Former German fencer, Alexandra Ndolo is born to a Polish mother and a Kenyan father who immigrated to Europe to study and later settled in Germany. This reigning world silver medallist in epee has decided to champion ‘swordplay’ for the land of her father, a journey that she hopes will lead her to the Paris Olympics in 2024. This a fair indication that her motives are not as altruistic as they sound.
In an interview on the Olympics website, she reflected on her initiation into the sport, saying “I fell in love with fencing when I was 11… I fell in love with the moves and the way I could express myself through them, and how I could show how my mind works.”
But unlike other fencers, she did not come from a fencing family or spend most of her younger and teen years on the fencing piste.
“I could have gone to a fencing boarding school when I was 14, but we didn’t have the money. I had to wait an additional seven years before I could start this career and (I told myself) I have a lot to catch up, but I’m capable of doing it and I will do it,” she admitted.
And she did endure the steep learning curve to a sport often taught to children.
“When I finally got to those big competitions like World Cups, I would lose on the first day for the first couple of years. But I would stay in the hall for another two to three days watching the other players, watching the best players in the world, trying to pick up from outside what they were doing.”
Her sports record
But over time, her efforts bore fruit, and she began to earn medals. Using her unique fencing style, which the website explains is “a mix of many different styles – Hungarian, Italian, French and Korean”, she has won five gold medals at various European U23 circuits between 2013 -2018.
She also won silver at the 2017 Euros and bronze two years later. “It has been a journey of patience…When I won my first European medal, I was kind of like, ‘Okay, cool, you’ve shown the world what you can do.’ And then it was like, ‘but you don’t want to be a one-hit-wonder.’ And since then, I won another medal at the Europeans.”
This year at the 2022 World Championships in Cairo and under the guidance of the German national team coach Dominik Czobo, the now 36-year-old claimed the silver medal.
“That was the highlight of my career for sure, “she said, “because I always felt that I could be on that level, and then showing it to yourself and to the world is just amazing.”
From Germany to Kenya
The ambitious athlete has now set her eyes on the 2024 Olympics. And the reality is it would be easier to qualify through the African quota because she would be the only Kenyan and Kenyan woman to participate in the sport.
“This summer, I was thinking, ‘Okay, if you really want to achieve one more thing, apart from being involved in the sport politics, what could you do? Well, you could, and you should win medals for Kenya’. And for Germany. I think I’ve done a lot and maybe all that I can do,” she explained.
For Kenya, everything I do now will be a first and will be a major boost not just for Kenyan fencing, but East African and African fencing
“But for Kenya, everything I do now will be a first and will be a major boost not just for Kenyan fencing, but East African and African fencing.”
She talked about being inspired by Isaac Wanyoike, the first Kenyan to fence at the Worlds in Cairo, where he finished 189th out of 194 competitors.
Thus began her journey to switch her competing nationality and fight for Olympic glory. Of course, she has alluded to being more than opportunistic, saying she also wants to inspire Kenyans to start fencing.
“I’m sure there are a lot of people who say, ‘I love to cheer on the runners, but I’m not built like a long-distance runner.’ Let me do something else. I want to show them that whatever you choose, you can go for it, and you can go far.”
In her first competition as a Kenyan fencer at the World Cup epee event in Tallin, Estonia, on the 11th to 12th November, she came in 10th out of 271 women.