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Kelvin Bwibo of Kenya prepares to race in the Under 23 Men’s Single Sculls heats at the 2011 World Rowing Under 23 Championships in Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Thomas Doornbos, a Dutch rower, saw an ad asking for families to host rowers in Groningen and that’s how he ended up hosting six Georgian rowers at home and also started training Kelvin Bwibo, from Kenya.  “It’s a very rewarding job.  We worked a lot on the rowing technique, and I could see him progressing. He still needs training and competition experience but he is really willing to achieve it!”

Bwibo trains in Mombasa, the second largest city in Kenya, on the coast of the Indian Ocean. It has a major port and an international airport and also serves as the centre of the coastal tourism industry.

The Kenyan rowing federation relies on international help to develop rowing, as they receive no support from the government, which devotes funding to football and athletics. There are only 21 rowers in Kenya, of which most are beginners.
Bwibo says: “In Kenya, I’m the best rower but I need more training. It’s very difficult to progress unless I come to Europe.  I’m really thankful to the FISA development programme which allowed me to train and compete abroad, and hope to have the possibility to do this again to continue progressing.  It gave me the possibility to work on my technique and build up experience as it’s the first time I compete at this level.”

Kelvin Bwibo of Kenya pushes hard at the start of the Under 23 Men’s Single Sculls heat at the 2011 World Rowing Under 23 Championships in AMsterdam, the Netherlands

“I love rowing.  I was a swimmer and actually learned about rowing on the Internet.  It’s so much fun to train and train hard – no pain, no game.  I just finished high school last year and am now a full-time rower.  Every day I train from 8 to 10, relax a bit, work out in the gym, have lunch and train again in the evening.  I’m working hard to qualify for the Olympic Games and make Kenya proud.  There was already a Kenyan rower in Athens and in Beijing.  If I succeed it would be the third time in a row my country would be represented in rowing!  Next week I’ll have a qualification regatta in Kenya and hope to get a place for the African qualification for the Olympic Games. I really like training on the ergometer because it’s hard; when on the erg, I listen to blues, rock or techno. I actually also sometimes rap myself in Swahili and if Thomas gives me the beat, I’ll do a bit.”

“In 10 years I will have more time and hopefully have enough experience to be able to be a coach and help other rowers in Kenya go far in rowing.  In the meantime, I hope to come back to the U23s next year.  Thomas will prepare a training programme for me to keep focusing on the important points when I’m back in Kenya.”