Malawi’s netball icon Mwawi Kumwenda yesterday basked in the global limelight when she was officially named as International World Games Association (IWGA) 2015 Athlete of the Year as her romantic flirtation with the world of sport, reached new dizzy heights.
The New Zealand-based gangly shooter was feted like a queen yesterday by a sports world hungry for the global appeal of feel-good tales.
President Peter Mutharika set the tone in saluting Malawi’s ‘Golden Girl’ through a statement by describing it as an “achievement of which we are all proud of.
“It brings to our nation immense satisfaction when a Malawian earns such global recognition beyond our shores.”
The president stated that Mwawi’s journey to success—perseverance, hardwork, commitment and patriotism—will remain a source of inspiration for young people and hoped that many will follow her footsteps.
The IWGA, through its website yesterday confirmed Mwawi as a winner after she topped the poll with 17 910 votes—over 8 000 votes above The Flying Disc Beach Ultimate Mixed Team from Germany, which came second with 9 168 votes. The third position went to Russian dancesport couple—Dmitry Zharkov and Olga Kulikova (7 722 votes).
Mwawi could not hide her excitement in an interview from her New Zealand base yesterday, saying: “I have just received official communication [from IWGA] that I am the 2015 Athlete of the Year and I am short for words.
“Praise be to God and I thank my fans, fellow Malawians, Africans and all those who supported my cause. I do not take it for granted and I am overwhelmed with joy,” she said, her voice straining with emotion.
However, the 26-year-old Malawi’s sole netball export said she was yet to get further details on whether there would be a special ceremony to honour her, saying: “I have not been advised anything, maybe later, but what matters most is the recognition.”
Netball Association of Malawi (NAM) general secretary Carol Bapu said they were proud of Mwawi’s feat.
“She has made the country and Malawi netball proud. We congratulate her for the prestigious award and we say thank you to all those that voted for her,” said Bapu.
The voting process was held from January 1-31 this year in which fans and followers of world games were asked to cast votes for their preferred athletes. There were 17 other nominees that were short-listed by the IWGA from its member associations.
And Mwawi was nominated after her five-star display at the 2015 Netball World Cup in Australia where she was named the Player of the Tournament.
IWGA president Jose Perurena said in a statement that they were more than satisfied that so many people voted for their athletes and teams.
The IWGA capped a perfect 2015 for the former Diamonds shooter who was also named Tactix Player of the Year and Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) Innovative Sports Personality of the Year. She was also named Airtel Malawi’s ambassador for their ‘It’s Now’ campaign.