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Girls & Women

This woman from Malawi just won athlete of the year

A 26-year-old netball star from Malawi just won the International World Games Association’s athlete of the year award.

Mwai began playing netball in her village in Malawi when she was fifteen. Today, she is an international star and sensation in the netball world, and, after this award, a renowned athlete in the international community. She is also an inspiration to girls across the world who want to pursue their dreams.

When Mwai Kumwenda signed with the Canterbury Tactix in 2013 she became the first African to join the ANZ Championship aka the Trans-Tasman Netball League. She also plays for the Malawi national netball team, the Malawi Queens. She is still the only African in the ANZ Championship netball league, one of the most prestigious netball leagues comprised of ten teams in Australian and New Zealand.

Mwai also has a rockstar shooting record. In the 2015 World Cup she had 91 percent accuracy.

But what does that mean?

Here’s a little bit about netball so you can better understand just how awesome Mwai is.

Netball is played by over 60 national teams, it’s mixed gender, and over half a million players participate in the International Netball Federation. While it’s recognized by the Olympic committee as a sport, it hasn't been in the Olympics. If you haven’t seen it before check out Malawi play St. Lucia in the video below. 

This year IWGA named her athlete of the year. And she won by a landslide. She had 8,000 more votes than the runners up, an entire team from Germany of players on the Flying Disc Beach Ultimate Team.

Out of 18 nominations for the award, Mwai was the only African.

Malawians and netball players across the globe supported Mwai and she is “thrilled and excited” about the award saying that “not only have you lifted me and Malawi higher but all netball players and lovers out there.”

“The award is a motivation to the girl child to pursue her dreams, and Mwai is a role model,” says the president of the Netball Association of Malawi.

And while she may be queen of the netball world, she stays humble and works hard. She shoots 500 practice shots a day and says she doesn’t think of herself but focuses on the “whole team’s performance...[I] try to do my best for them.”


malawi netball team Mwai in the back left stands with Malawi at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Image: Flickr: Scottish Government