January 2017: Mary Waya, influential Malawian netball player
Malawi has one of the best netball teams in the world. Mary Waya was one of the country’s best players and is now, at the age of 48, the national team’s coach.
Born 25 May 1968, Mary Waya is a Malawian netball player and coach. Waya started playing international-level netball at age 14, and has played in more than 200 representative matches for Malawi. During that time she has competed in two World Netball Championships (1995 and 2007), three Commonwealth Games (1998, 2006 and 2010), and two World Netball Series (2009 and 2010).
Mary Waya came to international prominence during the 2007 World Championships in New Zealand, where the Malawian national team finished 5th, their highest ever placing. She remains the national team’s most high-profile player, and was chosen as the flag bearer for the Malawi team at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
Listen here to her inspirational story as part of a BBC Radio 4 Interview (10:30/56:19)
December 2016: Mwai Kumwenda Wins IWGA Athlete of the Year Award
Malawi netballer Mwai Kumwenda has been crowned Athlete of the Year by the International World Games Association (IWGA).
Kumwenda was one of 18 international athletes nominated for the IWGA award, from a cross-section of sports. She was crowned as the clear winner by an online poll.
Kumwenda, who plays professionally for Mainland Tactix in New Zealand, was awarded Player of the Tournament at the Netball World Cup SYDNEY 2015. Her win was backed by impressive statistics – 91% shots on target. With 321 goals in eight games, she was the only player to score over 300 goals.
The 26 year-old shooter was delighted with the win: “I feel so excited and honoured that so many people around the world have voted for me – I really appreciate it.”
Kumwenda first played netball aged 15, in her village in Malawi, she is now an international netball star who plays professionally for Mainland Tactix in New Zealand, and she recognises the progress she has made: “This is important for me because netball has been my life from a very young age. I would never have thought, in a million years, that I would win this award.
“This has been a journey – a journey of small steps, with each step dreaming of the next. It has been a journey of great support from all around me – family, friends, coaches, team-mates and most of all my fans around the world. This is also important because, to all those young girls and boys just starting out with the same dream, I would say ‘don’t give up, get the right people around you and keep working hard’.”
Mwai was nominated for the Award by the International Netball Federation. Clare Briegal, CEO, said: “This is great recognition for a superb role model in netball. As well as being a world class athlete, Mwai embodies women’s empowerment, and is a fantastic inspiration to so many people all around the world.”
Molly Rhone says: “Winning this Award is not only good news for Mwai but for her country, Malawi, and netball in general. Mwai has excelled through hard work and dedication to netball and is really deserving. She is a great role model for young girls and I congratulate her most heartily.”
The IWGA is an organisation recognised by the International Olympic Committee. Its principal aim is to develop the popularity of the sports governed by its 37 Member Federations, which includes the International Netball Federation, to improve their prominence through excellent sporting achievements, and to conserve all the traditional values of sport through The World Games, which take place every four years. The 10th World Games will be held in Wroclaw, Poland, from 20-30 July, 2017.