What you need to know:
- Diagnosed with asthma as a child in Class Six at the Hill School Primary boarding school in Eldoret in 1988, Luchivya said she spent time in hospitals for severe asthma attacks before doctors advised that she stays physically active.
Just like former British long-distance runner Paula Radcliffe, world-renowned football star David Beckham as well as the former University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) basketball and track and field star Jacqueline Joyner-Kersse, who didn’t let asthma stop them from excelling at the highest level, newly appointed Kenya Basketball Federation acting Secretary General and former national team captain Angela Luchivya didn’t let the condition get in her way.
Radcliffe was diagnosed with asthma while a teenager, but went on to win three London Marathon titles (2002,2003,2005), three New York Marathon titles (2004,2007,2008) and the 2005 Helsinki World Champion women’s marathon while Beckham has lived with the condition as he won six Premier League titles with Manchester United between 1992 and 1999 before he called it a day in 2013.
Kersse on the other hand, hid her condition from her coaches when she started her sports career as she was in denial before she accepted the condition.
She went ahead to win six Olympic medals, two gold medals in heptathlon and long jump in 1988 in Seoul, gold medal in heptathlon at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, silver medal in the heptathlon at the 1992 Los Angeles Olympics and the 1996 Atlanta Olympics long jump.
Diagnosed with asthma as a child in Class Six at the Hill School Primary boarding school in Eldoret in 1988, Luchivya said she spent time in hospitals for severe asthma attacks before doctors advised that she stays physically active.
“I spent some time in the hospital with pretty severe asthma attacks but my doctor encouraged my mum to keep me active to increase my lung capacity. My involvement in sports gradually decreased the asthma attack and the only time I got the attack was during a Fiba Zone Five game in a humid Dar es-Salaam gymnasium where I played the entire 40 minutes before I collapsed and passed out after the final whistle,” reveals Luchivya during the interview at Nation Centre office in Nairobi.
“Perhaps the script would have been different if my mum ignored the advise from the doctors,” she added.
Sports become part of Luchivya’s life.
She boasts of seven East and Central Africa Inter Cities champions (1999,2000,2001,2002,2006,2007, 2009) titles she won with Nairobi City. She was a long-serving Kenya player and also did some 20 years of diligent service with Storms, formerly Barclays Bank Eaglets.
It was at the Hill School that her sporting prowess came into play in athletics, swimming, netball, tennis and basketball.
“I’m from a sporting family. My mum, Leah, plays golf and is a trustee at the Kakamega Golf Club, my late father (Beneah) was a football player, my brother Neil was a swimmer who represented Kenya in the 1987 Africa Games while my late brother Patrick was a tennis player and so I guess all these came naturally. When I joined Alliance Girls High School in 1994, I was into swimming but again, there were so many students who participated in sport and I wanted a place that was less crowded,” says Luchivya.
And as fate would have it, Luchivya’s brother’s (Neil) friend Robert Mwangi went to Alliance for teaching practice and pushed the talented Luchivya to take basketball seriously.
“There were few basketball players and so I joined the team with zero basics. It was interesting and fascinating at the same time, especially the passing of the ball. We would go for school games competition and I remember in Form One, we were eliminated at the zonals. I later made it to the first team and became a mainstay. In Form Four, our school finished third behind Kaimosi and winners Kamukunji in the Nationals. That was a milestone for the school,” the former point guard, 45, says with pride.
After her KSCE, she joined the University of Nairobi “Dynamites” in 1999 and Kenya Christian Industrial Training Institute (KCITI) The varsity was only playing in the tournaments and institutional games.
“Coaches Tony Mwangi and Cliffe Owuor who had been following my journey at Alliance, scouted me to join Barclays Bank Eaglets which was participating in the Kenya Basketball Federation Premier League in 1999. I was able to play for both Dynamites and Eaglets ,” said Luchivya, a mother of three -- Rhoda, Daniel and Albert.
Luchivya, wife to Kakamega High School football team Green Commando chairman Isaac Kwoba recalls the grisly road accident involving Barclays Bank Eaglets that claimed five players and a coach.
“I can’t forget it. The memories are still fresh. The accident happened in November ,1999 around Voi as we were travelling back to Nairobi from playing Kenya Ports Authority in Mombasa. That was a devastating period. I haven’t gone past it but I just thank God, he spared my life. I had fractures all over my body that kept me out of action for over two years.
It was tough moving around on crutches. My career had just taken off and the feeling that all that could go down the drain shook me. But with a great support system especially my husband, I came back strongly in 2002 in time for the 2003 Africa Games in Abuja, Nigeria.”
Luchivya’s confidence, passion and discipline would earn her the overall Team Kenya captain for the 2007 All Africa Games in Algeria.
“I think I was cut out for leadership roles. It was humbling being a basketball captain, but being named the overall captain for Team Kenya was something. We finished fifth in basketball and I must admit that was the best performance the national team has ever posted,” says Luchivya with a smile.
Kenya finished behind Angola, Nigeria, Senegal and winners Mozambique.
But Luchivya’s outspokenness put her at crossroad with the then federation officials in 2011 which led to her being banned from the game.
“I was demanding for players’ allowances and that did not go down well with the officials. I stopped playing for the national team but featured for the club.
Remember after the accident, Barclays Bank stopped sponsoring sports in 2002. But with few well-wishers, my husband and I changed the team’s name to Storms.
We have been funding the club and I’m happy that with few resources we have kept the team intact. I continued playing for the Storms before I retired in 2021 to go into administration,” says Luchivya.
Luchivya, who took over the Secretary General position after Ambrose Kisoi resigned on October 26, said she first went for the treasurer post during elections in 2014 but lost to Peter Orero who became the Kibra Member of Parliament last year.
“Interestingly, after the federation had banned me, they still considered me for the national men and women’s team manager during the Afro basket in Uganda. I diligently performed my duties. And since then, I have been supporting the teams in my own capacity. I’m glad and humbled at the same time that the federation, under the chairmanship of Paul Otula, appointed me the Secretary General,” said Luchivya, who has a consultant firm and is a business woman after she quit her position as the accountant manager at Coca-Cola early this year.
She became the first woman secretary general of the federation.
Luchivya, who was appointed Fiba Africa Zone Five Women Commission president on October 6, said a lot needs to be done to grow the game in the region.
“First things first, we need all the clubs to comply with the Sports Act. Again, we need to get our fixture department in order. We want to tame the issue of a club official calling off the matches at the 11th hour, something that has led the league ending later than scheduled and sometimes spilling into the new season. The federation has lagged behind in this department and I believe when we fix this, the league will run systematically,” she points out.
“Also, we need to host and feature players in junior championships as that will help us expose them in time for smooth transition into senior teams. We also have to invest in the 3×3 teams that have been on the rise in recent times. This is where the future is,” she concludes.