Public Policy analyst and Chairman of the Foundation and Expert on UN Habitat’s Youth Advisory Board Raphael Obonyo has on Thursday morning awarded Kenyan tennis star Angella Okutoyi two weeks after her heroic exploits at the 2023 Billie Jean King Africa Group III tournament that took place at the Nairobi Club.
Obonyo who has dedicated his energy and time to many initiatives to uplift the lives of the people in his community said his gesture is in line with supporting the development of young talents in sports who go an extra mile of sacrifice in showcasing good performance hence bringing glory back home.
“Pleased to present the 2023 Obonyo Foundation Determination Award and prize money to Angella Okutoyi for exceptional performance as a Tennis Player on court and off the court. Angella has shown that by combining hard work, skill and determination, there is no limit to what young people can achieve.Okutoyi was named winner of the award today. The tennis player was presented with the award, which comes with a customized trophy and undisclosed amount of prize money, at the Nairobi club.The tennis player was recognized for her constant efforts in utilizing her talent, and for being an inspiration to many people despite her humble background.” noted Obonyo who was named as one of the top 100 influential leaders in Africa in 2018.
Okutoyi;theWimbledon Open doubles junior champion was very instrumental for the home team despite its elimination of contention for the Euro Africa Championships next year having lost 2-1 to Nigeria and subsequently settling for a third place finish after a 2-1 win over Zimbabwe-Kenya’s better performance compared to 11th place ranking in the tournament last season.
After the conclusion of the tournament, the 19 year-old urged local stakeholders to build upon the successes of the Billie Jean King Cup by setting up structures and investments to improve the sport going forward.
“I am glad that we now have the clay courts but I feel we need like a centre. For me, when I was young, I was at a centre and that helped me a lot. Also, I feel like we need to have a lot more tournaments here in Kenya because I was lucky to be in the ITF Centre and it gave me a lot of opportunities to travel outside and gain my points, experience and exposure. Here in Kenya we need a lot of facilities and tournaments for other players as well,” she said.
Her sentiments were echoed by Obonyo who rallied the government to invest massively in the sporting activities in the country, which enjoys big pool of potential in players across various disciplines.
“Angella’s hard work and determination has set impressive example, and her sustained excellence and success reflects the character and resilience she continues to demonstrate.She is a representation of the talent that abound among young Kenyans that needs to be nurtured and supported.Government needs to do more in terms of encouraging and investing in sports in general, and tennis specifically” he added
The youthful sporting icon has had a mouth-watering journey in tennis having risen through the ranks as she became the first Kenyan female to win a junior Grand Slam match to earn progress to the third round of the girls’ singles at the Australian Open in January last year.
Inspired by the great Serena Williams, Okutoyi’s elevation from a poor background into elite tennis has not been smooth
The top-ranked African in the International Tennis Federation (ITF) junior world rankings was raised by grandmother Mary Omukuya Ndong’a, after her mother tragically died during childbirth.
“I was raised by Mary, who works as a school cleaner in Nairobi.I call her ‘mum’ because she’s been in my life when I needed her most.She had to take of care everything by herself and she stood in as our father, mother and grandmother.Tennis will help me get my grandmother from where she is now, remove her from poverty and build her a house and get her a good life.She is the one who pushes me to do what I am doing so seeing her happy makes me happy.” Okutoyi told BBC Sport Africa.
Okutoyi who holds an ITF junior ranking of 49th and claims six ITF junior singles titles and 13 ITF junior doubles titles is currently advancing her career and education outside the country having enrolled at the Auburn University in Alabama, USA in October last year.
“Angie [Okutoyi] is a trailblazer,someone who serves as an incredible inspiration and role model for future generations of aspiring tennis players,” said Auburn head coach Caroline Lilley. “With a plethora of international experience on the biggest stages in junior tennis, she has remained grounded in her commitment to prioritizing her development as a person above all else. In all our conversations with Angie and with those who know her well, the one thing always on display was her character. She does things the right way, holding herself to a high standard while allowing her moral compass to guide her. Her competitiveness will serve her well, but her compassion and kindness make her someone people want to follow.”
“I chose Auburn because I was raised the Tiger way,” Okutoyi remarked