Grace Bwire, a master of hard yards on the hockey pitch
What you need to know:
- Grace Bwire emerged the top scorer in the just concluded 2022 Kenya Hockey Union (KHU) Women Premier League with eight goals.
- She has played eight matches for the senior national hockey team, and was part of the team that represented Kenya in the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, UK.
- Bwire attended Central Primary School in Kitale and Tartar Girls High School before joining Strathmore University to pursue a diploma in business management on a partial scholarship.
- She looks up to Kenyan international Jacqueline “Jackie” Mwangi from Kenya and Argentinian Maria Jose “Majo” Granatto.
Strathmore University forward Grace Bwire has trained her sights on becoming the best ever Kenyan striker in field hockey. The first-born in a family of four wants to be an excellent striker like her role models Jacqueline “Jackie” Mwangi from Kenya and Argentinian Maria Jose “Majo” Granatto. Jackie, who is the Kenya national women's hockey coach, scored more than 100 goals for both club and country in her long and illustrious career while Maria Jose, a 27-year-old Olympic silver medalist, has netted 60 goals in 96 appearances for Argentina. She hopes to emulate this duo.
How did you get into hockey?
I fell in love with the game when I joined high school in 2016. I was walking around the school during games time and saw fellow students playing, and I was intrigued. I got encouragement from the players and joined the team.
I learnt fast and performed well enough to get a full scholarship at Tartar Girls in West Pokot when I was in Form Two. After completing high school in 2021, I joined former Africa and Kenyan champions Blazers. By this time, I was training with the national under-21 team in preparation for the Junior Africa Cup. Coach Jackie encouraged me to join the Blazers team where she was part of the technical bench. I scored two goals for Blazers before joining Strathmore University team, The Scorpions, on an 80 per cent scholarship. Playing for the two best clubs in Kenya – Blazers and Scorpions – in my first ever top flight season, felt really nice.
Every sport in Kenya has its challenges. Have you encountered any in hockey?
Certainly. Our national hockey pitch at City Park Stadium and most hockey pitches in the country are not in the best of shape. The pitch at City Park, for example, is worn out, which makes it hard for us to train there. Also, so many people book City Park Stadium for various activities, so the facility is not always available for our use. Sometimes the pitch is unplayable due to lack of water. You cannot use the pitch when it has not been watered.
Why do you like playing hockey so much?
Because of it I have travelled to a number of countries. I was part of the team that went to Ghana for the 2022 Women's Hockey Africa Cup of Nations and Kenya won bronze. Hockey also took me to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England.
What do you do when you’re not playing hockey?
I concentrate on my studies. I am taking a diploma in business management from Strathmore University.
Tell us about the highlight of your career…
My best moment in hockey was when I scored a goal at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in the UK. It was the first ever goal scored by our national women’s hockey team at such a level. In fact, that was the first time that Kenya had qualified for the tournament.
What life lessons have you picked from hockey?
Hockey is like life. Before you do anything, you have to think. To succeed, you have to work hard, be disciplined and treat others with respect.
What advice would you give to an aspiring hockey player?
Never give up. There is no success without hard work, so be persistent and you will achieve your goals. I always tell myself that the best is yet to come. The more I work hard, the more I improve my skills and the more I grow in my career.
What is your experience as a woman in sport?
Our society and traditions don’t support women in sports. Such things have for long been viewed as a preserve of men and boys. Fortunately, I play a sport that is equally competitive and exciting for both genders. That said, more effort needs to be put in place to encourage and support female athletes.
Do you think sports is a viable career?
I have been fortunate to get a scholarship, so I get to study and play at the same time. I am not earning enough to cater for all my needs so my focus is to keep playing and studying. Then I will evaluate my options for the future.