18 years ago, Ritah Asiimwe‘s life changed forever. Two thieves broke into Ritah’s Grandma’s house wielding machetes and hammers. Knowing her family was in the other room, Ritah distracted the thieves calling attention to herself; they chased her out of her home, cornering her on a quiet street. Ritah’s goal was to get them away from her loved ones.
Hours later, Ritah woke up on the ground in a pool of blood, her dominant right hand hacked off by machette and dangling by a tendon – the thieves had left her for dead.
Realizing that she needed emergency medical help, Ritah hobbled to the local hospital where she started her road to recovery. According to longtime friend and then classmate, Earn Madrine Nabiwemba, on Ritah’s first day back to school, she demanded that “nobody treat her any differently. I’m the same old Ritah’ she would say.” Meanwhile, Ritah had to relearn how to do everything with her left hand: how to write, cook, wash her clothes, and even play badminton. That said, Ritah says, “I never feel cheated because I feel like I saved so many lives.” Flashforward to today and Ritah’s recovery has led her to become the #1 parabadminton player in Uganda and all of Africa.
Yet, her struggles haven’t stopped there. In a country where governmental and corporate support for para athletes is minimal, Ritah funds her own training including purchasing equipment, travel to tournaments, and even lodging. She’s the top athlete in her country and continent, yet she’s financially on her own…and not by choice. “I have to pay my own way to tournaments. That’s why I need a job, yet people don’t want to hire someone with a disability.” As Ritah’s coach, Coach Betty shares, “Ritah’s greatest challenges are financial. She puts in the work, she just needs the funds to be able to actually compete.”
Hear how @Ritahasiimwe1 lost her arm to machete-wielding thieves, only to become the one of the top parabadminton players in the world! on #BeyondStrengthTweet
And she’s giving it her all to do so, yet she needs our help. Right now, Ritah is seeking to qualify for her second Paralympics: the 2024 Paris Paralympics. Hear more from Ritah here and then donate here to help Ritah get to Paris.
If you are interested in hearing more stories of elite women Olympians and Paralympians from around the world, check out Flame Bearers, the first storytelling platform specifically for this powerhouse group of athletes. Flame Bearers is on a mission to make sure that young women from all corners of the world have role models they can look up to who look and sound like them. They are actively seeking to build their community and are looking for male athlete ambassadors to support the cause. If interested, reach out via the contact form on flamebearers.com.
Interested in hearing stories like this and more from Jamie Mittleman? Check out the recent episode we recorded together for the Good Athlete Podcast!