In 2016, Elle South Africa named Zintle Ntshikila’s “@Teamhlasela” one of five South African Health Instagrams to follow. Today, it remains clear why she was given that title. Perusing her page is instant motivation. The weight-loss consultant, fitness junkie and self-made healthy home cook posts vivid, enticing images of fresh produce and dishes she’s prepared and inspiring before and afters chronicling her personal health journey. It’s hard to believe that the fit and fashionable Ntshikila, or “Zie Ntshiks” as she’s known, was once more than 100 pounds heavier. She shares her story on Essentials.com, “I’d always been on the larger side, and had endured teasing about my weight throughout childhood...The problem was, I was so used to being chubby; it was my ‘normal’. So I didn’t watch what I ate…”
Health and fitness expert Jane Mukami has been changing people’s lives through wellness and personal training for seven years, but still gets joy out of the excitement her clients show when they make progress. Her mother, who raised Jane and her brother on her own, instilled the need in her children to work hard for what they wanted. Jane would have to take this advice, notably in 2008, on her personal weight loss journey. Leaning on her mother’s words, she channeled all of her energy into accomplishing the goal of looking, feeling and being better. Also an inspiration, were the struggles she witnessed while growing up in Kenya. That perspective has always fueled an appreciation for the life that she has in the United States. “...Seeing struggles of people with less has kept me grounded and humble,” she shares.
Similar to a bobsled team, Nigeria has never had a skeleton racer to represent them in the Winter Olympics. Until now. Simi Adeagbo practiced the winter sliding sport for all of four months before qualifying to compete in this year’s Winter Olympics. She finished in 20th place after four heats, and blew open a door for African women in winter sports. But although her success seems quick, it was anything but easy. She was raised with a strong work ethic and that foundation combined with her desire to be the best, shaped her into the dedicated athlete she is today. We caught up with Adeagbo before the games and shared that she’s been a lifelong competitor and always dreamed of becoming an Olympian. She’s played softball, volleyball, field hockey, basketball, and ran cross country and track. When it came to early inspiration she looked to fellow athletes such as Serena Williams, who was “blazing a trail in a sport where many people didn’t look like her.”
Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere, Akuoma Omeoga—Nigeria Women’s Bobsled Team
Nigerian Women’s Olympic Bobsled team members Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga were all born in the United States, but that doesn’t make them any less Nigerian. The trio have actually been sensitive to that perception, and visited their ancestral homeland with the goal of forming a connection with the people. The three athletes made wonderful impressions upon their return; their choice to represent their parents’ native country rather than vying for spots on the American team helped.
Kenyan athlete Joyline Cherotich is fast. She can run a 1500 metre race in the time it takes to make toast and a 3000 metre before the tea kettle whistles. In 2015, she made her way to Cali, Colombia and won the bronze medal in the biennial World Youth Championships in Athletics for the World Under 18 1500 Metre race. “I am very comfortable with my bronze medal,” she said according to Athletics Africa. “But next time I want to win gold.”
Often called the best football player in Africa, soccer star Asisat Oshoala was presented with the 2017 African Women's Footballer of the Year award this January, marking the tenth time a Nigerian woman has earned this distinction. Of course we’d be remiss if we did not mention that two of those nine other times also went to Oshoala; in 2014 and 2016. The win this year was especially triumphant for Oshoala after a series of hurdles. In 2014, she was on top of the world. She had just won the African Women’s Championship as a forward on the Nigerian Super Falcons. That same year, she won five other individual awards; the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup Golden Ball, the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup Golden Boot, the African Women's Championship Golden Ball, the African Women's Youth Player of the Year and the Queen of The Pitch Award. On a high, she made the move to Europe and signed with England’s Liverpool Ladies for the 2015 season. But her time in Liverpool was marked by an injured knee, and the feeling she was losing her status as a sports darling.
Moroccan paralympic athlete Sanaa Benhama’s T13 classified vision impairment hasn’t stopped her from smoking her competitors on the track. At 35 years old she’s sitting on 12 medals combined from competing in the Paralympic Games and World Para Athletics Championships (also known as IPC Athletics World Championships); five gold, three silver and four bronze.
CrossFit is a high-intensity fitness regimen that incorporates interval training, weightlifting, calisthenics, and gymnastics, among other things. And by CrossFit standards, Winnie Okoth is the fittest woman in Kenya. In her weight class, she ranked 147 out of 6,000 global competitors. And to witness a workout at CrossFit Kwetu, where Okoth coaches, is to know that the bar is set pretty high. Fresh off of break-up doldrums, Okoth started her journey to extreme fitness in search of a way to lift her spirits. ‘‘I got really curious about CrossFit,” she tells BusinessDaily.com. “It is fun because it intimidates men. When they look at you they think you cannot do anything, until they see you and you gain their respect. If a man cannot handle me at the gym, he cannot handle me in life.” So what kind of diet does the fittest woman in Kenya maintain to thrive in these intense five-days-a-week workouts? ‘‘I eat every two hours, six to eight times a day,” she explained to Ngila. “I’ll snack on fruit, coffee and smoothies, and drink two or more litres of water. I have to make sure I eat the basics so that my body gets what it requires, that is protein, fats, vitamins, carbohydrates and minerals.”
In 2016, Naomi Ruele made history and became Botswana’s first Olympic swimmer. At the same time, she became the second woman and first swimmer to represent the country in the Olympics, and the first FIU swimmer to compete as a current student-athlete. “When I found out I was in the Olympics I was very overwhelmed and very excited,” she says in an interview with American Sports Network. “I’m very proud to be from Botswana and I’ve always loved my country...I’m really appreciative but especially excited to compete under my country’s flag.” This accomplishment came shortly after her 2015-2016 season swimming at Florida International University, during which she was named Conference USA Swimmer of the Year. Her season was stellar—in 12 times swimming the 50-meter freestyle she finished either first or second each time, five of those times clocking in at under twenty-three seconds. We challenge you to find a fish with a better record.
Many associate jumping rope with a children’s game or a great source of cardio. Very few relate it to a competitive sport. For Keolebogile Mokolopo, it is her gift. She’s held a national record for Double Team gold medalist at the Canada World Championships since 2006, and is a coach, facilitator and judge of rope skipping. In 2008, Mokolopo became Demand Coordinator of Sasol Sport Development Programs, where she began holding rope skipping clinics for the children of a community in South Africa. This small gesture of organizing an athletic activity worked wonders for the kids involved. “Kids that do sports are well behaved,” Mokolopo says in a Sasol promotional video. “It teaches them discipline—they are busy doing something different instead of being on the streets and it’s good for them. The clinics and the rope skipping since I’ve started it has uplifted the community in a very, very big way.”