to have been selected to fish for the team. Whilst the siblings travelled with their mum and nan, Stanley travelled with Lottie Clarke and her dad.

At the flag opening ceremony, Zion and Jahreigne proudly paraded the Kenyan flag in front of their peers and mum, who were cheering them on. You can watch the ceremony here.

Team Kenya at open ceremony

Time for action

Heading out to the canal, Jahreigne and Zion were on pegs 80 & 81 whilst Stanley had drawn peg 82. Supported by our recently recruited coach, Lewis Kenyon, Team Kenya were ready and raring to go as the all in sounded at noon. Stanley fished steadily and methodically, keeping his eye on the float, and caught fish constantly throughout the day. The team used Sensas Noir groundbait, red maggots, squatts and pinkies.

Jahreigne and Zion were also catching fish steadily, although their fish were a smaller stamp of fish than Stanley's. Coach Lewis covered some serious mileage between the lads. The lads really enjoyed the day, and they felt that coach Lewis did us proud.

We could hear Jahreighe saying, “I've got another fish,” every time he caught one. Sometimes his mum rushed over to help land the fish. His mum was so excited and had to be reminded to stay back a bit so as to not scare the fish. Mum was also busy giving live commentary about how the siblings were doing to their day to those team supporters who were unable to attend the event.

Zion’s biggest perch

Friendly commonwealth rivalry

There was some serious competition between Team Kenya and the Grenadian Team who were pegged on pegs 77, 78 and 79. It was a race against time and the fish to see which of these fledgling teams would place highest out of the two.

A beaming Stanley weighed in a whopping 1.35kg to see him place tenth in the young juniors out of the 51 participants. Zion and Jahreigne were both delighted with their catch of 0.60kg each. Back at the packed Hinstock hall headquarters, the atmosphere was tense as the results began to be read out.

Kenya ended up with 86 points, finishing in an amazing eighth place overall, truly amazing for their first time participating, also just pipping Team Grenada who came a very respectable tenth out of 17 teams with 71 points. The bonus was the John Ellis most improved runner-up angler trophy was awarded to a beaming Stanley. We can't wait for the next instalment.

If you are interested in exploring the possibility of representing an overseas community at fishing in a future Global Communities Celebration, please email us at [email protected] and you can also find out more information here.

The images show Stanley, Jahreigne and Zion’s net of fish weighed in at the Commonwealth Communities Celebration

Last Edited: 08 February 2023

photo of a location on the canals
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